June 1, 2012

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Armed and Dangerous

International Armoring Created a Unique Niche in a Global Marketplace

Peri Kinder

June 1, 2012

If the products created by Mark Burton’s International Armoring Corporation (IAC) fail, his clients could die. His patented Armormax technology takes top-of-the-line Mercedes, Audi and BMW vehicles and turns them into traveling fortresses, intended to withstand land mines, bullets or grenades, while maintaining the original appearance and performance of the vehicle.

Working with some of the most unique individuals in the world, Burton’s clients are in news headlines around the globe. His vehicles can be found in more than 50 countries that have high kidnapping rates, drug conflicts, war and broken judicial systems.          

In an African country, Burton’s client was traveling in his armored vehicle when more than 100 rounds of ammo hit his car. Because of the quality of Armormax, and the company’s strict attention to detail, the client was able to walk away from the attack.

“I got a phone call from him and he said, ‘Mark, I love you. I had no idea what this car would do. I would have paid $1 million for this car,’” Burton recalls. “We’re talking about fathers of children who are able to go home. They have a daily threat because of their wealth, their government position or their religion.”

An Iron-clad Reputation
Building a reputation in this field requires patience, integrity and a lot of lessons learned along the way. Burton, founder and CEO of IAC, started the company in Ogden in 1993 (now located in Centerville) and says those lessons have made him a better international businessman and a leader in armored-car technology.

His first job was to armor three top-end vehicles without affecting the original exterior. After six months of research and development with the products, the vehicles didn’t look armored and they didn’t feel heavy—IAC was ready to go. Burton set a goal of armoring 24 vehicles during his first year of business—and ended up doing more than 200. Now, with more than 7,000 vehicles fitted with Armormax, IAC is internationally respected.

One of Burton’s biggest challenges is making sure his vehicles don’t end up in the wrong hands. Clients and corporations are heavily vetted before contracts are signed.

“About 40 percent of our work comes from the U.S. government. We’re not going to risk that,” Burton says. “Since 9/11 there have been more and more challenges. We have to make sure individuals purchasing our vehicles aren’t on any watch list or terrorist list. We’re cautious and careful of whom we’re dealing with.”

Personal Oversight—From Across the Globe
IAC has plants in many locations throughout the world. However, all the materials and designs come from the United States to keep the product consistent and to monitor quality. Shipping in and out of different countries brings its own problems but by working with local experts, the U.S. Commerce Department and local shippers, most shipping problems can be addressed quickly.

In one situation, due to regulations regarding batteries and fuel tanks, a foreign country slapped a hazardous waste fine on each vehicle entering or leaving the country to the tune of $40,000 per car.

Burton jumped on the next plane to speak with the local authorities himself. He explained his plant employed local workers but, if the heavy fines continued, he would have to locate his plant elsewhere, leaving many people in the country without work. The authorities backed off significantly and lowered the fine to only $4,000 per car.

Burton says sitting down face-to-face is sometimes the best way to solve an issue—even when that meeting might be 5,000 miles away. He travels more than 100,000 miles each year and could easily be gone 365 days a year. Burton’s learned time management is a must-have when dealing with international time changes and travel.

Operating plants overseas is a constant challenge for IAC. Before establishing a base in any country, Burton does in-depth research into the country’s laws, business practices, sales and marketing companies, shipping regulations and local culture before getting into manufacturing. He says investigating the work visa process, identifying pay scales and learning about the country’s tax and payroll laws is a must for any company operating in a foreign country.

Top management members at each of IAC’s international plants are trained in the United States and must agree to move to the area. Because constant oversight isn’t possible, Burton has a strict vetting process for potential management employees. But, even then, he’s dealt with difficult situations.

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