Through the eyes of a security industry CEO

BCD International CEO talks change, transformation, leadership
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Friday, April 17, 2020

BUFFALO GROVE, Ill.—Jeff Burgess, CEO of BCD International, Inc. is a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so when the time came to restructure his company, he took action, making necessary changes to achieve desired results by eliminating past obstacles and transforming into the future. 

“We’re improved,” Burgess told Security Systems News. “As opposed to one, single point of technology and being very siloed, we’ve got our creative juices flowing, coming out with technologies which we’ve never envisioned before.” 

BCD International, Inc., a global video data infrastructure OEM manufacturer, is comprised of three divisions — BCDVideo, Video Storage Solutions (VSS) and BCDOEM — with teams working in unison to identify problems and needs within the security industry and then address them with innovative solutions.

Burgess recently opened the door to new talent: five industry veterans with multiple points of view of the security world, including a senior application development manager who writes code, a senior director of technical service who helps strengthen the company’s professional services and advanced engineering, and other professionals with a multiple-decades history in the security industry who are experts at brainstorming. 

“Throwing something on a white board and having multiple people share a voice, that’s where innovation comes from,” explained Burgess. “You throw it against the wall, see what sticks, everybody has their say in an open, respectful discussion, and at the end of the day, you’ve got a collaborative piece of art. We’re innovating; we’re exciting; we’re salivating … it’s fun!” 

BCD International is on the cusp of having their first trademarked technology. The company in the past had innovated, but they never had a patent. “I think you’ll see the next evolution of our brand is going to be a totally different package of what we bring to the market. A much broader portfolio, but as always, 100 percent focused on the customer experience,” Burgess said. 

But, for now at least, with COVID-19 looming, it’s an interesting time for BCD International. Out of the 80 employees that make up the company, 60 of them are working remotely.

“We’re listed as an essential business, so we’re building and shipping products, including recent projects for a number of the makeshift COVID-19 hospitals,” Burgess explained. It’s been okay so far; however, it’s not the same. I’m a work-from-home person because, quite frankly, I work from home all the time. (Just ask my wife). I’m answering email every night; I’m on email during the weekend with customers. I need to be available to our customers and vendor partners. I’m a big believer in the team aspect and the one thing you can’t duplicate virtually is the camaraderie. Right now, they all need to be home as it always their safety first. And, most importantly, it’s working!”

Burgess is taking the current business landscape in stride, chalking it up as an educational experience, and is proud that his employees are working hard and successfully from home.

“We need to honor our commitments, regarding of the circumstances beyond our control," Burgess said. “Let’s face it, the whole world has changed. Nothing will be the same as it was. You’ve got virtual meetings and events rapidly taking place. And, as a company owner, knowing what my bottom-line cost is on travel and entertainment, it’s a bottom-line differentiator when you can have virtual face-to-face meetings on whatever your video conferencing tool of choice is. I think it’s going to change how the world does business.” 

In with the new 

Since the company’s inception, the focus has remained the same: the infrastructure of a security project. However, Burgess admits they haven’t done a good job articulating that message. “The network, the access control, video storage … everything but the cameras and software.” he said. “As proud as we are of our video recording popularity, we need to do a better job articulating the message regarding the breadth of our portfolio beyond the recording appliances.  When you see the new products that are releasing, we can truly state that we cut such a wide path within the security ecosystem.” 

 The BCD technical team is still in the final stages of testing and development on two of the first new technologies, which will launch in April. Burgess gave SSN a little sneak peek into what’s up BCD International’s sleeves.

“We’re working on integrations with a major VMS partner,” he said. “The alerts that are coming from within our appliances — predictive analysis, heat, CPU usage, and anything going on within that system — will be able to be monitored and maintained through the desktop application of that software. We think that’s going to be a difference maker for their hardware appliance product line, as that is all it will be available on.”

It’s all about people

Starting with Burgess … he got an early start learning how the shipping process works, as his dad owned a manufacturing company. Later, he took a job at an IT company as a shipper about 40 years ago. 

“I started to learn the computer industry from the backend, one packing list at a time,” he explained. He also got inquisitive. “Why were customers buying these print wheels with this printer and that ribbon?” he would ask himself. Soon customers were calling him, a warehouse worker, because he was the only one who knew how to get products from our warehouse to their national location.

“I was also doing what I call ‘sneakerware stock checks,’ where a customer would ask me if I had something in stock, I’d put them on a quick hold, and  run over to the shelf, do a quick count and come back to the phone and say, [for example,] ‘yeah, we’ve got 17. How many do you want?’”

It was then that someone saw something in Burgess and she believed in him, going straight to the owners of the company telling them that he needed to be in sales. The owners were reluctant, and insisted that Burgess was “just a shipper.” But she pushed hard and they finally let him in on their inside sales desk. 

“Within six months, I was managing the inside sales desk and within seven years, I was Vice President of Sales,” reminisced Burgess. “If no one ever gave me an opportunity — like Donna Panfil who fought for me — I promise you I would not have the life with which I have been blessed.”

