Ernie Gutierrez's relationship with the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce (CAHCC) has come full circle.
In June he became the chairman of the board of the CAHCC -- an organization he credits with helping his multimillion-dollar enterprise, Allied Industries Inc., become a HispanicBusiness 500 company -- and it was his local Hispanic chamber of commerce that got him his first big contract.
"There is no such thing as self-made -- there is homemade," Mr. Gutierrez told HispanicBusiness. "Through collaborating with other people and building a team, I have learned in business how to treat people right and with respect. To foster an environment of cooperation, of mutual goals, and working toward those goals has worked very well in my business."
"I've been able to take that into the chamber," he added.
Making an Impact
Mr. Gutierrez started Allied Industries in 1996 and incorporated it in 1998. Allied Industries, of North Hollywood, Calif., is a green company performing environmental remediation, demolition abatement, waste disposal and environmental engineering. It also offers management consultation.
The company ranked No. 127 on the 2012 HispanicBusiness 500 directory, with 2011 revenues of $43.5 million. The company has 300 employees.
It wasn't always so. After getting laid off as an insurance underwriter in 1992, Mr. Gutierrez became an entrepreneur while carrying $65,000 in credit card debt and earning $4 an hour as a house painter. He learned how to hire others to help him with the work, and painted a state contractor's school in exchange for tuition.
Then a friend recommended he learn the new laws and regulations about lead-based paint.
"I became an expert in lead-based paint and started providing expert testimony in court cases," he said. "That was my segue into the environmental business."
Allied reached the major leagues around 2006, when the company passed the $3 million mark, Mr. Gutierrez said.
"We had the resources, lines of credit, access to capital, which is very important to be able to grow the business," he said. "And then we jumped $6 million, $9 million, $12 million to $22 million. It was kind of a slow evolution, but the $3 million (mark) was where our growth really ramped up."
Mr. Gutierrez's appreciation of the CAHCC goes back to the early days of his career when he joined his local Hispanic chamber of commerce. He went after a large contract with a big telephone company, who thought he was too little to be taken seriously.
A woman at the chamber called the company and got Allied the contract.
"That was magical," Mr. Gutierrez said. "There was someone there to help me and advocate for me, and I'm going to give back and pass it forward. It was really coming full circle and that is how I came back to the chamber."
Mr. Gutierrez served as vice chairman before succeeding Roy Perez as chairman. The first thing he did in his new role was to call for two corporate partners meetings.
"I wanted to get the maximum participation and to let them know who I was, what was my vision, and that everything still continues, and everything is OK," he said.
"My message is that they have a leader who is here because he wants to be, not because he needs to be," he said. "I am here to help them and I have some expertise that I can bring to them in terms of growing this organization to the next level."
Give and Take
One of Mr. Gutierrez's immediate goals as chairman is to host a successful convention Aug. 15-17 in San Diego. The CAHCC is composed of more than 65 local Hispanic chambers serving more than 700,000 Hispanic businesses.
For more information about CAHCC's annual convention, call 800-299-6033, visit CAHCC's website or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now in its 33rd year, the annual convention will feature an international symposium to highlight business relationships between the U.S. and Mexico, along with matchmaking sessions between business owners and procurement officers.
CAHCC also will showcase Latina-owned businesses. The Latina Village will have events and workshops on Aug. 16 dedicated to Hispanic women. For more information about CAHCC's annual convention, call 800-299-6033 or email: email@example.com.
"Latina-owned businesses are the fastest-growing business segment out there," Mr. Gutierrez said.
In fact, it was a Latina who taught Mr. Gutierrez the persistence that has served him so well in business. He was raised by a single mother, who encouraged him to keep asking for a job at the local grocery store till he got hired on as a box boy.
Related: Hispanic Chamber Plans Symposium for Women
Mr. Gutierrez said to get Allied to the level it is now, he trained in finance, banking, legal, marketing, and management systems. Plus he had mentors.
"My success is not gauged by my individual success," he said. "My success is gauged by those that I help rise with me."
That willingness to acknowledge favors and return them twofold perhaps explains the excitement he brings to CAHCC. Most of all, though, he remembers what it's like being a little guy fighting for a place at the table.
"Small business in general carries the load; it is not big business," he said. "Hispanics own the majority of the small businesses. We're carrying most of the load."
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