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Small Business Equals Big Innovation in Colorado

Denver is in its 101st month of expansion


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Small business means big things in Colorado – they represent almost 98 percent of Colorado businesses and employee 1 million Coloradans. They are also partnering with innovation hubs and changing the way we do business in Colorado, experts told the audience at the State of Small Business Thursday, November 9. 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. 

CHALLENGES + OPPORTUNITIES IN 2018

According to Patty Silverstein, Development Research Partners' chief economist, Denver is in its 101st month of expansion. She added businesses should keep these topics top of mind:

  • 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. About half of that population is 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 + RETAIL REAL ESTATE: There are 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 ranks second in the U.S. for the rate of new startups and fourth for innovation and entrepreneurship.

"Small business plays an absolutely critical role here in Colorado and across the country," says Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. "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 innovation 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," says Troutman.

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

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 Daniel Ethical Leader of the Year. Pat Hamil, 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, Hamil 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," Hamil says. "It's not that we're going to fail; what's important is how we fail. It's not what we live, but how we live," says Hamil. "Thank you very much, it is truly a great honor."

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