At SSA, we believe in enthusiasm. In passion. In being an expert in what you do, not just because of your experience but because you love doing it. We hire people who enhance our culture and our business. And we’re proud to share more about them in our This is SSA employee story series.
Today, we’re proud to introduce you to Sam Burr, District Manager for South and Central Florida Zoos. Learn more about how he started from warehouse associate to his current role and how he learned responsibility, empowerment, and how to be grateful for everyday along his career journey with SSA.
1. Tell us a bit about your journey at SSA.
My SSA journey is a bit unique. I was initially hired in March of 2013 at Utah’s Hogle Zoo as a warehouse associate with the opportunity to become the warehouse manager in a month’s time if my performance was satisfactory. Well, I did become the warehouse manager and got a nice raise which I was very happy about (as was my aunt, as I was living at her house at the time 🙂).
I was able to train under some amazing people, some of whom are still employed, such as Chef Corey Crosier, Corporate Chef of West Coast Operations here at SSA. In 2016, I got a chance to go to the Dallas Zoo to help oversee operations as the Operations Manager and later became Assistant General Manager there. In 2018, I got my first opportunity to be Tulsa Zoo’s General Manager and went on to be Miami Zoo’s GM. I’m now District Manager for South and Central Florida and have been for the last several months.
2. What drew you to work at SSA?
Frankly, I was in a place where I needed to get myself together. I needed a job and was a bit down on my luck. I had quit college, and my aunt was about to kick me out (Thanks for being there for me, Aunt x!) I realized it was enough excuses and time to just really commit to something. So I told myself whatever opportunity I get next, I’m going to take it seriously. I’m not going to be too good for it. I’m going to give it everything I have.
I saw that warehouse associate opportunity with the ability to become a warehouse manager and I thought to myself, you know… seems like a lot for to feed some elephants. Little did I know, the rest is history.
A major factor that really did draw me in was that I could walk to work. I didn’t have a car at the time or much money to afford the transit. But I could walk. And so I did that. I walked 1.5 miles uphill from my aunt’s house at the top of a canyon in Salt Lake City every day until I got that raise.
3. If you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?
You’re not too good for anything! You’re not too cool for anything! You’re not too smart for anything!
Be honest. Admit when you’re wrong. Ask for help. It’s a strength, not a weakness. You know, the funny thing about the human spirit is that very rarely if you ask for help, will someone not listen. Give it a try. If you’re genuine and sincere, people will listen. Also, trust the process and be patient because your time is coming.
4. What has helped you bring your most authentic self to work?
I keep my team motivated and inspired by trying to do the right thing, no matter what. By always trying to be present and always trying to actively listen.
There’s two types of listening. Listening to talk and listening to listen. I do what I can to truly listen at all times. I lead by example wherever possible. Other times, I show support without micromanaging my employees.
Also, I’m unapologetic positive. I believe we all have our own challenges and stresses, things that we wish were different or we could take back. But we’re here now, so we might as well give it our all. We might as well enjoy it. We might as well treat each other with respect.
And that’s my last rule, hold me to the same respect as I do my employees. If I’m late or disrespect someone, I expect to be held accountable for that by those who report to me. Respect is universal, it’s not ranked based but by consistently earning it through your actions.
5. What do you like to do outside of work?
I love to travel and go new places. I love reading different news articles to keep me informed about what’s going on in the world or different viewpoints of the world. I think often we approach situations with our understanding of the situation without really looking at it from all sides. And one of the reasons I love to read is that I find it invigorating to feel that I understand the ‘why’ behind a topic or idea and what drives people to think that way.
Another big recharge for me is finding a way to be grateful everyday. By understanding that the past is the past whether I’m happy with my contributions and finding a way to be grateful for those experiences daily. That’s a big key because you can have time off, but if you spend that time fixated on the decisions you did or didn’t make, you’re not really recharging. You’re kind of doing the opposite. It’s important for me to be present and grateful regardless of what I’m doing outside of work!
Curious to learn more about careers at SSA and the incredible work our people are doing? See more here.