James Mihaly was 13 when an entrepreneurial spirit surfaced and he started a Findlay company that specialized in painting Victorian mansions towering over Main Street.
Thirty-two years later, after sticking with that business through college and then working as a certified public accountant and executive for various firms, Mr. Mihaly still nurtures that daring attitude. The business consultant and principal at Sylvania's Act Group Ltd. has embarked on yet another career as he helps other entrepreneurs.
One evening Mr. Mihaly may be found in jeans and a T-shirt, pitching in at a restaurant so he can get a feel for how the kitchen works. The next day he may be at his desk at Toledo's Funk Luetke Skunda Marketing, Inc., helping tweak a client's advertising campaign. Or he could be aiding a northwest Ohio importer, subdivision developer, or other businessman with assistance including lining up computer, engineering, and other experts.
“I am one of them in a way, just looking at it differently,” he said.
Finding a business consultant who spends enough time among employees to need his own desk, not to mention one who is proficient in both accounting and marketing, is a rarity, said Mark Luetke, president of Funk Luetke Skunda. The 20-employee firm used Mr. Mihaly for some projects last year and now gets his help for various internal and client initiatives.
“He's very hands-on,” Mr. Luetke said. “I've never encountered anything like that.”
The company is a 2-year-old melding of the Bauer Group consulting business and the consulting arm of Sylvania's Weber O'Brien accounting firm. Richard Bauer, Act Group's senior consulting member, said he has helped business owners find economic-development funds and even has temporarily run companies in their absences.
Drawing on experience - including mistakes - is the main asset Mr. Mihaly has to offer.
Companies not only need to know about business and accounting, they also have to be good at advertising and marketing, Mr. Mihaly said. Oftentimes, though, small entrepreneurial businesses are lacking in one of those areas, he said.
Plus, it's easy for entrepreneurs to overlook employee relations or other day-to-day tasks in the pursuit of large contracts, he said.
“I've seen businesses go from one dollar to eight million dollars, and I don't know how to say this, but the [skills] the person needs to start that million-dollar business may not be the same to run the million-dollar business,” Mr. Mihaly said.