Kevin Burrow Featured

7:11am EDT June 30, 2006
For Kevin Burrow, there aren’t any shortcuts to building and operating a successful company. Hard work and honesty, Burrow says, are absolute prerequisites for success. But they aren’t the only ones. Burrow, president of King Systems Corp., places a high value on his knowledge of the marketplace, something he says is essential for any business leader to acquire and leverage. That market intelligence helped make the 545-employee company, with more than $50 million in annual revenue, an attractive acquisition target for British firm Bespak plc, which made a successful pitch to buy the producer of anesthesia and respiratory products last year. Smart Business spoke with Burrow about the need for focus, how to attract more opportunities than you can handle and the rewards of working on the weekends.

Know your market thoroughly.
First and foremost, you have to dedicate whatever time is necessary to know your marketplace. The decisions that you make are at a high level, the requirement for an infusion of cash is critical and any error along the route, any investment that’s made unwisely in a market that you don’t know, will blow up immediately.

Knowing your market and doing whatever’s necessary to do that is the most critical thing that you can do. We are a very focused organization in our marketplace. I am very active in understanding where our customer needs are, where the marketplace is going.

My role is to make sure that we understand what the needs of the marketplace are and then be able to communicate clearly the way that matches up with the needs of the manufacturing operation and how those two meet and develop a very positive end result.

Stay focused, stay out of danger.
When King stumbles, we’re not stumbling out of a box that we don’t understand. You don’t go too far, and you know what happened. It’s a shorter turn of the ship to correct it.

The acuity with which you see things when you’re in the middle of battle is priceless. We’ve been more focused than any other company in our industry for 15 years, and that’s exactly why we tend to have a pretty good idea when it’s not working well or is working well.

Listen and seek buy-in.
My job is to listen and understand what opportunities does everybody feel meet the needs of King Systems. I don’t want to suggest that a hard decision wouldn’t be made, or at some point the buck doesn’t stop at the top. There’s no question about that.

But to gain ownership in a product or a concept starts at the beginning, not at the end. So if you create ownership and everybody gets some enthusiasm for the outcome, the buy-in is made more effective and the end result is certainly more effective, and it creates a more efficient process. I try to include everyone in the decision-making process as much as possible.

It’s not always possible, but I think that our people feel there’s a tremendous sense of inclusion and team involvement. There’s really a sense of family here.

Do the right things, and opportunity will knock.
Once you’ve demonstrated your ability to be trusted, that you’re ethical and that you can actually provide a quality product, what I have found is typically we have more opportunities than we have time or money to do.

We have more people who want us to look at their project because of how we’ve been entrusted by another inventor whose product we handled. If you do it right and treat people with respect and do the things you’re supposed to be doing, there will not be a problem finding opportunities.

Expect to work hard.
My father, who was one of the founders of the company, was an outstanding leader and mentor to all of us. Years ago, he told all of us that there are a lot of intelligent people out there that work 8 to 5, five days a week. If we were ever going to develop a successful business, it would be because of what we did after 5 o’clock and on the weekends that would propel the company to whatever it was going to be.

We’ve applied that rule over the years and worked very hard past the obvious hours to grow our business. There are no substitutes for hard work and getting it done. Hard work tends to create more good luck.

I’ve been referred to as a lucky man many times over my career, and I do truly believe that good fortune comes to those who apply themselves, work hard, do the right thing by everybody that you come across, and good things will ultimately come of that.

Build a team you can trust.
If a CEO were to come from outside an industry, they should first develop a network of people that he or she can absolutely trust. You’ve got to build a network of people you can trust and go into battle with.

We have worked very hard to create an environment where it’s a team that wins. As a new CEO, you’ve got to have a staff you trust, you’ve got to create a spirit of high ethical standards and make sure that you do what is necessary to make sure that your staff carries that out.

How to reach: King Systems Inc., www.kingsystems.com