The ability to turn obstacles into opportunities is the hallmark of every successful executive and entrepreneur. James Alvarez, a fledgling Chicago businessman and avid golfer, is no exception. After pulling his hamstring in a softball accident, the 28-year-old Mr. Alvarez found himself unable to pursue his passion for golf. Overcoming that obstacle, however, became his opportunity to pursue entrepreneurial success. "I was a 5-handicap golfer, but I couldn't putt," he says. "[After the accident] I couldn't play golf; all I could do was practice my putting." Thinking "out of the box" – another skill for success in today's competitive business world – Mr. Alvarez designed a putter with a longer grip and angled shaft that promotes a more open stance, allowing golfers to see the putting line with both eyes, thereby enhancing accuracy. Soon his friends wanted their own. Recognizing yet another opportunity, Mr. Alvarez seized it: With entrepreneurial dedication, he quit his job trading stock options, hired engineers to craft the putter, named it the "hammY," and had 500 manufactured a year ago. Mr. Alvarez debuted the putter at a Professional Golf Association tradeshow in Orlando, Florida, and was swamped with interest. "That night I went home and called my friends for help," he recalls. "By Sunday we had 13 people helping us work the booth." The putter, which retails for $150 to $180, has drawn the attention of national publications such as BusinessWeek and Golf Today, as well as hundreds of golfers. In February, Mr. Alvarez was in Hawaii for the debut of the putter on a Ladies Professional Golf Association tour. Now with 17 representatives across the nation, Mr. Alvarez expects to sell 33,000 putters this year for sales of about $3 million. Mr. Alvarez offers a continuing lesson in confidence and creativity for today's executives. "We are [using] the Dick Fosbury theory – he invented the method of going over the high jump backwards in 1968. Everyone made fun of him, then he won a gold medal. Now everyone jumps that way," says Mr. Alvarez, who adds that with his putting improvements he now has a zero handicap. "We are trying to revolutionize the sport and do it the Dick Fosbury way."
Fashion and Accessories
While it takes more than clothes to "make" an executive, impeccable attire and accessories reflect an attitude of excellence. For executives looking for the ultimate in exclusivity, San Francisco's Wilkes Bashford (415-986-4380) offers myriad options, from top-designer fashions for men and women to custom-made cashmere robes (with a price tag around $4,000 to $8,500) to money clips ($200) and carved-onyx cufflinks ($3,000) by Parisian designer Olivier de Percin. Service is attentive, and San Francisco designer Brenda Kett is available to create custom pieces, including tuxedos and smoking jackets, for store clients.
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