Gen XYZ: Trevor Dierdorff, 38, Amnet
Trevor Dierdorff clearly remembers the phone call that launched his business in 1998.
It came from a senior named Mildred, who contacted the Best Buy store where he worked as a PC technician. Mildred needed someone to install a new modem on her computer.
Dierdorff gave her the company line - "If you'd like to bring it in, we'd be happy to help you" - and she gave him an earful.
"Young man, I am 83 years old, and if you think I'm going to crawl under my desk and unhook that metal box and carry it downstairs and bring it over to you, you've got another thing coming," she said. "Now. Who can help me?"
On his own time, Dierdorff went to Mildred's home and installed her modem. The next day, feeling conflicted, he told his supervisor at Best Buy what he'd done. To his surprise, his boss gave him the go-ahead to keep doing it.
"So rather than turning folks away, I built a small customer base," Dierdorff says.
Amnet was born.
"Trevor does a great job at being open to every opportunity that comes his way," says Hunter Willis, Amnet's marketing coordinator, who nominated Dierdorff as one of Colorado's 25 most influential young professionals.
In February 2000, Amnet became Dierdorff's full-time job; before the year was out, he had hired his first employee. The company, which has had steadily increasing revenues even during the toughest economic times, now has a staff of 15 and is looking to add two more in 2010.
And once they come, they stay - the last departure was three years ago. Part of the reason: the opportunities Dierdorff creates within the company, which includes weekly upskilling.
"I'm a big believer in hiring smart people and keeping them smart," Dierdorff says. "Somebody we hired as a receptionist now does Web design and training. One of our technicians is now our tech services manager. I try to make sure we discover our employees' talents and interests."
Dierdorff's impact on the Colorado Springs community - and up-and-coming entrepreneurs - extends well beyond his own company's doors. He volunteers as an instructor for Junior Achievement and has raised more than $25,000 for Southern Colorado Youth for Christ, which helps at-risk teens.
"I'm a big believer in the law of reciprocity: Do good, and good comes back to you," he says.
"As far as influential people go, people who really run their business in an ethical way but also go out of their way to help others, Trevor is the best I've ever worked for," Willis says. "As far as character goes, he's exceptional."
And then there's the likability factor.
If success hasn't gone to Dierdorff's head, it might be because he remembers what it's like to hit bottom. The end of a marriage "knocked the wind out of me," he says. "I went from top sales guy to bottom sales guy, and within a year, I had been through three more sales jobs."
Which is how Dierdorff happened to be working at Best Buy the day Mildred called.
"It's the hardships that grow us as people," he says. "Personal growth sucks. It's a pain to go through. But it's also important to go through. To this day, I'm passionate about improving myself."