burke continues to thrive
Playground equipment manufacturer BCI Burke continues to thrive with core value initiatives for business
Burke has been an industry leader in the playground manufacturing business since its inception in 1920, when Ethlyn and John Edward Burke first began manufacturing weather stripping, then radiator furniture and eventually playground equipment. In 1926, a plant to produce commercial-grade swings and slides was built at Burke’s present location at 660 Van Dyne Road.
Since the beginning, Burke has had a reputation for being a builder of high quality playground equipment. Three generations of the Burke family, starting with John, and continuing with his son, Bill and grandson, Greg, grew the company until 1997 and then sold to a group of investors led by Tim Ahern, who became the fourth President and CEO of the BCI Burke Company. Mark Sondergard came on board in 1998 after serving as Burke’s accountant for many years. In 2007, as part of their long-range business plan, Ahern and Sondergard bought out the group of investors and became sole owners of the company.
The first thing Ahern and Sondergard did was to work with employees to establish a set of core values that would be the foundation of the company’s operation going forward. Many of these values were right in line with the principles established in 1920 by J.E. Burke. They include Integrity, Respect for People, Teamwork, Leadership, Innovation and Performance.
“We don’t just have these values written on paper to look at now and again. We incorporate them every day into every project we do,” says Mark Sondergard, president/COO. “We strive toward continual improvement through our core values and ask ‘Is this what we are? Does this meet our standards for excellence? Is this taking us where we want to go?’ Unless we can answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions, we are focusing on the wrong things,” he adds.
Being ever-mindful of children’s safety, Burke products are designed and manufactured to meet or exceed the guidelines of the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission and standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials. In addition, Burke is a founding member of the International Play Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (IPEMA). IPEMA is a member driven international trade organization that represents and promotes an open market for manufacturers of play equipment and safety surfacing. Burke is also the only playground manufacturer to provide a Playground Supervision Kit, Surfacing Guide and Intensity® Curriculum with every play structure ordered at absolutely no cost to the customer. These resources were developed by the National Program for Playground Safety and include training material for supervisors and teachers to ensure children are safe.
Not so long ago, playgrounds were merely a place for kids to release some pent-up energy. Research has shown that learning happens both inside the classroom and outside through play. Therefore, Burke uses its playground experts to design playgrounds by understanding how children learn through play and then building equipment that facilitates that learning. The product development team at Burke continually strives to be at the forefront of trends in the marketplace while creating fun, challenging and safe learning experiences on the playgrounds they design. This dedication produces countless invigorating products that respond directly to the needs in the playground marketplace.
To Ahern, Sondergard and the rest of the Burke team, the work they do isn’t a destination--it is an ongoing process. They follow the premise that if they follow their core values and continually improve; good things will continue to happen.
“The formula is pretty simple,” said Sondergard, “Treat people right, do the right thing, hold yourself accountable and perform.”
For more information about BCI Burke visit www.bciburke.com.