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Entrepreneurs

It’s all about passion and perseverance

Like daredevil trapeze artists, entrepreneurs frequently choose life’s high wires over the safety net of predictable outcomes and financial security. So why risk it all, working night and day, to bring an idea or invention to fruition? 

Successful entrepreneurs will tell you that it’s a driving passion, a desire to chart one’s own destiny that motivates them. Financial success is often a secondary driver.

Forbes.com contributor and admitted “serial entrepreneur” Ken Krogue studies the behavior of business owners and founders. He finds “entrepreneurialism” difficult to define but concludes those who build a business from the ground up are first leaders, then managers.

“A leader worries about her people, a manager worries about his boss,” he explains, adding that leaders don’t stop for breaks or gather around and watch others, unless it’s to learn and compare.

Real entrepreneurs “hoe to the end of the row, even in heat or a rainstorm, or when supper is calling,” he writes. Hurdles are not stoppers, they’re stepping stones.

So how do Krogue’s observations play out here in the Pikes Peak region?

An entrepreneur’s entrepreneur

Diversified Machine Systems’ founder & CEO Patrick Bollar learned the art of entrepreneurship from his dad. His company produces CNC routers and machine centers used by other manufacturers. DMS recently moved its expanded headquarters to Colorado Springs. 

“I learned from my dad that you have to be determined to do whatever’s necessary to make it work,” he explains, adding that the decision to start DMS in 2003 originated “over a couple of drinks and a cigar” with then business partner and now Executive Vice President, Ed Hilligrass.

“There have been plenty of obstacles. Instead of waiting on U.S. politicians to tell manufacturers what to do (when millions of jobs and revenue moved overseas), we took our own risks,” he explains.

Today, DMS employs 64 people and is an American success story with clients like Boeing, auto manufacturers and aerospace companies. The company’s impressive growth earned it the 2013 Excellence in Manufacturing Award from the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.

“You have to be willing to make mistakes, and to learn from them,” he adds, noting that he tries not to anticipate challenges or waste time looking “in the rearview mirror.”

Future business prospects look “phenomenal,” but financial success is just one goal.

“What I really enjoy is the knowledge that the equipment we build helps other entrepreneurs achieve their dreams.” 

Fat bike on a roll

Colorado Springs’ resident and Fat Bike co-founder Steve Kaczmarek thrives on economic variables and logistical challenges. Building a quality product and delivering excellent customer service requires long workdays – usually 10 and 12 hours – for the firm’s handful of employees and two owners.
So far Fat Bike’s focus is generating brisk sales. Through its first five months, the company booked almost $1.5 million in orders.

Even as the orders pour in to the company’s downtown headquarters, however, Kaczmarek emphasizes the responsibility he feels to make a difference.
“I’ve been fortunate in past enterprises. My partner Adam (Miller) and I love being part of the bike industry. We want to make money, but we also want to use what we’ve learned to help others,” he says.

The owners recently teamed with local workforce developers to find a qualified candidate for an open bike assembly position. They hired a promising trainee from a local homeless shelter who now will soon be able to afford his own apartment.

“The pressure’s off just to make money. If we can help our employees reach their potential, that’s just as important,” Kaczmarek says.
Bollar and Kaczmarek are both in their forties. So do they fit the typical entrepreneur’s profile? Yes and no.

According to a 2011 LinkedIn study of 10,000 entrepreneurs that founded companies since 2000, while entrepreneurship is often considered the realm of tech-savvy “wonder kids,” in reality at least 65 percent of entrepreneurs polled were 30 and older. Twenty-five percent were 40 and older, and technical degrees dominated those resumés.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics quotes the average tenure in a position is 4.4 years, entrepreneurs are typically more mobile. Their average stay in a position is just 2.5 years.

They also want to do their own thing and may be fast risers. The majority, according to LinkedIn, tend to cluster on the East and West coasts.

But location, as Krogue suggests, may be a hurdle, it’s not a stopper for a motivated entrepreneur.

“We moved our operation from Texas because we wanted to raise our kids in Colorado,” Bollar said in a story for CompanyWeek.com, adding that the state’s business climate is more supportive of manufacturers.
Kaczmarek who recently moved his family to Colorado Springs from Tulsa agrees. “We have synergy here with other sports groups, including USA Cycling, the USOC and businesses like Rock Shox and Ceram. It’s great for our business.”