Location: Commerce City, Colorado
*Second Year Honoree*
Birko Corporation CEO Mark Swanson had every intention of keeping the company a private, family-owned operation. But when the company was approached with an acquisition proposal last year, Swanson kept an open mind. “My greatest leadership lesson learned in the last year is to always have an open mind,” Swanson said. “While it’s essential to set goals and develop plans to achieve them, it’s equally important to embrace alternative ideas and options to achieve the greatest results.”
The result of that open mind was a successful merger and a launchpad for Birko to take its operations global.
Under Swanson’s leadership, Birko achieved another record year of revenue and EBITDA. It received three new patents for its carcass wash system, a carcass sensor system and a lactic-citric acid formulation, Beefxide. The most significant accomplishment, Swanson said, was getting acquired successfully by Diversey Holdings Ltd. on Dec. 6. “The combination of Diversey and Birko has provided our customers with an advanced range of solutions that protect food safety, improve operational efficiency and increase the sustainability of their operations,” Swanson said. “With this acquisition, we believe Diversey’s food and beverage business now has the No. 1 or No. 2 market position in every region and allows the Birko legacy and culture to continue to thrive far into the future.”
In the immediate future, Birko plans to invest in its manufacturing facility in Henderson, Colorado, to update technology and increase volume by 30%. The improvements are aimed at Birko’s goal to expand globally, a key component of its acquisition by Diversey, Swanson said.
With an eye on the longer-term future, Birko launched its NextGen leadership program, which consisted of 15 of Birko’s top performers. The team participated in quarterly meetings and discussions to nurture professional growth to drive the next generation’s business strategy. The program added purpose for the leaders working on the future of the company and set the foundation for a leadership succession plan. “We now feel confident that the next generation of leaders will drive Birko’s legacy as an innovative food safety partner for the entire food chain,” Swanson said.
Swanson was recently inaugurated as chairman of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), a nonprofit trade association working to create new opportunities and develop international markets for U.S. beef, pork, lamb and veal. Headquartered in Denver, USMEF has offices in Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei, Eastern Europe, Mexico City and Monterrey.
Swanson was named a titan for the first time in 2021. “Being recognized as a titan 100 was a huge honor, and I was grateful to be surrounded by the best business leaders in Colorado,” Swanson said. “I truly believe I am a better leader because of the titan 100 program.”
"While it's essential to set goals and develop plans to achieve them, it's equally important to embrace alternative ideas and options to achieve the greatest results."