As the daughter of company co-founders, Paul and Gloria Burke, Allison Burke can remember the early days of Telefonix, Inc.
“In the beginning,” says Allison, now the company’s executive vice president, “Telefonix was four desks grouped together in a makeshift office in our (family) basement. I still marvel at the sacrifices that my parents made in order to make my father’s dream come true.”
Since those humble roots, Telefonix has come a long way. Today, the company is a global leader in multiple industries, yet remains driven by Paul’s idea that most customer’s problems can be solved by bringing together old and new technologies. In fact, that belief is exactly how Telefonix got its start more than two decades ago.
In 1986, Paul Burke left his role as vice president of a manufacturing company to begin a consulting practice out of his home in the Chicago suburbs. Not long after, he began the development of a retractable brushless cord reel that allowed for the transmission of low voltage digital signals, which was then truly a unique invention.
As a result of that cord reel invention, Telefonix, Inc., was incorporated in 1989. The following year, the company outgrew the Burkes’ basement and moved operations to North Chicago, Illinois, where it began manufacturing its first product, Handicord®, a retractable phone cord device that could be mounted to a wall. Not long after that, Telefonix began discussions with GTE Airfone, which at the time was working on a program to develop and field the first nationwide digital air-to-ground communications system. GTE Airfone, however, was missing one crucial component – a cord reel. After extensive development,Telefonix cord reels took flight in the airline industry.
The company soon went on to expand its presence in the airline industry, but at the same time was working to expand into other markets, as well. To that end, Telefonix developed a cord reel based system that could provide power and security signals to electronic devices for use in point-of-purchase displays. These solutions can be seen at many retailers across the US and abroad. From there, Telefonix began to develop new solutions for medical, telecommunications and industrial application customers. The company proved it wasn’t in the cord reel business. Rather, it was in the problem-solving business.
Today, there are Telefonix cord reels installed on aircraft worldwide, on hospital gurneys, in cell phone accessories and in point-of-purchase displays at prominent retailers. Telefonix devices can be found in countless other places as well, including attached to the opera glasses at world-renowned La Scala in Milan, Italy, and even aboard Air Force One as it flies the United States president across the globe.
Now headquartered in Waukegan, Illinois, many things have changed for Telefonix. But what never has is what’s made Telefonix the company it is today and the one it will continue to be in the future. That’s its family of employees. As Paul Burke says, “You can get bricks and mortar anywhere. Our company’s greatest asset is its people.” Ask our customers, and they’ll tell you the same.