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Small Business Equals Big Innovation in Colorado

Small business means big business in Colorado – they represent almost 98 percent of Colorado businesses and employee one million Coloradans. They are also partnering with innovation hubs and changing the way we do business in Colorado, experts told the audience at State of Small Business this morning.

Hosted by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center in partnership with the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at the University of Colorado Denver Business School, the sold-out audience of 350 business leaders heard the latest trends affecting small businesses.

The Challenges and Opportunities in 2018

Denver is in its 101st month of expansion, Development Research Partners Chief Economist Patty Silverstein said. She added businesses should keep these issues on their radar:

  • Job growth – Education and health services, leisure and hospitality and professional and business services are the industries that are leading job growth.
  • Population growth – there are 3.2 million people in metro Denver, growing at 1,000 people per week. While not the most growth the region has experienced – about half of that population are millennials.
  • Average median homes prices – Denver is now the 14th most expensive in the nation for median home price, dropping from the previous quarter.
  • Commercial, industrial and retail real estate – there is 5.5 million square feet of office space currently under construction throughout the metro Denver area, and two-thirds of that space is in Denver.

Silverstein noted to not forget about the sole proprietors – single-person companies –and their impact on our state: “There are over 900,000 sole proprietors in this state – all of these innovators and entrepreneurs. Almost 25 percent of our employment based is from truly from these proprietors. That ranks us number six in the country.”

Innovation in Colorado’s Backyard
Colorado ranks second in the U.S. for the rate of new start-ups and fourth for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Small business plays an absolutely critical role here in Colorado and across the country,” said Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Chamber. “You are innovators, bringing new ideas to market. And you are taking us into the future.”

Bill Farris, associate laboratory director of innovation partnering and outreach for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Brett Peterson, director of ventures of the University of Colorado Innovations Office; and Joseph Troutman, senior manager space and munition systems for EnerSys Advanced Systems, joined Brough to discuss how businesses – no matter the size – can use innovation to propel their business’ success.

Here are their top four tips to implement innovative practices in your business.

Get your product to your customer. “It’s really critical to get it in [your customer’s] hands,” said Peterson. “Those interactions, the company or inventor, wouldn’t have had the end-product without that end-user.”

Find the right people. “The first three things we look at are team, team and team, and then we look at the idea. When you have the right team, those are the [businesses] that are going to be successful,” said Peterson.

Troutman reiterated the importance of teamwork: “Every company has leaders and workers, but you can’t rely on an individual person to come up with the next best thing … You need to work as a team to come up with the next best thing.”

Plan for innovation. “Innovation doesn’t happen by accident. It can, but only if you set the foundation for it and encourage it,” said Farris.

Innovate from the top. “A good leader is there to lead the company forward. But a good leader doesn’t try to do everything themselves,” said Troutman.

Pat Hamill Honored as the Bill Daniels Ethical Leader of the Year

For the third year, the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at the University of Colorado Denver Business School, in partnership with the Chamber and the Denver Metro SBDC, awarded the Bill Daniels Ethical Leader of the Year. Pat Hamill, founder and CEO of Oakwood Homes, is the 2017 honoree.

The award is named in honor of Daniels, the cable television pioneer, and the ethical principles he stood for: integrity, trust, accountability, fairness, respect, transparency, viability and rule of law.

Since founding Oakwood Homes in 1991, Hamill has been committed to not only building beautiful homes but also a beautiful community. He’s co-founded two community education organizations: The Foundation for Educational Excellence and the 21st Century High Tech Academy.

“It’s not necessarily what we do, it’s how we do it. It’s not that we’re going to fail, what’s important is how we fail. It’s not what we see, but how we see it and how we look at things as companies and people. It’s not what we live, but how we live,” said Hamill. “Thank you very much, it is truly a great honor.”

Learn more about Hamill:

2017 Bill Daniels Ethical Leader of the Year from Denver Metro Chamber on Vimeo.

Laura James is the marketing and communications coordinator for the Denver Metro Chamber.