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Entrepreneurship

Buderflys – a Reminder That Innovation Energizes

I left my interview with Shea Gerhardt, Founder & CEO of Colorado-based Buderflys feeling energized.  There’s a contagious energy that is inescapable in the presence of a founder who with a spark of genius, followed by commitment and boundless energy, has created a game-changing product that takes off. 

My interview with Shea about Buderflys is reminiscent of those I’ve had with the founders of Popsockets, Sheets & Giggles, SkratchLabs, Alpacka Raft, and Nite Ize to name a few.  There’s something about the light-bulb moment, the trial and error, and unending energy applied to this sort of innovation.  Sure, it’s happening all over the world.  It’s seeing it in Colorado that I love the most! 

Does a Nice Leader Make a Good Culture?

The most recent ProCO360 podcast episode is called “Deliberate Culture,” and was recorded with a LIVE audience watching and listening to the leaders of four Colorado companies known for having a positive culture. Recognizing that we’re in a massively competitive talent war, I wanted to explore what leaders DELIBERATELY do that creates and maintains a culture that is far superior to what might be typical (even good) in their industries.

All these people are passionate about their team members, they all seem like great leaders to work for. So how automatic is it when there’s a caring leader to have a positive culture? Here is a synthesized sample from each of the leaders I interviewed…

Anthony Lambatos, “The Coach,” Footers Catering

Alejandra Harvey, CEO of Tendit Group: “When we form a strong culture, we attract those who share our values.”

Mary Moore-Simmons, VP Engineering of AgentSync: “Difficult problems tend to be culture issues, and it’s important to include middle management in culture.”

Bill Graebel, CEO of Graebel Companies: “Seeing a new problem? Start by looking for where there is an absence of love, truth, or integrity.”

Anthony Lambatos, The Coach of Footers Catering: “Build a culture that embraces what’s HARD because accomplishing difficult things together in a fun way is the work people feel is most gratifying.”

Back to the original question: is a good culture what you get when you have a kind leader?  It’s way more DELIBERATE than that.

Trust Drives Colorado’s Entrepreneurial Progress

I got to thinking about TRUST following my interview with co-founders Jenn Knight and Niji Sabharwal of AgentSync.  Jenn said that because they are spouses, they have an existing level of deep trust, which allows each to more readily accept the other’s judgement, facilitates candid dialogue, and ultimately allows the company to move more quickly.  This is consistent with the theme of the book titled, The Speed of Trust.

Time and again I hear from entrepreneurs and founders that the spirit of collaboration has helped them succeed in Colorado.  Colin McIntosh of Sheets & Giggles (episode), talked about how Chris White,  founder of Shinesty, helped him to initially establish Sheets & Giggles’ shipping from the Shinesty facilities.  That kind of collaboration can’t happen without trust – Colin trusting that Chris wouldn’t try to somehow take Colin’s products or customers, and Chris that teaching Colin the shipping ropes and helping him get started would somehow, oh, I don’t know, build Karma in exchange for their effort.  It seems to me that TRUST is a core value in Colorado’s entrepreneurial community, and it’s one that is universally rewarding.

Colorado Tech is a Widening Web

I love the excitement about Denver and Boulder attracting tech company HQ2s, tech investment, tech jobs.  In my interview with Mario Ciabarra, we talked about the ability of Quantum Metric, based in Colorado Springs, to find the tech talent needed.  His response, “talent is everywhere!”  Some of their employees are in the Springs, others in remote offices, some completely remote.  Being based in Colorado Springs has worked – Quantum Metric just raised its last round valued at $1 Billion. 

Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA downtown city skyline at dusk.

Cherwell Software also started in Colorado Springs – you can hear my interview with Sam Gilliland, founder on PROCO360.  John Street, founder and CEO of Pax8 (interview on PROCO360) is from Colorado Springs and started his first company there.  Proximity is based in Montrose (interview with CEO Josh Freed).  I’m rooting for more tech growth in the Springs, and across all of Colorado!   If you know someone perfect for PROCO360 who helps that cause, please let me know! 

I’m Fascinated by WFH Prolonged Uncertainty

I’ve spoken with over 100 Colorado CEOs in 2021 and asked them all about returning to “normal” office function and the work from home (WFH) phenomenon.  Excepting those companies that must have employees on site to function (and “thank you” to them!), never before have I experienced an extended stretch during which there was a universal sense of uncertainty about one aspect of business – an uncertainty that stretches across business type, corporate culture, size of company, geography – even relative success.   It’s amazing to me that as we are emerging, there is still not a “best practice” prescribed.  I am starting to see some ideas that seem to be forming as better than others.  For example, while Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, said anyone can work remote one day a week that isn’t Monday or Friday, another company has taken the opposite policy  – that employees need to work in the office together on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and can be remote on Monday and Friday.   

Even as COVID becomes less of a driving force in these policies, companies, particularly culture-focused Colorado companies, will be choosing policies based on the talent they want to attract and retain.  From what I’m hearing, I expect we’ll see patterns emerging after Labor Day, and still being modified at least through year-end.   

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