O’Donnell Lends a Hand to Small Businesses

Mike O’Donnell

Mike O’Donnell is helping small business owners make their dreams a reality with resources and access to capital. As executive director of Colorado Lending Source and a Chamber member for 20 years, he has never hesitated to sit on a panel or support programs that give small businesses access to resources and capital such as Trout Tank. In fact, since supporting the start of this pitch-focused event with Chamber affiliate the Denver Metro Small Business Center it’s grown to serve more than 100 entrepreneurs just this year. O’Donnell’s dedication to the Denver Metro SBDC and the Chamber make him our Fall Chamber Champion. Read on to get to know this Australian native and former SBDC head.

At work, I’m most inspired by all the dedicated, intelligent, smart, committed and amazing people who work at Colorado Lending  Source. They all choose to work here because of our mission (which is to foster the economic growth of diverse small businesses) and the opportunity to help small businesses be more successful.

After 20 years of membership, I stay involved with the Chamber and SBDC because the Chamber is the business conduit for all the amazing Denver businesses that exist in our wonderful community and provides a focus for all the interactions that make our community one of the most entrepreneurial in the nation. The SBDC will always be close to my heart because as a previous SBDC director (from Lawrence, Kansas) I recognize the important role the SBDC program plays in incubating and cultivating successful small businesses.

The most important business lesson I’ve learned is business is like life, or ought to be. We have two founding philosophies at Colorado Lending Source:

a) Cooperate and be nice to everyone; and,

b) Focus on what you are good at and don’t worry about what
anyone else is doing.

These two simple lessons are with me every day.

A morning run, typically in the dark through the streets of Denver before the city really begins to awake, gives me both time to think and time to reflect on who I am and what I am doing.

There is a lot of misinformation about Australia, just as there is a lot of misinformation about the world of debt financing for small businesses. There is a general perception by Americans who have never travelled to Australia that the country is full of dangerous creatures that just can’t wait to suck the life force out of everyone who looks the wrong way. This is, of course, complete twaddle.

Colorado is uniquely like Australia (for business), particularly cooperation and work-life balance involving a goodly amount of outdoor activities, eating and drinking. Studies show that Australia, as a nation, is equally as entrepreneurial as Colorado, and business is not that different here than it is there.

My first job was as a graduate trainee by the Ford Motor Company of Australia. I spent about eight years with the company in the special markets division, which encompassed exporting, leasing, fleet sales, taxi sales and government sales. This involved everything from processing orders for bomb-proof cars being shipped to American embassies in Africa all the way through to selling cars to the Australian Navy. I learned a lot from that entire experience.

My favorite way to get involved in the community is to be involved with the community. Trite, I know, but whether it is Trout Tank, One Million Cups, Denver Startup Week, the Wright Awards, volunteering to sit on SBDC panels and other sorts of events, there are many, many opportunities to be involved with the community. We stress that at Colorado Lending Source too and encourage everyone here to get involved with community in any way shape or form that they would like to. Everyone has 40 hours of paid volunteer time to “spend” each year and many Colorado Lending Source employees have participated in leadership events in Denver.

Kathryn Goggin is the events specialist for the Denver Metro Chamber.

This was originally published in the fall issue of Business Altitude. Click here to read the full issue.