Not many industries “do” family better than the drilling industry. Companies get passed down from generation to generation, changing with the times and evolving into the technologically-advanced entities you see today.
Funk Drilling Company of Coeburn, Va., is such a company. Operated currently by Martin and Wesley Funk, the brothers are the fourth generation that has had a hand in owning and operating the family business.
“I am a fourth generation driller and have been officially working at the daily business since I was 16 years old,” Martin says. “I grew up around the water well and drilling industry. It’s what I know.”
Martin and Wesley’s grandfather, Bascom Funk, started working for his uncle at the age of 16 on a cable tool rig that was coal-fired and pulled by a team of horses. In 1956, at the age of 27, Bascom started Funk Drilling Company with a cable tool rig. Bascom’s son Donnie took over the business in 1997, then passed it onto his sons, who run it now.
Over the years, the company has evolved with the times, working on residential, commercial and agricultural water wells, and implementing environmental and foundation drilling throughout Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. They also handle drilling projects in the coal mining industry.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the core value of family. Although Bascom retired, you can still find him hanging out with the guys in the shop or giving advice to Martin and Wesley.
“Family to us is everything,” Martin says. “No matter how challenging and frustrating our work is, our commitment to one another is the bond that holds us together. At the end of the day, we are still family, we love each other, and our commitment to one another is second to none. That is what has kept us together and running a successful business for four generations. We take pride in being the fourth generation, and that pride has made us determined to make sure there’s something left for the fifth generation to carry on with into the future.”
Q. What do you do, and what keeps you coming back every day?
A. The one thing that keeps us coming back every day is the family tradition and the commitment to providing safe drinking water for our customers. This work can be difficult, and sometimes you need more than just a paycheck to keep you going. The success of the three generations before us motivates us, too. We want to make it the best it’s ever been for our family, our employees and, most of all, for our customers. Our customers are so important to us! But, we don’t want it to end with us. We hope we can make it better for the fifth generation of Funks. We take pride in our work, and we want people to think of our name first when they think of wells and clean drinking water. It means everything to us.
Q. What does a typical workday involve?
A. Our typical work day starts pretty early, around 6 a.m. We have two drill rigs and one service crew that takes care of pumps and repairs. So, the main objective each morning is to get our equipment and fuel and get on the road as fast as possible. We cover three states, so sometimes it can take a while just getting to the job. Once we are on location, keeping the bits turning to the right is the main goal. Each crew works all day until usually around 5 or 6 p.m. or later if needed, then we head on in and call it a day.
Q. What do you wish you knew when you started?
A. The one thing I wish I knew when I started was to do less talking and more listening. Despite my grandfather’s, my father’s and my uncle’s advice, I just didn’t listen enough. You can learn a lot more if you learn to be a good listener. Not necessarily to what everyone is saying, but paying attention to your surroundings and what is going on. You can learn so much and will be so much wiser in the end. Unfortunately, some of us in this industry just have to learn the hard way. And that makes it tough.
Q. What does it take to succeed in what you do?
A. I believe what it takes to succeed is you must be willing to change with the times. My grandfather, Bascom Funk, told me this years ago and I didn’t quite understand it then. Now that I’m 34 years old, I understand completely. The industry is always changing and you must be prepared to evolve with the work. Water wells aren’t as big as they used to be, so we’ve had to diversify to survive. And thankfully we’ve had many opportunities to do so. Now I am very grateful for his words, as they have proven to be true.
Q. What tool can you not imagine working without?
A. A tool that I couldn’t imagine working without is our Scorpion. For years, we did not have one. We always used the rigs to break small tooling such as 6-, 8- and 10-inch bits. Problem was, we were doing so much big hole work that we just couldn’t break it with the Petols on the rigs. Thankfully, we lucked out and got a Scorpion at a good price, and it has made our life so much easier. I don’t know why we hadn’t purchased one sooner. It’s really helped, especially with the large subs, drill collars and stabilizers.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. The best piece of advice I have ever been given is to always, no matter what, be honest with people. No matter what you do, you’re going to make mistakes; we all know that and expect that. The one thing I feel like our customers know about us is our honesty. They know that when they need a job done right, they can trust us to do it as if we were doing it for ourselves. That trust has taken four generations to earn, and we do not take that lightly. It is very important to us.
Q. How would you describe the present state of the industry?
A. I feel that the current state of the industry has improved over the last few years. Of course, it’s always changing due to public water and things like that. Thankfully, though, other things have made up for that. I know some other drillers who have had some really tough luck. But it seems like, for the most part, everyone has been busy. And I pray they continue to stay busy.
I’m sure there will be challenges ahead, but I feel like it’s nothing we can’t handle as an industry and as a family if we all work together to protect groundwater and our trade. My advice is to just be honest, take pride in your work, and work hard — and I believe good things will come our way in the drilling industry.