Misti Burmeister used to commit lots of blunders when she tried to connect with older workers in the office.
These communication gaps led her to create Inspirion Inc., a Bethesda consulting firm that promotes effective communication between older and younger generations in the workplace.
“I set out to have people of different generations help each other through understanding their differences,” said Miss Burmeister, whose efforts were recognized at a D.C. awards luncheon last week.
Miss Burmeister was named a finalist in the Elizabeth Dole Young Entrepreneur Scholarship, which is sponsored by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), a public-policy organization that promotes women and minorities in business.
The scholarship program highlights five young, successful female business owners and helps them establish their businesses. Finalists receive one year of skills training, WIPP membership and access to a personal advisory board of experienced female business owners.
Nwenna Gates, owner of Taste of the Goddess Cafe in Los Angeles, won the grand prize.
“I was so excited about the possibility of somebody helping me figure out a business,” Miss Burmeister said of the scholarship program. “It feels like a privilege. WIPP is a wonderful organization with a huge vision. I’ve never seen an organization support businesses like they do. They’re really looking at helping the women who got this award.”
Inspirion has consulted with several large customers including AT&T, Marriott International, the University of Wisconsin and even the U.S. Navy. Inspirion consultants are traveling to Navy bases to explain how generational differences affect workplace relationships and to ask sailors what they think the Navy can do to attract and retain them as employees.
Last year, Inspirion consulted with Atlanta company Post Properties, an upscale apartment developer. Lori Addicks, the company’s vice president for learning and development, contacted Inspirion because she was interested in one of its workshops on intergenerational communication.
“The beauty with Misti was that she almost has a foot on both sides, Generation Y and Generation X. She’d done a lot of work and could relate to our midlevel managers,” Ms. Addicks said. “She showed us not only to be concerned that there are four generations in the workplace, but that there are four generations of customers as well.
“It started the planting of seeds, and we’ve continued to reinforce the mission. She got us started, which was great. She introduced the concept and got us opening up and really talking about what this means for us,” she said.
Inspirion was formed in April 2005, when Miss Burmeister resigned from her government contracting job and began researching intergenerational communications.
“I had 60 hours of work behind a desk, and I needed guidance. My colleagues saw me as impatient, but I had no vision. I knew they wanted to help and I wanted to help them, but there was something missing,” she said.
“Inspirion helps organizations create bridges for the generations, to increase connectivity between people, to help understand each other and to get away from the right-versus-wrong mentality.”
Miss Burmeister graduated in 2000 from the University of Northern Colorado with bachelor’s degrees in kinesiology and psychology and earned a master’s degree in human communication in 2002.
She lives in Fairfax.
â€” Bethany Sackett