He started his own business during his senior year at Colorado College, at the ripe old age of 21. His success is evident 20 years later, and Buck Blessing stops to count his blessings.
He was a finalist for Ernst & Young’s 1996 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the 1992 Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Small Business Person of the Year, and one of Colorado Business Magazine’s Colorado Climbers, which recognized 40 New Leaders 40 and Under.
Now 41, the CEO of Griffis/Blessing Inc., a local real estate services firm, said he feels like he is “one of the most fortunate people around.”
But don’t tell him he’s won another award.
“For one thing, it makes me feel old,” Blessing said of winning this year’s Metro Business Leader of the Year award in CSBJ’s the Best in Springs Business survey.
Then he backpedals, charmingly, probably fearing he sounds ungrateful. “But the thought that went through my head [is that] there are so many great business leaders in Colorado Springs. I’m really surprised that I’m the one who got this award.”
Accountant Marvin Strait isn’t surprised at all.
“He knows what leadership is about. Leadership is not doing it for yourself, but being able to provide a passion and a vision for other people to be part of the team.”
Strait, who has worked with Blessing on the boards of several not-for-profit corporations, is working with him again on the capital campaign for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
“Buck’s great. He’s very bright and catches on quick.”
A history major at Colorado College, Blessing considered architecture, construction and marketing among his future professions. Now he does all three as chief executive officer of Griffis/Blessing, which provides comprehensive real estate asset management services to its clients, and manages approximately 3,900 apartment units in Colorado Springs, Denver and Pueblo.
What is a typical work day in the life of Buck Blessing?
“I probably don’t have typical days.”
Blessing spends his time in three main areas-working on a strategic vision for the company, meeting with investors (raising capital) and meeting with his senior team members to decide which investments to pursue.
“Meetings just stack on behind the other, from the moment I get in to the moment I leave, just meetings.”
Blessing, calling from vacation on his ranch, said he gets five or six hours of sleep a night. Which is more than enough, his tone of voice implies.
“I exemplify the typical work-hard/play-hard [ethic]. I take a lot of short vacations, but when I’m here, I’m working pretty hard. And it’s not all that unusual for me to send a voicemail or e-mail in the middle of the night.”
Blessing has two daughters, 13-year-old Estelle and 12-year-old Phoebe, who has decided to change the spelling of her name to Fibi, to her father’s chagrin. He was born in Cincinnati, and grew up outside of Princeton, N.J. Since 1981, he has called Colorado Springs home.
The quick-thinking, fast-talking Blessing says his company’s success is due to the people he brings on board.
“[Chief Financial Officer] Gary Winegar really exemplifies what kind of employees we have-ultimate professionals. Total integrity. Very involved in the community.”
What do people like about working for Blessing?
“Probably that I don’t meddle a lot. I leave them alone. I give them a lot of latitude to do their jobs. I think they feel empowered to make decisions on their own.”
That philosophy is seconded by Michael Hannigan, executive director of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, on which Blessing is a volunteer board member.
“I think he values the role of the people who he works with. He tries to hire really good people, and let them do really great things,” Hannigan said. “If you have great people, you get out of their way and let them do what it is you want them to do. The ability to tune into people is a valuable skill.”
Hannigan, a fellow Colorado College alum, has known Blessing for nearly 20 years.
“Buck is a great guy. He’s an entrepreneur from the word go. He understands how to bring an idea into reality, make it fly.”