Phil Burks of Tyler, Texas, graduated from LeTourneau College in 1974 with a degree in electrical engineering technology. Back in his days as a “Techo,” he and two others nearly single-handedly put KHYM, a 5000-watt gospel radio station on the air. Burks worked at the campus’ KLET radio station, then later called the Yellow Jackets basketball games for KRFO-AM, becoming a fulltime DJ there. During his junior and senior years of college, he was a news reporter for KLTV, the local ABC affiliate in Tyler. Today, he is the CEO and founder of The Genesis Group, a communications industry service company.
1. How and why did you choose to attend LeTourneau?
When I was about 14 years old, my Sunday school teacher in Bristol, Penn., told us of this magical place called Texas that he had just visited—a place where you can get your driver’s license at 15! He had our attention! He then told of a man named R.G. LeTourneau, who created a company in Texas, designing giant earthmoving equipment for the world. He told how R.G. gave 90% of his income to the Lord and kept 10% for himself. That stuck with me. So, when it came time to apply for college, I only applied to LeTourneau. I’m glad I was accepted!
2. How did your experience at LeTourneau impact you?
The true core of what I learned was the ability to begin and end something without quitting. I learned scientific thinking and creative problem solving. All of my professors encouraged what we now call ‘thinking outside the box.’ To this day, I’m known as a person who thinks differently about how to solve problems.
I also learned how to mentor. My calculus professor had a heart for his students. A runner, he would run in the evenings from his Longview home back to campus to check in and help us understand our homework. He encouraged and listened to us. I think if Jesus had been a math professor, he would have looked like that professor.
3. How has the Longview campus changed since you were a student?
I recently helped a childhood friend move his son into Thomas Hall and went to the wrong building twice! I am a bit nostalgic, because we had a lot of fun as the barracks were being decommissioned and deconstructed. We ‘borrowed’ boards and other material to make shelves and even elaborate bookcases. We would race bikes through the labyrinth of barracks. I love the look and feel of the campus today, though I do miss the ‘tree house’ type of fun we had.
4. Tell us about your company.
My wife, Bobbie, and I began The Genesis Group in 1989. She operated a PR firm, and I turned some personal-use software into a commercial product. We hired our first employee in 1992 and were scared to death, not knowing how we were going to pay him. He still works for us.
The first 10 years were difficult, but like R.G., I had cut the word ‘quit’ out of my dictionary. Oh, I wanted to quit many times, but I couldn’t bail on the commitment I made to myself, God, my wife, and—in a strange way—to R.G. If Mr. LeTourneau could do it, so could I. One day, I had $5,000 in bills to pay sitting on my desk and only $150 in the bank. I had no idea where the money would come from. I prayed hard and told God that if He wanted to shut it all down, it would be hard for me to understand, but I’d go along with it. Within 15 minutes, the phone rang with a consulting job worth exactly $5,000! R.G. experienced many similar events in his life. God simply asks for our willingness to let go and trust Him.
Today, we have 56 employees in an ultra-modern advanced technology building in Tyler, Texas. We also have an office in the United Kingdom and affiliates in Australia and Mexico. Our software helps manage and operate giant, two-way radio and public safety communications networks. Our software customer list contains many names we can’t share, but many start with “The City of…,” “The County of…,” The State of…,” “The Province of…,” and “The Country of….”. Motorola, our largest customer, owns about 70% of the global market for two-way radio communications. We also have created software to more efficiently dispatch ambulances and other first responders, based on crowd-sourced traffic information from Waze. Much more can be seen at www.GenesisWorld.com
5. Describe how you integrate your faith in your workplace.
I have never been a person to beat Christ into anyone or guilt someone to love Him. I have been called to live Christ by example. While we do not discuss anyone’s beliefs during interviews, a majority of our employees are born again believers in Jesus Christ. We hire the right people with the right skill set for the job, no matter their beliefs. However, having so many believers in our company makes it a JOY to come to work, given that common bond. In our company-wide team meetings, it is clear that we are a praying company, and we want to know how we can pray for our employees and their families. In crisis situations, we have been known to send an email to all employees about an impromptu prayer circle for a specific need, and about 10 to 15 people drop what they are doing and show up to pray. We also teach our employees how to give. Last Christmas, we were able to give a larger than average bonus, and we asked our team members to consider giving 10% or more of that bonus to a charity or entity that helps those in need.
When I was giving a tour of our building to some local Tyler firefighters, I told them that “This is God’s business, and I just show up each day and ask Him what I’m supposed to do.” About three months ago, I learned that one of the firefighters on the tour began asking questions of a fellow firefighter and has since asked Jesus into his heart. I love watching God work!
6. What advice would you have for others who might be considering LETU?
You can get an education most anywhere, but if you are looking for not only a place to think outside the box, but also a place that will ignite your curiosity to build a better box, LeTourneau is that place. Integrated learning is important—to apply what you are learning as you learn and get a team of hands involved in the process. Prospective students may not know exactly the calling God wants for the rest of their lives when they apply, but at LeTourneau, you will maximize every opportunity to learn what God has in store for you.
To learn more about The Genesis Group, visit the website at http://genesisworld.com/about/CEO/