WorkWise: Need a fresh direction for your business?

culp@workwise.netNovember 25, 2012 

(Virginia Becker) Mike Hartrich, president of Construction Guild US Inc. of Santa Cruz installs new siding on a home in the Santa Cruz Mountains. His business connects trusted independent contractors with local customers.

Although recent statistics show that growing numbers of business owners expect to be hiring in the foreseeable future, still others haven’t regained a post-recession foothold. How can you seek inspiration?

Consider where inspiration led entrepreneurs in three industries: creating a business, improving offerings in a niche and bringing a national trend to local communities.

Michael Zwick, president and CEO of Assets International Inc. in Southfield, Mich., listens for creative ideas. When he was an attorney, he learned that a friend’s wife had unexpectedly become the beneficiary of a deceased client for whom she’d been a home healthcare nurse. People searching for her had to overcome two hurdles – relocation to a different part of the country and her married name. Her husband “was inspired to help other people like her,” Zwick explains.

“Wow! That’s a great idea,” Zwick thought, melding his entrepreneurial bent and out-of-the-box mentality. The two, with a third partner, locate unknowing beneficiaries around the world.

Ali Curi worked in a market with business conferences and events, which he also produced. He noticed that non-Latino networking events had far more substance than their Latino counterparts. “The existing ones were so social that the business element got lost,” he says. He heard a substantive speaker on investing at one of his events. Attendees were engaged during her talk and actively sought her out for networking.

“That’s it,” he thought. “That’s what we need to do.” As president of the Hispanic Professionals Networking Group Inc. (HPNG), headquartered in New York City, Curi now presents content-driven events for middle management Latino corporate executives.

The Great Recession, an equal opportunity business-deflater, whacked the market of independent contractor Mike Hartrich of Santa Cruz. “All of my business is word-of-mouth, by referral, mostly homeowners and some from contractors,” he says. He had to do something.

“A customer called with financial troubles,” he recalls. “I was in my home thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’ I got an idea to do something online and to see what was out there. ... Construction Guild US Inc. connects trusted local building professionals with local customers.” As president of the company, he generates an entirely new revenue stream.

If Zwick is always open to ideas, Curi felt inspiration serendipitously fall into his lap. Hartrich constantly seeks inspiration. “It has its own energy,” he observes. “If it keeps coming back, it’s worth looking into.” At this writing, he’s exploring expansion to another city with a local affiliate there.


If you’re stuck, consider one or more of the approaches these business owners suggest. “We go to a networking event and spend half of the time on our phones,” Curi says, when engaging with other people, face-to-face, is “the most obvious and neglected” path.

He maintains that social media brings enhanced information-exchange and self-promotion but inhibits authentic human engagement. In Zwick’s spirit of openness, Curi says that in-person contact nurtures real conversation, which leads to engagement, openness and the sharing of perspective.

Hartrich, who searched online exhaustively for a new business idea, was no technoid. He took courses online for the skills he was missing, such as SEO and social media, to develop at a local level what others were doing nationally.

Like Zwick, he recommends out-of-the-box thinking. “Turn off the TV,” he suggests. “Talk to different people – I wouldn’t even recommend a consultant – people who have good ideas, who are creative, will brainstorm and open up new pathways in your mind.”

Consider the recommendation from Zwick. If he were stuck, he’d reflect about what would make him happy, benefit other people and meet one of their needs, even if they hadn’t recognized it.

“You have an opportunity to create success,” Hartrich comments.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at © 2012 Passage Media.

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