Monday, November 18, 2013

Burgham Sales - Putting People First


By Pierre Saint- Louis for PIJAC Canada



The Voice met Steve Schlichtmann, Vice President of Marketing and Operations at Burgham Sales Ltd. to talk about the company and more specifically the values ​​that are at the heart of their success in the Canadian pet industry. Starting off, Mr. Schlichtmann speaks of humanism and the importance of putting people at the center of business activities. Indeed, "It is the teamwork and community family values ​​related to the effort that allowed the company to cope with the many challenges it has faced throughout its history” he says.

Burgham Sales Ltd.  was founded in Montreal in 1953 by Hans Schlichtmann Sr., grandfather of Steve. A third generation company, it has experienced steady and consistent growth since its inception. For a bit of history,  note  that the original company started in the family basement, and grew until it reached the sizeable  state of the art facilities in Scarborough, Ontario that serves the retail pet trade nationwide.

About the Founder, Steve tells us: "As far as I can remember, my grandfather attached great importance to the value of things right down to the smallest details. For him, a simple inexpensive product itself, was a link in a great economic system, a link that you must learn to see with the same attention as the other components. It was also the same for effort: he was a demanding man and expected as much from his children and his staff. “Mr. Schlichmann Sr.’s grandson goes on to tell us: "The values ​​that he passed on were always imbued with an acute awareness of the role of individuals working in the business. We were a family and we all had to work as a family, it is also the legacy that my father and uncle handed down to me. "

"My grandfather has also left us with an incredible sense of entrepreneurship. He was a great visionary:  in the early days of the company, Burgham Sales distinguished itself by developing its own product lines while sourcing abroad to introduce innovative products to the Canadian market at the time". Steve then tells us: "We were even ecological ...” he explains, "... we recycled everything we could. But I must emphasize that it was mostly for economic reasons. But if recycling in industry is now a standard, it must be said that Burgham had already been doing it for a long time “he says with a smile!

Steve goes on to say, "More prosaically, this entrepreneurship was manifested and still manifests itself within Burgham at all levels of management:  from operations to management of human resources all the way through supply logistics, including transportation to storage. This has prepared the company for today’s competitive environment while still providing necessary, consistent service to the retail pet trade through their very dedicated sales force across Canada.

When we ask Mr. Schlichtmann, specifically on the challenges facing the company today, he continues on with the subject of competitiveness: “Currently, we are in a phase of consolidation, in order to remain competitive in a challenging economic environment. In our industry, if we cannot provide ourselves with us a solid operational base, how can we deal with the issues facing us while supporting our customers? “What is most important of all, we asked?” The balance between small family pet stores and larger companies, of course! Without the small stores, without any pet stores, what would happen to our industry? It is important to understand ... “Mr. Schlichtmann says " ... it is within these small family pet stores that have developed over time, a real expertise about animals. Who else, other than the pet store owners and their employees, can attract and educate consumers about the necessary care for their pets? Our role at Burgham is to contribute to the success of our customers by allowing them to have the necessary support and products so that their businesses can grow, regardless of their size. It is our customers who have mastered the knowledge essential to the viability of our industry."

To conclude, throughout our interview, Mr. Steve Schlichmann proved to be a passionate and deeply human individual. This is why we ended this interview by leaving the last word to him, revealing a family vision still relevant today: "You know what fascinates me the most about my job? It is to see that, even in a modern context where each day we use state-of-the-art computer hardware at every stage of our operations, the fact remains that it is still direct human contact with the customer that prevails!
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