Tag Archives: motivation

Dream Team

May 24, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There’s a dazzling, eye-catching photo that adorns the bare-bones brick wall inside the photography studio at 1820 Vinton St.

A lovely girl sits in a deep-blue cloud of a dress, highlighted by silver accents. In the background, the grayish sky is streaked with pink-gold clouds. It’s a striking image, and an excellent example of the kind of work one can expect from the gentlemen of Elite, a boutique photography studio based in the historic Vinton Street Business District in South Omaha.

Elite’s Bernardo Montoya and Eric Gutierrez are an impressive pair. Montoya is dressed impeccably in light, subdued colors and wearing a fedora, a signature look for him. Gutierrez, on the other hand, is wearing a simple black T-shirt with dark blue jeans and a rust-colored vest, his brown, gray-streaked hair pulled back from his face.

Despite their contrasting appearances, it’s clear these business partners have an inspiring, deep, mutual respect for one another.

The two met about six years ago at an Omaha Police Department holiday event Montoya organized. At the time, Gutierrez was working in construction, but had long been interested in taking pictures.

“Photography has been a hobby for—the last 20 years,” he says, somewhat questioningly, chuckling a little.

After discovering Gutierrez was an amateur photographer, Montoya asked if he would like to volunteer his services for some of the events Montoya put together. Eventually, they were getting asked to do so much side work, they decided they should try to really make a go of it and invest in themselves and their talent.

Initially, the two worked out of Gutierrez’s Elkhorn home, using his living room, dining room, and kitchen as studio space. But about two years ago, they started working on their brick-and-mortar studio on Vinton Street.

Montoya says when they moved into the space, it was in “awful” shape, so they immediately started renovating.

“Walls were demolished, the false ceiling was removed, original floors were salvaged, and a new bathroom was built,” he says. “Every day we want to continue making modifications.” He said their next project is the façade.

Renovations aside, the neighborhood itself seems like the perfect place for Elite Photography. The developing business fits right in with the community’s burgeoning art scene, and they couldn’t be happier with their location. Montoya says it’s a great neighborhood with incredible potential that he believes the city plans on developing.

Gutierrez agrees: “I think that this street opens a door to, not just the Hispanic community, but to the community in general.”

“I never imagined the possibility of having a photography business like this, because I am a graphic designer,” Montoya said. He previously worked as a reporter in Mexico and in the U.S., taking pictures for articles and other projects as a part of his job. “But this was not my priority,” he says. “I discovered my passion for photography talking with Eric.”

Though Gutierrez had initially chosen a more cautious path, the passion had been there since he was young.

“At some point, when I was going to college, I told my mom that I wanted to be a photographer. She said, ‘No, don’t do that. Just do it as a hobby.’ And that was a mistake,” he says. “I always talk with parents about that. I tell them, you know, you’ve got to encourage your kids to do whatever they want.”

Fortunately, Gutierrez and Montoya have many opportunities to speak with and encourage parents, thanks to a partnership with Omaha Public Schools and the many high school senior and quinceañera photos they do.

Montoya says his inspiration and motivation comes from the looks on peoples’ faces when they first see how they look in their photos.

“We are talking about dreams, the dreams of the people,” he says. “When they talk to you and say, ‘I want to take a beautiful picture…I want to see a picture where I feel beautiful,’ it’s more than taking a simple picture. It’s making a connection with a person—seeing what they want.”

Making those dreams come true is their goal. Which makes perfect sense, since that’s what they seem to have done for each other, something that is very clear when they talk about their life’s work.

“I always say Bernardo was like an angel for me,” Gutierrez says, “because I didn’t know if I was going to do this for a living.”

But while they’ve been fortunate to find each other and develop a successful business, Montoya and Gutierrez have faced plenty of challenges, including Montoya’s recent diagnosis of a rare form of cancer—stage 2 soft tissue sarcoma.

In his typical, always-moving-forward style, Montoya is not letting the disease slow him down.

“Now I can see life with a different color,” Montoya says. “Yes, I have cancer, but it’s like I have the flu. I’m OK right now. I don’t know what will happen with me tomorrow. But you never know what will happen tomorrow—or in a couple of weeks.”

Instead, he says he’s using the diagnosis as a reminder to enjoy life, and his family, friends, work, and the connections he makes with
new people.

“I don’t want to think any bad things,” Montoya says. “I have a future, a plan. I know what I want. I have dreams and I am working toward my dreams.” 


This article was printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Encounter.

Ethical Nudges

August 25, 2016 by

When your mom falls asleep in church, you don’t need to yell in her ear, “MOM, wake up!” to keep her head from bobbing. You can just bump her with your elbow.

If you are practicing how to shoot, but your aim is off, you don’t need someone to build a stand to hold your gun level. It is better to have an expert next to you and have him lightly adjust the barrel direction with his finger.

And when you are learning how to lift weights, a coach can watch your knees and hips and correct your stance with a small correction here, another one there.

Nudges. Often, small nudges are all we need in order to do what we are doing better.

A new body of social science research is showing that the same is true in business ethics. If we want to motivate ourselves to do the right thing at work, we do not necessarily have to visit a psychologist to rid ourselves of our weakness of will. Instead, employers can slightly adjust the work environment to “nudge” employees to do well.

Three recent ideas about ethical nudging come from the research of University of North Carolina business professor Sreedhari Desai, Ph.D. She has an interesting YouTube video (titled “Small Nudges Can Create Ethical Behavior”) that is worth checking out.

The first form of ethical nudging pertains to bids and contracts. Dr. Desai wondered if bids can be fair when they include: 1. a description of a service, and 2. one overall price for the service. Through experiment, she found that vendors are more ethical, that is, their bids better reflect the true cost of the service, when they itemize the cost for each aspect of the service. Itemization is a small difference in the bidding process, but one that makes a larger financial difference, and definitely makes an integrity difference.

Workspaces can also be designed to nudge employees to think and act ethically. Again, only small nudges are needed. Through experiment, Dr. Desai showed that when office walls have pictures of aspirational figures (pick your leader…Gandhi? Rosa Parks? Tom Osborne?), employees make better ethical decisions than they do when there are no aspirational pictures.

The third form of ethical nudging that Dr. Desai describes is also about the workspace, specifically, the items we have around us with which to touch or play. Hold onto your hats…Dr. Desai determined that when workspaces include teddy bears and other childhood play items, ethical decision making is enhanced. She speculates that introducing childhood toys into the workplace puts us in mind of a time when life was pure and simple. A slight nudge towards our better selves.

So what do we do with this social science research about ethical nudges? Well, we can ask ourselves if we want to introduce any of the previous three ethical nudges into our business practices. Personally, I am not going to bring a teddy bear to work, but I like the idea of aspirational pictures. And it is simple to break out the costs of service in the bidding process. We can do it when making a bid or ask for it when receiving one.

In addition, this social science research can motivate us to investigate other ethical nudges that can positively affect our work systems. Let me know what your experiments yield, OK?

View “Small Nudges Can Create Ethical Behavior,” Dr. Desai’s video: youtube.com/watch?v=xt8OS92Bd3s B2B

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of Business Ethics Alliance, and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of Business Ethics Alliance, and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University.