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NMBC Better Business Feature: The Man Behind The Burgess Group

"The most important thing about our capitalistic system is that it affords every American the freedom and opportunity to create and define themselves." -William H. (Bill) Burgess, III

A successful entrepreneur since when he was a kid winning scientific awards and academic scholarships, William H. (Bill) Burgess, III, raised, sold and experimented on chickens, ran an art gallery and a high end office furniture dealership while serving on Museum boards. Those special qualities came from his family. No Burgess male since slavery has worked for anyone. Bill's great, grand and father had their own businesses and so did his grandmother. According to Bill, one of the greatest things about being an American is that one has the ability to determine one's own destiny. "The most important thing about our capitalistic system is that it affords every American the freedom and opportunity to create and define themselves."

In 1994, Bill launched The Burgess Group - Corporate Recruiters International, Inc., a mid to senior level retained executive search, diversity recruiting, training, human resources and management development consulting practice in New York City and New Fairfield, Connecticut with affiliate offices in Birmingham, Alabama and London, England. The Burgess Group has distinguished itself for successfully placing mid to senior level minority, women and majority executives in major Fortune 100 companies in the consumer product goods and services industry; as well as in national and international institutions, associations and organizations. The Burgess Group specialize in "strategic placements from the manager/director ranks through senior management and the corporate board room". As demonstrated by its outstanding Client List, The Burgess Group is known nationally and internationally for identifying exceptional management and administrative talent for both profit and not for profit sector corporations and organizations (70/30%). It has extensive professional networks and associations representative of all US populations and industry disciplines. As a generalist, retained search firm, The Burgess Group provides their clients an inclusive candidate slate on every search and guarantees their hired candidates for one (1) full year. Positions recruited by The Burgess Group start at $75K and above. The best and the brightest diverse and majority talent are built-in to its database and proprietary search processes. The Burgess Group is certified with all city, state and federal agencies nationally.

Let's talk about how you entered the business world.

I was dating a woman who worked for Xerox. She earned more than I did, even though I was the Director of the Brooklyn Children's Museum's MUSE at the time. She thought I could be a good Sales Representative, earn more money and suggested that I interview to work at Xerox. I got the job without even wearing a suit and later always exceeding my sales quotas knocked on every single door in the Empire State Building and the garment district of New York City selling Xerox's complete line of reprographic equipment including the then newly introduced facsimile and color copier machines. At Xerox I decided that I wanted to sell office furniture because I could use more of my design background calling on major corporate facilities and architect and design firms. In 1982, I partnered with three office furniture dealers in New York City that owned Furniture Consultants, Inc., the best full service professionally run office furniture dealership in the metropolitan New York area at that time. Prior to that, I had been Director of National Accounts Marketing for the Gunlocke Company. The president of the Gunlocke Company was trying to buy the company from its owner, Sperry Hutchinson, which he did. He asked me to help him by bolstering national sales and maintaining market share and in return he would help me go into my own office furniture dealership franchise with Furniture Consultants if the buyout deal went through. I agreed and made sure our sales and marketing numbers were up and at levels that were in sync with the business plan projections.

What can you say about starting your own company and what would you advise new minority and women entrepreneurs?

It was inevitable that I would own and operate my own company. My Dad drummed it into me from when he taught me how to write my name and count my time tables. He was strict and my Mother was a school principal and artist and I did everything they both told me to do with pride and honor. New minority and women entrepreneurs must first decide what they are passionate about. What professionally moves them, be it a particular industry, discipline, product or service. And then, they must really know the field they are embarking upon from soup to nuts. If financing is an issue, they should secure partners who can bring additional financing, expertise, and contacts to the table. This will make them stronger in knowing about and battling against their competition and facing the many prospective client rejections they will encounter. They must be focused and committed but willing to be flexible and open to compromise, i.e. a piece or percentage of a deal is better than holding out for an all or nothing decision. Always give credit and thank the people, your customers and network associations that have helped you. Be sure to give back by buying and selling from each other and mentoring future entrepreneurs.

How do you think NMBC can help companies to grow?

For many years I have been a member of the National Business Council, this 40 year old association has been dedicated to assisting minority and women owned businesses in obtaining procurement opportunities and contracts with national corporations and major governmental agencies. I first became a member in 1982 when I launched my office furniture dealership in Garden City, Long Island. I later directed the Membership Committee before becoming an award winning MBE of the Year firm and later Chairman of the NMBC Board of Directors. During that period, the NMBC was well known and highly regarded for its MWBE procurement training and development programs it conducted in conjunction with Fortune 500 corporations, fellow not for profits and city, state and federal agencies. During my administration of the Board, we started the NMBC Women's Committee which published its own national directory of women owned businesses and held the first of now an annual tradition of Women Business Owner Conferences with the continuing sponsorship of the Bank of New York Mellon. Another growth attribute of the NMBC has been its many membership business networking sessions, expos, seminars, events, and best practices presentations it has hosted on behalf of promoting MWBE, SBE and DBE enterprises.

What is the current state of the economy as it relates to recruitment and what industry disciplines are recruiting?

Since my business is about job creation, recruitment and diversity hiring and retention at the mid to senior levels, plus fine art sales; like all businesses, the 2007/8 near economic collapse and consequent down turn has made the subsequent recovery we are now going through extremely sluggish and painful. We have had to lay off staff, cut expenses, but now I can say there seems to be light appearing at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Industries that seem to be doing the most hiring have been in construction and all its discipline parts, engineering, project management, real estate development, architecture and facilities; education; healthcare, technology and security.

How does The Burgess Group view the future of mid-to-senior level professional recruitment?

The Burgess Group has established itself as one of the premier retained executive search firm in the consumer product and services industry, over the past 18 years, yet economic market forces have necessitated that we become a more "one stop shop" source of recruiting, diversity search and human resource services. Our total programmatic offering includes targeted executive search, diversity recruiting, corporate board governance consulting and soon will also offer temporary staffing services. This four-prong approach is The Burgess Group's response to our clients recruiting requirement requests and current economic conditions in the business world. However, in order to become a "single source human resource practice" for our past, current and future clients, the plan is to extend our offerings by adding temporary staffing services. Due to the increasingly adaptable necessity of the labor market and companies continuing desire to cut costs makes this new service a convenient tool to better satisfy all of our clients' temporary, contingent and strategic employment requirements in volatile, competitive national and global economic markets. The Burgess Group's main goal is: to become the retained executive search and diversity recruiting firm of choice for major domestic and international companies, governmental agencies, institutions, associations and organizations worldwide.

Are you becoming more global? If so, how? If not, why?

Absolutely, and we are. We have clients in France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia and China. For international expansion, we use our office in New York for western hemisphere Americas, and our affiliated office in London for penetrating all other world markets. London, being one of the other major business centers in the world, is viewed as a perfect location to base our expansion into Europe, Asia, and Africa. We are currently developing a timeline to achieve our overall international objectives, and since we already have a presence in London, our expansion is significantly underway and we will definitely continue to take The Burgess Group diversity recruitment brand global.