Gary Zimmerman, president and CEO of Creative Business Interiors

Gary Zimmerman

President and CEO

Creative Business Interiors

11217 W. Becher St., Milwaukee, WI 53227

Industry: Interior design/construction and contract office furniture

Employees: Approx. 70

Family: Wife, Beth, a middle school teacher in Wauwatosa; son, Gary, who works at Creative Business Interiors as an account manager; and daughter, Nicole, who works part-time at Creative as a marketing coordinator while pursing a master’s degree at Marquette University.

What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year?

“We stayed with our business plan. In these times it’s easy to get distracted and deviate from your plan, but we are well disciplined and our employees understand, respect and stay true to our core values.”

What’s new at your company?

“We’re installing a new business system. It’s a big step for us in terms of growth as it manages everything – from the proposal process through the financial statements. It’s already been fun to see everyone’s excitement as we install it.”

Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

“We’re looking at significant expansion at our Madison office, as well as in the areas of personnel, travel, and technology.”

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?

“We’re moving, which is always a big undertaking. Our current building is just too small. Designing and building out a new space is what we do as a business, so we’re looking forward to the process. But we’ve seen plenty of businesses become distracted during that process, so we’ll work hard to ensure that doesn’t happen. It takes a lot of discipline to stay on track and trust the team to do its job, so it will be interesting to be on this side for a change.”

What’s the hottest trend in your industry?

“Incorporating technology into the workplace. Videoconferencing and SMART Boards are not just for Future 500 companies anymore. Technology has changed the office landscape, so conference rooms, meeting spaces and general office layouts are re-adapting as a result.”

Do you have a business mantra?

“It’s a simple one: Treat everyone – employees, vendors, clients – how you would like to be treated. It’s payback, it’s paying it forward, it’s the right thing to do, and you feel better.”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?

“The small business person. They’ve put themselves out there by selling a product or service, by employing people, and by taking a risk. In doing so, they form the backbone of our economy.”

What was the best advice you ever received?

“‘Listen.’ It sounds silly but I’m afraid listening is becoming a lost art. Plenty of people hear others but they don’t take the time to truly listen to them.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“I love to golf. It’s the perfect game. It’s both an individual and a team sport, and it is up to you to perform or fail.”

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