The eclectic entrepreneur's mission of service led him to help train volunteers for the Republican National Convention.
A Democratic buddy of Kevin Stirtz's took umbrage the other day because the Burnsville businessman had agreed to train volunteers to guide the throngs who will descend on the Twin Cities next month for the Republican National Convention.
"It's not about politics," responded Stirtz, a political independent and moderate. "It's about helping the Twin Cities put on a better face. I get to brag about it. And it's also an opportunity to serve."
Stirtz, 45, is an affable geography and economics graduate who has managed a county welfare program, owned a small computer business and printed a newsletter that serves coffee shops.
Those experiences led him to a business that focused on what he determined was his greatest skill: building customer service and loyalty. Stirtz is not getting rich off the business, which should gross more than $100,000 this year from speaking and consulting fees. But it's a good living that fits a guy whose website is: www. amazingserviceguy.com.
Also, a third of Stirtz's time is devoted to Kinship Inc., a nonprofit mentoring organization that matches about 2,000 kids annually with adult mentors through churches, community groups and service organizations in the Upper Midwest. Stirtz is the executive director and sole part-time employee of the parent organization, which sponsors several dozen mentoring chapters and manages Kinship's business and legal functions.
Giving kids adult guidance
I met Stirtz years ago at a business-mentoring conference at Roosevelt High School. Until recently, I thought Kinship was his only occupation. And it's an important one, because there are a lot of kids out there who need a level-headed adult to advise them.
The Kinship appointment about 12 years ago helped Stirtz realize his life's mission.
He was the owner of Metro Technology Supply for most of the 1990s. It was a go-go parts-and-service business during the heart of the technology boom. A friend from church asked Stirtz to send a technician out to Kinship to help them set up a computer network.
"I went myself so that I wouldn't have to pay one of my guys to do the work," quipped Stirtz. "I ended up staying."
The good work of Kinship is done through its local volunteers. The headquarters is a small operation that runs on about a $30,000 annual budget that the board raises.
"I hired Kevin as the part-time executive director of our parent organization when I was president of the Kinship board," said Dan Johnson, the longtime manager of Kinship's north Minneapolis-based operation. "He supports our affiliates with training, administration, board development, website resources, troubleshooting and he's an engaging speaker. Our volunteers like him."
Stirtz sold the computer business for a small profit in 2000 and ran the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce's then-fledgling "Waste Wise" business that has really blossomed.
He also started and sold Coffee News, a small publisher targeted at suburban coffee shop customers with tips and ads.
Stirtz realized that he was spending a lot of time advising on customer-service issues for coffee shop owners. He decided to make it his full-time business about three years ago. He's had several dozen client engagements, including Supercuts, Embassy Suites, the Paint Depot, Northern National Bank, Big Bike Parts and Princeton Healthcare System, to name a few. Most are small businesses.
"I'm not Bill Gates," Stirtz said. "But I put some money in the bank [from the sale of previous businesses]. And I'm finally making a living in this business."
A 10-point plan
When Stirtz heard that the Republicans were coming to town, he published a 10-point advisory on his website for volunteers and managers that came to the attention of Kjersti Duncan, volunteer director of the Minneapolis St. Paul Host Committee.
She asked Stirtz to produce customer-service materials for 10,000 volunteers who will assist 45,000 visitors at the airport, hotels, several public venues around the Twin Cities and other places.
"He really is the Amazing Service Guy," Duncan said. "He's sincere. He gave volunteers a good overview of customer service, how to be good listeners, how to deal with challenging situations and to be appreciative. These volunteers are our ambassadors."
Stirtz recently wrote a book called "More Loyal Customers," which uses an anecdotal approach that stresses humility and listening more than sales pitches.
"I believe we're on the planet to serve and put each other first," Stirtz said.
Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144 • firstname.lastname@example.org