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Posted on Oct 13, 2017

Values in Leadership: Interview with Glenn Burrell

Values in Leadership: Interview with Glenn Burrell

Glenn and Kathy Burrell came to America from England on an investor visa in the late 1990s, already knowing the type of company they planned to create. Glenn had spent a number of years looking after the security of the Royal family in the UK. So starting Sunstates Security was a natural for him.

Sunstates Security was founded on three values:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Trust

Referred to as the acronym HIT, this became almost a slogan that was incorporated into the company’s marketing materials, website, and training program. Later when the leadership team formulated a new mission and vision, they kept the three HIT values because it was such an integral part of the company’s culture.

A Noteworthy Culture

Various employees have told Glenn that the company culture is “noteworthy” and unlike any other security firm. They tell Glenn that they see the values in action every day.

Of interest, all new managers begin by spending 7 to 10 days working with the management team and support staff at the head office in Raleigh, NC. The goal is to ensure all managers soak up the culture first before going out into the field.

In addition, the company puts on an annual conference for all their managers, where they bring them together to teach leadership skills. This is also an important time where Glenn says they reinforce the values.

Now, for those interested in working for Sunstates Security, you better do your homework. Before you can meet with Glenn, he says you must know the company’s mission, vision, and values!

One thing to also know about Glenn is that he feels strongly about personal integrity and the role it plays for each employee, every day. He says the company will “always take the high road… will never lower ourselves… and will always give someone the benefit of doubt until they prove otherwise….”

A Multi-Generational Mindset

One thing I found of special interest was how Glenn talked about values through the lens of a family business (especially in Europe) where values are passed down from generation to generation. For him personally, Glenn observed the values of his (now) father-in-law running a business in the UK, now in it’s third generation. In fact, Glenn talks about how his father-in-law became an important mentor for him, referring to his father-in-law as “a true honest man.”

Thinking like a family business, Glenn’s says his decisions are not based on satisfying some investor sitting on a beach somewhere (which he views is a more common business model in America). Glenn makes decisions thinking about the potential impact on his future grandchildren. Such an approach provides leaders with a much broader and long-term attitude in how they run the business. For Sunstates Security, this has already translated into long-term client relationships where some have lasted more than 16 years (and counting).

This approach to decision-making is what Glenn refers to as running a business “as a marathon and not a sprint.” He says values are what provide the longevity.

Importantly, this shouldn’t stop a company from significant growth.

While Glenn and Kathy have been deliberate about growing the company organically, to preserve the existing culture, over the past six years they have managed to grow an average of 24% per year! Of course, such rapid growth is not without problems or pain. But Glenn refers to this as “character building!”

Lastly, Glenn is a big fan of Jim Collin’s book Good to Great, following the book’s principles to also make Sunstates Security a great company. Glenn’s approach to doing this is through “servant leadership and core values that will win the day!

To listen to the whole interview with Glenn, please visit: Values in Leadership.


This is part of a new Business Leader Series called Values in Leadership, where I share relevant insights gleaned from interviews with successful business leaders. I welcome your comments or questions by emailing: