Initiative, education and creativity light the way for local business leaders
Donna Hyatt: A woman on the move
You might call Kent resident Donna Hyatt a mover and a shaker. Heavy on the moving and light on the shaking, if you please.
Hyatt is co-owner of two Kent-based moving companies: City Moving Systems and P&D Services.
She bought City Moving Systems in 2001, after working her way up from being the new finance manager in 1986 to serving as president, a title she still holds. Co-owner Ron Bickerstaff is the company’s vice president.
“I came in … and proved to the current owner that I could run the company, and he was leaving it in good hands,” Hyatt said.
Hyatt had been in the moving industry for a decade before she started at City Moving. After a few years at the Kent-based company, though, Hyatt said she knew she wanted to own this business.
“After I came to work for this company, it became my goal (to own it),” she said.
City Moving Systems is a full-service moving company, and an agent for the national moving company United Van Lines. Its employees pack, move and deliver everything from household furniture to medical laboratories to trade-show items.
“It’s a very personal business, where we’re working with individuals moving all their personal possessions,” Hyatt said, when asked what she liked about the moving industry. “And we have employees here who really care about taking care of their customers.”
Recently, Hyatt decided to branch out into the do-it-yourself moving industry. In April 2007, she started P&D Services with co-owner Pat Kelly.
Hyatt joked that the letters stand for either “Pat and Donna” or “Pick and Drop.”
“You can take your pick,” she said.
P&D is a dealer for SAM (Store and Move), a company that offers mobile storage units for homeowners to pack and unpack themselves. The units are 16 feet long, 8 feet high and 8 feet wide — large enough, according to the Web site, to fit most contents of a typical two- or three-bedroom home (excluding items in basement, attic and garage).
P&D has an office in Kent and another office that opened last month in San Francisco. Hyatt said that she hopes to continue expanding the self-serve moving business in California.
Hyatt credits her success in business to three factors: a good education, plain old hard work, and gathering employees with a passion for excellence.
She earned her master’s degree in business administration at Southern Illinois University, and is a state-certified CPA. She also is a board member of both the Washington Movers Conference and the Washington Trucking Association.
For more information, call City Moving at 253-518-8800, or visit www.citymovingsystems.com or www.getasam.com.
Guthmiller a force in the electrical industry
Mary Guthmiller, vice-president and co-owner of Transtech Electric, didn’t start out in the electrical industry.
In fact, her work for retail giant Nordstrom as a cosmetics buyer was the polar opposite, as far as products go.
But the two lines of work have one basic requirement: Drive.
“You never fail until you quit,” said the Kent-based businesswoman, who has been at the helm of Transtech going on 13 years. “I think you have to think big and you have to believe in your people – give them the freedom to develop their talents and to be entrepreneurial. That’s what I learned at Nordstrom.”
Guthmiller and her husband started the company, which does high-end electrical contracts on public-works projects, in 1995. It was, Guthmiller recalled, their way of grabbing hold of the American dream.
“We didn’t really have any help,” she noted. “We just borrowed $100,000 and started it.”
From a fledgling business that operated with just one truck, Transtech has grown to a major business in South County, with 99 trucks and 40 employees.
That’s partly due to the way Guthmiller caught on to the steep financial and regulatory learning curve the business required.
“My role has gone from ‘what does a signal pole look like?’ to now, which is very technical,” she said.
It’s no surprise that Guthmiller is as competitive as the bid packages Transtech regularly wins in the industry.
That kind of drive also has applied to her personal life. She’s not one to pass up a challenge – even if it’s something she’s never done before.
Case in point is her climb in January of Mount Kiliminjaro. Nearly 20,000 feet high, the mountain in Tanzania is considered one of the Seven Summits – the holy grail of prestigious climbs.
Never mind that Guthmiller had never so much as strapped on a pair of crampons before. She simply decided to do it.
“I’ve never hiked or climbed a mountain, but in January I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro,” she said.
