The idea of using a boiler to heat a home or building is a somewhat foreign concept to most suburban Californians. That’s not the case everywhere, however. Growing up in the harsh winters of Chicago, Illinois gave Bob Burns plenty of opportunities to appreciate the radiant heat that boilers provide.
Today Bob serves as Action Property Management’s Regional Manager – Engineering Services in the Bay Area. Although he has a somewhat secret passion for music, he ultimately followed in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather by pursuing a career as a boilermaker.
As a seventeen-year-old high school graduate, Bob’s desire was to study music at the collegiate level, but as the third oldest of seven kids, funding for college was a challenge. With his parent’s blessing and his father’s signature, Bob was able to enlist in the navy before his eighteenth birthday to begin learning the essentials of working in a boiler room aboard a Navy ship.
It was within these cramped quarters that he came to appreciate the value of excellence. “The boiler room is intense. You can’t make mistakes, so it sets you up for future success,” Bob said.
As he toured the world, Bob made sure to bring one of his most prized possessions along with him — his first professional trombone, the same horn he has played since sixth grade and still plays today. Some of his fondest memories of his military career are of playing that trombone in basic training drum and bugle corps and at the bottom of the Big Bear dam.
With his commitment to the Navy fulfilled, Bob again considered pursuing a musical education, but the need for income soon outweighed the desire to go to school. Using the skills he learned at sea, Bob was able to pass the test he needed to become a licensed Stationary Engineer.
With his feet back on solid ground, he took a job as a maintenance supervisor for a Chicago area slaughterhouse. After all the processing for the day was done, Bob and his team would perform maintenance and repairs on all the equipment.
”“You’re not out there to hit a home run,” he said. “You’re out there to win as a team.” One of the parts of his job he enjoys the most is when he gets to put on his coach hat and rally the team.
The job paid the bills, but unsurprisingly, lacked some of the refinements Bob preferred in a career, so he soon took a new job as a building engineer at a hotel in Chicago. From there he was able to move up to Chief Engineer. It was in this position that a front desk attendant named Laura caught his eye. He asked her out and the two soon married and moved to Northern California.
Given his years of experience as a player, coach, and fan of baseball, Bob sees his job as that of a player on a team. “You’re not out there to hit a home run,” he said. “You’re out there to win as a team.” One of the parts of his job he enjoys the most is when he gets to put on his coach hat and rally the team.
The list of Action values is at the core of everything the company does. From hiring decisions to day-to-day operations, Action’s values are the driving force that Bob relies on. When asked about it, he summed it up this way, “When you have a set of values, it makes hiring easier.” He went on to say that finding employees who are already on the same page as the company ensures that the right fit is found each time, and he credits this idea with helping him build the highly professional team he gets to lead each day.
Bob’s team is responsible for the maintenance and repairs of 50 Bay Area buildings. He supports onsite engineers at 16 of those buildings plus a team of roving engineers for the others. The goal is to make sure that every one of the residents in those buildings can come home to a comfortable home each night.
Despite the fact that his baseball loyalties are divided between the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants, Bob is able to give his undivided attention to the job when he’s at work. When he’s not watching a ballgame, he enjoys fishing in the Sierras with a group of friends or playing his trombone. Given his musical genes, it’s no surprise that he also dabbles with a guitar or ukulele from time to time.
From his professional beginnings in cramped boiler rooms at sea to the refined tastes of ultra-luxury high-rises, Bob has indeed seen the full spectrum of building engineering. Through it all he’s learned to blend an expectation of perfection with a zest for life that keeps him wanting to come back to work each day.