The skit about The Big Guy was exceptional. Onto the stage walks a boy who must have been no older than 8, very short, wearing a blue blazer and tie. The boy walks out onto the stage looks out at the audience and says “Hello my name is Dick Burke, they call me the Big Guy!!” The place loved it and my Dad would have loved it too. The photo attached is a picture of me and The Big Guy after the ceremony.
After the skit, I took the stage and accepted the award on behalf of my Dad. My comments are below.
I am sorry that my father could not be here to accept this award. Tonight his family is. On behalf of my father I want to thank you so very much for honoring him with such a special award. Tonight I would like to share three stories with you.
The first story is about taking Risks.
In 1962, my father started his career at Roth Distributing on Virginia Avenue in Milwaukee. Three months into his career at Roth, Mr. Roth dropped dead of a heart attack. Red Schmalzer who had been the sales manager at Roth asked my father to become partners. Great…but my Dad didn’t have any money. He borrowed $5K from his parents, $5K from my mother’s parents.
Both my parents worked, they lived off my Mom’s earnings, and put my Dad’s into the business. Even though he started off as a credit manager, My Dad knew how to read the cards and then he was all in. Throughout his career, my Dad was never afraid to bet the house.
My second Story is about leadership.
My Dad led from the front. After founding Trek in 1976, my Dad spent the majority of his time on his distribution business. Trek grew from nothing to become a $20 million dollar business in 1985.
Only one problem. The management didn’t like the customers, and the customers didn’t like the management. The business dropped like a rock. We lost half our customers in 1985.
The Big guy came out to Trek, fired the management and ran the business himself.
After one month on the job he assembled all the employees in the warehouse; stood up on some wooden pallets and said that he had three options.
1. I can sell this company;
2. I can close it; or
3. We can fix it.
Well, no one will buy it, and I am not going to close it, so we will fix it. Quality products, competitive values, delivered on time, and we will take care of the customer. Simple, to the point, and it worked. My Dad led Trek from a small money pit to the leading bicycle brand in the world.
My third story is about Pride.
One of His favorite Memories was the 1999 Tour De France. Half-way through the race I received a phone call that this cancer survivor Lance Armstrong on the Postal Team riding a Trek was in the lead and that he might win the race. We need to have someone over here I was told.
I called the Big Guy and he went to Paris. On the second to last day he rode in the team car behind Lance Armstrong as he won the final time trial and clinched his first Tour De France.
This was the first Tour ever won on an American Bike. A bike built by the company Dick Burke Built. Lance went on to win 7 tours on Treks. Since then two more have been won on Trek’s.
My Dad said when he walked into the hotel that night the concierge gave him the thumbs up. Even the French loved the Americans for one day.
There is a reason that a man five foot eight is called “The Big Guy.” He was a small man with a very big heart. He leaves behind a great spirit and a legacy that “to whom much is given, much is required.”
When he passed away two years ago, someone told me that his body would die but his spirit would live on. Tonight, the spirit is wearing his tattered Jesuit Nativity Baseball Hat, with a beer in his hand and a big smile.
Here is to you Big Guy!