This is the reason he believes that every single BCD employee is responsible for the company’s growth and success. “I don’t care what their role or is, whether it’s supply chain, order entry, marketing or the warehouse, whatever it is, they have a genuine sense of pride.” 

Each employee knows that Burgess believes in him or her, but more importantly, they believe in themselves and the teamwork. That’s what makes BCD work. 

Company culture is everything

Burgess believes his leadership strength lies in his humanistic approach to people.

“As important as the numbers are, I have to know in my heart that I am helping people make a better life — providing them with the opportunity to send their kids to college, take vacations, help aging parents, give to each other and be good people. This culture is everything and what truly defines our company.” 

One of the initiatives started by BCD International this year — BCDCares —introduced by HR Director, Sue Komarchuk, aims to involve employees directly in helping causes that are near and dear to their hearts. “We’re not a ‘family business,’ realized Burgess, “but we’re a ‘business family.’ We took a company poll to determine five new causes under BCDCares to do matching with.” 

While Burgess airs on the humble side, he knows that actions speak louder than words. Supporting charities that are important to his employees allows him to do something that shows he genuinely cares.

“I’m doing the best I can; I never went to business school. My company is a mosaic of where I’ve been for 40 years of my business life. I took all the good things I liked in these companies and wove that into my own company. I’m truly blessed that I have people who believe in me, and follow and trust me.” 

Diversity and inclusion

Getting young people involved in the security industry, this is where diversity and inclusion really shines through, Burgess believes, as he learned from his dad a long time ago. 

“My dad was colorblind before ‘colorblind’ was even a term,” said Burgess. “It didn’t matter … man, woman; young, old; black, white, green, purple … he didn’t care. All he cared about was work ethic, their integrity and that people gave their best effort.” If those three things are happening, my dad believed he could fix anything else that was ‘off the rail’. I think I inherited that,” Burgess said.

And, with that, he openly gives of his time and resources. 

“We fund a scholarship to a local high school,” said Burgess. “It needs to be the student who without the scholarship would not be able to go to college; that is the one and only prerequisite. It doesn't matter what they are going to study; it doesn’t have to be about technology. I want somebody who’s going to make the most of the opportunity that a college education has to offer, unlike I ever did.” 

Burgess told SSN about one of those unforgettable moments. He was at the scholarship dinner last year and they called him up to give a student her scholarship. When he got back to his table he was greeted by a heart-felt surprise. “Her mom and dad came over — they speak no English — her dad is looking at me with tears in his eyes, patting his heart,” Burgess remembered. “It was Incredible! I’ll never forget it as long as I live.” 

In addition, Burgess as well as his wife Joanne, work with College Bound Opportunities (CBO), an organization that matches people to be mentors to empower and inspire low-income, first-generation ‘scholars,’ starting their junior year in high school, continuing until they graduate college.

Joanne has been mentoring at CBO for a couple of years and she hit her husband up, telling them the organization has students looking for summer jobs. This captivated Burgess, who set up a little table at one of CBO’s college fairs.

“We do record video in some pretty cool places,” said Burgess, “so I’ve got one piece of paper with all big brand names where we record video and turned it upside down. This guy wanders over to me, gives me his resume and we start talking. He was an electrical engineering student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, about to start his sophomore year, he wrote code, but what he really wanted to do was 'get my hands inside hardware,' he told me.” 

Learning this, Burgess flipped over his piece of paper with about 30 world-renown logos on it and asked him, “You mean like build video servers for companies like these?!” To which the student replied, “Yeah, yeah … wow, yeah!” 

Long story short, Jorge has been an intern for six seasons — summer winter; summer winter; and sometimes spring too at BCD International. “He’s done a great job and learned a lot,” Burgess complimented. “He graduates in December and he’s going to come on board now as a programmer. We’re doing some programs with Intel, customizing some of our products, and he’s going to basically be the project lead, working directly with Intel. He’s ecstatic! Again, it’s just about giving somebody the chance.” 

To infinity and beyond 

While I wouldn’t exactly liken Jeff Burgess to Buzz Lightyear, I do see a spark in him that has yet to fade away and a resurgence of determination that the security industry is limitless. In addition to having personnel in Toronto and London, in January of this year, BCD International opened a sales and conference office in Dubai.

“We felt it was important to open our office in Dubai,” Burgess said, “to give is us a local presence and a stake in the region that we’re committed to that region. We don’t want to be those guys, merely shipping systems from 7,000 miles away; we want to have a local relationship.” 

Last year, BCD International doubled the size of their build center, enhancing their capabilities for testing and validating technology.

“Within our 51,000 square foot headquarters building, we’ve got two fully operational build centers with about 15,000 square feet and enough stations that I can build 800 systems simultaneously,” Burgess said.

Burgess accepts that BCD International has drastically, but in positive ways, changed over the last few months and believes it is poised to “live at the edge of the miraculous. We’ve always felt that we’ve been the industry trend setter, and now we want to raise the bar really high … that’s our next step, and that’s certainly within our reach unlike ever before.” 

 

This article is the first in a new series coming soon from the #SSNTalks Team!