At the top, she temporarily lost her vision, the result of minor eye surgery she’d had, combined with the high altitude.
“I went blind at the top and at 19,343 feet had to get down without sight,” Guthmiller said, noting her companions patiently helped her work her way around obstacles on the descent, telling her where to place her feet.
“I just went down like I went up – one step at a time,” Guthmiller said.
Her other lower-elevation pursuits include riding her Harley Davidson motorcycle, and learning the art of golfing.
They may not have much to do with bidding on major road projects, but they help recharge her creative batteries.
“The advice that (Nordstrom founder) Blake Nordstrom gave me years ago was ‘pace yourself,’” Guthmiller said. “Years later I’ve realized how important that is. I do a lot of that things that are not high-octane. I get some of my best ideas (when doing things) totally unrelated to my work.”
In addition to Transtech, Guthmiller continues to operate a spa business out of a Kent gym now known as Vision Quest. She formerly owned the gym, known as Kent Women’s Spa & Fitness Center, which she purchased after its previous owners went out of business. She sold the gym April 1 to Brad Swartz, owner of the Vision Quest line of health clubs.
“I am keeping my spa there, and he runs the business,” Guthmiller said.
To learn more about Guthmiller’s business, visit www.transtechassociates.com.
Gill has big goals for eatery
It’s an intoxicating mixture of cooking, connecting with others and using her savvy that keeps Harpreet Gill motivated as a businesswoman.
“Honestly, I just love what I do,” said Gill, owner of Punjab Sweets, a thriving Kent business that serves up traditional Indian foods. “I love to cook, and I love people.
“Getting to know them; having them enjoy a good meal; and seeing a smile on their face – that’s what drives me to work every day.”
Punjab Sweets has been steadily cultivating success – thanks partly to a growing clientele and positive write-ups about its food in the local media. It’s also due in big part to Gill’s drive in getting the word out about her products. The Seattle University MBA graduate is a one-woman tour de force, marketing her products and developing advertising for them, maintaining a Web site, cooking entrees with her family (her mother and father started the business) and working the front counter.
“I kind of took it into my own hands,” the 32-year-old Covington resident said of her handling of the family business. “Rebranding it, getting a new logo, and trying to get (a new line of snack foods) into various local markets. There are all these avenues I want to go.”
There is a sense of urgency about Gill that’s apparent even as she’s talking on the phone, between taking customers’ orders. That energy is a part of her personal make up – even before she decided she wanted to take the family business and run with it.
“I actually wanted to be a lawyer when I was in college,” she said.
But her freshman year, her math abilities led to a job as an internal auditor, and that in turn led her to take the path of business. She worked for an accountant for several years, then opted to return to college to pursue her full-fledged degree in business.
“Even though I love numbers, I missed the personal side of it,” Gill explained of her shift from accounting to business.
At Punjab Sweets, Gill has had a lot of opportunities to reconnect with the human element of business. She has a group of regulars who show up, to eat as well as talk, she said.
“I try to build good relationships with customers,” she said. “Everybody wants to go to a place where they’re recognized. People will come in and say, ‘I really enjoyed our talk, I feel so much more relaxed now.’ I find that really rewarding, just to listen to someone.”
If Gill has her way, other people will be doing some listening, too: folks in the grocery industry.
She’s hoping to broker some deals for her snack-food line, that would have it on grocery-store shelves.
“What I want is our sweets and snacks to be distributed to various retail chains and stores.”
In addition to her work promoting the business and working in it, Gill also is mother to an 8-year-old daughter, another important job. Her family, she said, has been a wonderful source of support in making it all work.
“My parents – I don’t even feel like a single mom,’” Gill said. “They just do everything for me and my daughter.”
Punjab Sweets is located at 23617 104th Ave S.E., Kent. For more information, call 253-859-3236, or go to www.www.punjabsweetsonline.com.