Michael Burrow has changed, but not as much as you might think after going through a very difficult stretch at Burrow Global LLC.
In the second quarter of 2013, an internal audit process revealed a multimillion-dollar case of fraud and theft that had occurred in the construction division of the engineering, procurement and construction company.
“One of my strengths is I trust people too much and my biggest weakness is I trust people too much,” says Burrow, the company’s chairman and CEO. “You can’t operate a business without trust. But after what happened, we went to the Ronald Reagan plan: Trust, but verify.”
Burrow Global was named the No. 1 fastest growing company in the Houston Business Journal in 2013 and the sky was the limit for continued growth. Unfortunately, the 669-employee company’s fortunes were about to turn completely upside down.
“We were putting a new accounting system in and we had put it in all our engineering groups and we were about to put it in the group that had the problem,” Burrow says. “They came to me and said, ‘Give us three months before you do this because billing is way behind and it’s going to hurt cash flow.’ That turned out to be a scam. They were just trying to buy three more months to cover it up.”
Burrow had been through a tough situation 17 years earlier that gave him a good start in dealing with this new financial crisis. And believe it or not, within six weeks, despite some very difficult actions that had to be taken, the company was back on its feet.
“The first time I had to do one of these, I had to feel my way along,” Burrow says. “We got it done in record time and our bankers were extremely happy. You just don’t let yourself panic. You focus on the task at hand and what needs to be done and you jump in and do it.”
Here’s a look at what Burrow has learned from difficult situations and how he manages to keep his cool under pressure.