Jeff Burgess’ career has spanned over 38 years in various segments of the computer industry. He founded Burgess Computer Decisions, Inc., (BCD) in 1999, as an IT reseller, building HP servers for Fortune 500 companies. In early 2008, a chance meeting sparked Burgess to begin transitioning the company to the video surveillance storage market as BCDVideo.
Now the industry leader in purpose-build video surveillance recording systems, BCDVideo has over 50,000 systems recording video surveillance in 52 countries, either as their own branded products or privately-labeled for some of the biggest names in the security industry. BCDVideo’s recording devices have been installed worldwide by the industry’s largest security integrators at airports, multi-government embassies, correctional facilities, universities, hospitals, casinos, stadiums, cruise lines, and retail chains. Many of the world’s most recognizable brands rely on BCDVideo recording devices to protect their environment.
BCDVideo was on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies in both 2013 and 2017. Additionally, in 2017, Inc. Magazine also named them among the country’s best workplaces, and The Channel Company’s CRN Magazine tabbed them on their Solution Provider 500 list. Burgess is also a member of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’ OEM Customer Advisory Board.
The company is forecasting $60 million in 2017 revenues, which represents twenty-five percent annual growth for the past three consecutive years. Burgess has been married for 32 years to Joanne, who he also met on a “chance meeting.” They have three children, two of whom work at the company.
Tell me about your early career.
Way back in 1979, after bombing out of college a few years prior, then blowing through job after job over the next few, I landed as a shipper at a fairly fledgling computer company. By the third day, I felt this sense of destiny come over me, and I committed myself to learning the business and the industry, all by one packing list at a time. Within the first three years, I was moved into inside sales, promoted to manage inside sales, and shortly thereafter transferred to open an Austin, Texas facility just as IBM was inventing the PC. Within seven years from my hire date as shipper, I was vice president of sales.
From there, I was recruited by a few other large resellers as their account manager targeting Fortune 500 companies, and overall was fairly successful.
How did the concept for BCDVideo come about?
BCDVideo was actually an offshoot of the company I opened in 1999, Burgess Computer Decisions (BCD). The company was set up as a server builder for Fortune 500 companies. One of those companies was General Electric, then the #2 company in the world. They had many subsidiaries, including GE Security, for which we were building servers since 2002. As they were a GE Capital business entity, I frankly assumed the “security” in their name was financial; I sure never considered it was for surveillance.
Thanks to a customer-caused system issue, and our white glove service resolution, I was introduced to this market properly by a camera and video software manufacturer’s representative looking for a system builder. We met the next morning for breakfast and literally morphed the company from building IT servers to video surveillance servers. We now have over 50,000 systems recording video surveillance and controlling access in 52 countries worldwide.
How was the first year in business?
For BCDVideo, considering it was 2008, rather challenging. Within two months of this initial company metamorphosis, the housing market crashed, taking with it the economy and the IT market. Therefore, all of the recurring IT revenue we counted on to fund us during this initiative was gone. So, our first years we fiscally difficult, but we never lost the faith or the vision we shared.
What was your marketing strategy?
The video surveillance storage market, as it was at that time, was basically no-name white box servers, with little emphasis on technology. Our top priority was the ability to build our solution on an HP platform; granted it would be custom-engineered for video usage, but it would be a “technology solution,” rather than just a “box.” I had been selling HP and Compaq servers since 1985, and my first eight years of BCD was supplying high-availability HP servers to those Fortune 500 companies. So, HP was always in my bloodline. BCDVideo is considered among the pioneers in bringing an IT infrastructure and Fortune 500 customer service mentality to the video surveillance storage marketplace.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Not quite as fast as we had hoped. We knew we wanted to have a channel to sell through and never sell to the end customer directly. We thought security distribution would be the fastest avenue, as they were selling the cameras and video software that would accompany it. After a few years of plodding along that distribution path, we decided we needed to work directly with the security integrators in order for them to understand our product offerings as they were so radically different than historical systems. That’s when everything really connected. I would call the first three years of working through distribution a learning curve. We were able to refine our product, learn from our mistakes, and use it to our advantage.
How do you define success?
I define success by paying it forward. I believe you do that by offering opportunities and giving people the stage to create the life they choose, and being there as a mentor and cheerleader along their path, and hope they do the same. When I see that come together, I know I have given back. That’s success.
What is the key to success?
Involve others. A year or so ago, we had a film crew do a shoot at our company interviewing employees about our culture. When they were done and packing the equipment up, the producer came to see me to thank me for opening up the company for their access. She had never seen a company where the employees felt so significant to the business outcome, regardless of their position. I have never felt more successful in my life.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
“First get the deal, then worry about it.” Learned it from my mentor within months of that first job in the computer industry. Don’t waste time planning for a deal you may never get. Once you get the deal, everything will fall into place, especially the vendors beating a path to your door. In 38 years, it has never, ever failed me.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“Everything happens for a reason”, which is basically, “For every action, there is a reaction.” I think when you do something, anything can happen. Some of my biggest deals came about because I did something totally unrelated or even unknowingly that there was a deal to be had. I was just open enough to both see and seize the opportunity before me when it was there.
What are some of your favorite books?
Not much of a book reader. Does reading 200 emails a day count? Of the few I have read, I did devour The HP Way by David Packard. Granted, I have an HP bias, but the story of how Bill and David built that company was fascinating. Considering it all started in 1939 when Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz adds to the amazement. The company was founded only because Walt Disney wanted state-of-the-art sound for Fantasia in eight select movie theaters. They were not only pioneers in technology, but in how to treat employees.
Another is Building a Magnetic Culture by Kevin Sheridan. Talks of the importance of engaged employees, and creating a high-performance workforce. As I read it, it was obvious he was talking about my team. I was pretty jacked up by it.
Most recently was Becoming the Best by Harry M Kraemer. It speaks of values-based leadership, being the best in all departments within your company, and building a company around those values.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
How about a year? 2008 was rough. I guess it was lucky we had a two-month head start before the housing crash and the IT world crapped out. It has still yet to fully recover. In the two years it took to truly transform us over to video storage, we lost over $500,000. Yet, this never effected our credit with the vendors as I was committed to continue to pay bills whatever the circumstances. We were able to maintain our good credit which we worked hard to create with our strong payment history over the first nine years. As this was happening, my wife and I had just purchased a dream property and had started to build a dream house, so I was double-dealing with it at work and at home. Stressful times, to be sure.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Self-belief that you are doing the right thing. Stay the course, stay on plan. I have been fortunate in many ways in life. The experience of having to deal with adversity has actually made me stronger and trust my gut even more. Doesn’t mean I didn’t have doubts along the way, but I had faith in my ability to survive it and was too stubborn to give up.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Of your brain, your heart, or your gut, always go with your gut. Your brain can cause you to overthink the opportunity, and your heart can always get broken. Your gut represents your instincts. Trust it. No one knows more about you or your capabilities than you. And most important of all, your company’s core values positively have to mimic your own. Otherwise, you are just faking it to your customer and lying to yourself.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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