Name: Robert Burke, AHC, CSI
Company, Location, and Years of Service:
Lindquist Builders Supply Company, Stratford CT – 18 years
Current Position: President
Summary of Previous Industry Experience:
3 years as Corbin sales rep, 16 years in distribution management
Total Years in the Industry: 37 years
How did you get your start in the door and hardware industry?
I started as a Corbin sales rep covering five states in the Midwest. Corbin had a fantastic one-year training program which included working in every department in the factory as well as several months in the field in New York City. After about 3 years with Corbin, I returned to work with a distributor in Connecticut and have been in distribution since. I worked for Lindquist Builders Supply Company for many years before acquiring the company with my partners in 1991.
Who have been mentors to you during your career?
I’ve had several. Pat McCord gave me my first shot in the business. He had great instincts about people and about the business. He was a real street fighter who knew how to stir things up and make things happen. Pat was a very non-traditional guy who had a very successful career in a pretty traditional industry. I worked at Lindquist for several years under Bob Davies. Bob was a true gentleman who taught me the value and importance of technical expertise and building relationships based on trust and mutual respect. My good friend and accountant/business consultant Lew Kaufman has been with me from the beginning, keeping me focused and on-course when I get a little bored or restless.
What changes have you seen in the industry over the years?
I guess the obvious response would be in two primary areas … the operational efficiencies achieved through technology and the advances in electronic security products. I am honestly surprised in some ways, though, how little the industry has changed. Our mix of products is still extremely complex requiring serious technical expertise and coordination resulting in higher costs to market. I believe we will soon see more standardization and packaging of products to bring costs down, particularly on public projects.
What’s the best part of your current job?
Most of my time, other than general business management, is spent in marketing and sales. I always enjoy starting something new … marketing a new product or service. I have also spent a good part of my time working with architects to find creative solutions that meet functional and code requirements but are also sensitive to their design goals.
What career would you pursue if you weren’t working in the hardware industry?
It would definitely involve some form of creative writing. I really love to write … everything from letters to my kids, to advertising and promotional pieces, to basic business correspondence.
What’s your favorite hardware-related product?
Hands down … Schlage “bright blue” electronic access control. I know this sounds like a commercial, but it’s an amazingly simple, affordable, and powerful product that allows an end-user to manage and control their building security from any remote location. Our Security & Safety Division has been genuinely excited and energized by this product and our customers are thrilled with it. A second choice would be the Ives SR64 silencer. We’ve never received a frantic emergency call late on a Friday afternoon for a silencer problem.
What would your colleagues/customers be surprised to learn about you?
They would be surprised to learn that I won an Olympic medal for wrestling in 1968. I didn’t of course, but I know they would be surprised if I did. I don’t think I’m much different in work mode than outside the office. I’m sure my wife would have several responses for you on this one, but I won’t give her that opportunity.
What’s your proudest accomplishment?
Like many small business owners, my partners and I have worked very hard to provide a stable, enjoyable, challenging, and personally rewarding environment for the outstanding group of people that have helped us succeed in a very tough industry through many business cycles. We are really proud of the team we have put together … they share our common goals and values and give everything they’ve got every day.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Lauren and I enjoy travel, boating, and spending time at home with our dogs … Bo, a very willful Portuguese Water Dog that I always have to explain we’ve had for two years before the President adopted his Bo, and Nik, a sweet rescue mutt that we try to pawn off as a Tibetan Terrier so he doesn’t feel inferior in any way. I saw the recent profile on Steve Monroe and I have to concede that Steve is clearly better looking than I am, but I think it’s a much closer call in the canine camp.
What words of wisdom would you give to people entering the industry?
You’re entering an industry with tremendous potential for new ideas and creative thinking. Chart your own course, build trust, embrace change, and keep your sense of humor.
If there’s someone you’d like to nominate for an industry profile, drop me an email.