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Burnham cares, so they'll take care of it

Burnham cares, so they'll take care of it

by ROB McMANAMY

At BuiltWorlds, we have a pretty good idea how inspiring the legacy of legendary architect, planner and team-builder Daniel Burnham can be for ambitious people with big plans and big hearts. After all, as some of you may recall, 'Burnham Works' was even our original name here last summer when we launched this champion of collaboration and innovation. Last fall, we changed our name to reflect an expanding mission, but we like to think that we have remained faithful to Mr. Burnham.

Coincidentally, part of that commitment has manifested itself in our growing relationship with Chicago-based Burnham Nationwide Inc., the national permitting giant which itself models its own business ethic on the integrity and drive of the visionary force behind Chicago's groundbreaking 1893 Columbian World Exposition, New York's iconic Flatiron Building, and even the National Mall in Washington DC. "Just as Daniel Burnham envisioned greatness in every endeavor, at Burnham Nationwide, so do we on a daily basis," explains the company website.

"When we started this business 23 years ago, we considered what to call ourselves and we all agreed that Burnham's most famous quote, 'Make No Little Plans,' and just his persistent, can-do attitude perfectly embodied our own credo of 'Simply Getting It Done'," recalls Burnham President Carson P. Kyhl. Over the years, his fondness and admiration for the firm's namesake has only grown, he adds, noting that his home now is even decorated with photography of the 1893 World's Fair that Burnham, himself, had commissioned. "My wife stumbled upon them at an estate sale," says Kyhl. "So we just figured that we had to have them."

Growth at an exponential 'clip'

Since 1992, Burnham has been "getting it done" in towns, cities, states, and even with federal agencies, cutting through red tape and alleviating the hassles that builders, owners and municipalities traditionally face in growing the built environment. Today, it has more than 70 employees and regional offices in Chicago, New York, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Jose. The firm bills itself as the nation's "premier provider of permitting, code compliance, solar inspecting and sustainability consulting services."

"Our role is to be a very informed permit-getter, the interface with governmental authorities and an integrator of related services for architects, contractors, owners, consultants, etc.," says Kyhl. And while Burnham has to stay abreast of the latest technology (see its advanced permit tools) for building inspections, field monitoring, data collection, and the like, it also deals with many smaller, rural towns and agencies across the U.S. that simply do not have the resources many of us take for granted today.

"They (clients) are all over the map with their technology," he notes. "Some don't have their own websites yet. Others are still using fax machines or even filling out forms with carbon copies!"

Burnham's role, though, is not to judge or to scoff, but simply to do whatever is needed. "We have to eat their pizza every day," explains Kyhl. "We provide a lot of customer service aspects that cities just can't nowadays... and we store everything, too. So a lot of clients look to us to be their filing cabinet."

Providing such value-added customer service is in Burnham's DNA. Or more precisely, the firm trains its employees in 'CLIP', i.e. Caring for people; Leading through innovation; Improving productivity; and Perfecting customer service.

Beyond the bottom line

Another aspect of the company's emphasis on customer service is its parallel focus on both internal customers (employees) and the surrounding community. "An integral component of the Burnham Special Experience is our desire to truly make a difference in the lives of the people we care about, and (to) actively participate in the communities in which we live," reads its website. "We are proud supporters of the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society – Greater Illinois Chapter, and the Chicago House and Social Service Agency, which provides housing for individuals living with HIV and AIDS. In September 2008, Burnham received the Chicago House Corporate Award for its generosity through the years."

Yes, like its namesake, it would seem that Burnham Nationwide has a gift for seeing the big picture.

BURNHAM CARES: Last month, Burnham employees in Chicago accepted the Aon Step Up for Kids challenge! They climbed 80 floors to the top of the Aon Center, one of Chicago’s tallest buildings. All proceeds benefited children and families at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

BURNHAM CARES: Last month, Burnham employees in Chicago accepted the Aon Step Up for Kids challenge! They climbed 80 floors to the top of the Aon Center, one of Chicago’s tallest buildings. All proceeds benefited children and families at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.


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