February 27, 2021

Closing the Books: Bob Burkhardt Reflects on a Successful Career at MaxYield

Bob and Judy Burkhardt

Bob and Judy Burkhardt

Bob and Judy Burkhardt were recognized at a coffee in their honor December 5th. Burkhardt is retiring after 14 years of service to MaxYield. We wish him and Judy all the best!

Ever heard the joke that old accountants never die—they just lose their balance? None of that applies to Bob Burkhardt, MaxYield Cooperative’s longtime chief financial officer who will retire at the end of this year.

It’s no joke when we say MaxYield will truly miss Bob and his many contributions to the cooperative during the past 14 years. “I’ve worked with many people in my career, and no one is more enjoyable and talented than Bob,” said Keith Heim, MaxYield’s CEO. “He has a great work ethic and has been a great asset for this company.”

For Bob, MaxYield marked the beginning of something great. “The most fun I’ve had in my career has been helping MaxYield transform and grow into the company it is today.”

Learning the cooperative system

Bob’s journey to MaxYield took many twists and turns through the years. After growing up on a farm near Guthrie Center, he earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Northwest Missouri State University in 1970.

Since this was the Vietnam War Era, the military draft dominated options for young men like Bob. “My draft lottery number was quite low, and I was in the first draft lottery.”

That didn’t bode well for Bob when he would interview with potential employers. Since employers didn’t want to hire someone who may likely be drafted, Bob headed to North Dakota to join a crew that built grain bins.

“I made it to Omaha before I decided I didn’t want to go to North Dakota,” said Bob, who applied for a job as a mail clerk with the Union Pacific Railroad instead.

After working there for a year and a half, Bob wanted something better, so he applied for a job with Farm-Mar-Co, the predecessor to Farmland’s grain division. He was hired and began his cooperative career in 1972, which took him to various positions with Farmland Industries and Union Equity Cooperative throughout the Midwest. He later worked for Koch Industries in Wichita, KS, where he served as the director of accounting for Koch Agriculture.

Guiding MaxYield’s growth

By 1999, Bob decided he wanted to get back into the cooperative system and return to Iowa. He connected with Joe Anniss, who had also worked in the Farmland system. Anniss was now the general manager of West Bend Elevator Company (WBEC).

“Joe and I just clicked,” said Bob, who became WBEC’s controller in August of 1999. “I also liked the fact that if my role contributed to the success of the cooperative, part of that money went back to the members.”

While WBEC had gone through some hard times in the 1990s, with the company’s retained savings plunging to nearly zero, things began to change for the better around 2003. During the pivotal years of 2003 to 2006, WBEC unified with Fostoria Cooperative Elevator Company and Farmers Cooperative of Britt. The cooperative also became MaxYield and was prepared to benefit from the ethanol boom that was gaining momentum.

“The high-profit years started falling into place after that,” said Bob, who also attributes MaxYield’s success to the ability to recognize opportunities, break with tradition when necessary, and move in new directions.

“Cooperatives by their nature are conservative, and that’s generally a good thing,” said Bob, who has spent 37 years of his career in the cooperative system. “Sometimes, though, you have to step out and take risks. If you don’t take calculated risks, you don’t get the rewards.”

Bob is looking forward to the rewards of retirement after his last official day with MaxYield on Dec. 31. Bob will definitely be missed, Heim said. “As much as I hate to see Bob go, he has worked hard for this. All of us at MaxYield thank Bob for all his contributions, and we hope he and his wife, Judy, fully enjoy their retirement.”

Editor’s note: Bob and Judy, a retired West Bend Mallard middle school teacher, are building a new home in Kansas City. They look forward to living 10 minutes from their daughters, Angela and Robin, and their families. While Bob has no firm plans about what he’ll do in retirement, he looks forward to spending time with his four grandsons and step-granddaughter. This former volunteer firefighter is also interested in volunteer activities. Both Bob and Judy are interested in getting more involved with the Red Cross.




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