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Success and stability have Hardre staying put

Thu, Jul 7, 2011

One on One

Editor’s note: The Young Professional One on One is a new feature. Each week the Business Journal will interview an up-and-comer from the Springs business community. Know someone who should be featured? Send suggestions to editorial@csbj.com.

Etienne Hardre spent years working in several large accounting and finance businesses, where he honed his financial management and analysis skills. One of those firms was Springs-based accounting firm Biggs Kofford.

All that harvesting of information from older, more seasoned colleagues has paid off. He now runs his own accounting firm Next Exit Advisors.

When he’s not crunching numbers for dreaming up new business schemes, Etienne is spreading the message that Colorado Springs is great place for young professionals. And, since he himself is a family man, he’s big on attracting married — as well as single — young professionals.

Etienne took some time recently to talk to the business journal about business, personal success and the state of young professionals in Colorado Springs.

You were recently named Young Entrepreneur of the Year. To what do you credit your success?

First, I give credit to Jesus Christ, who resurrected me from a very different path in life. If you want to know more about it, just ask me! Second, I credit my employees and clients who are both products of a robust entrepreneurial culture here in Colorado Springs. I am constantly amazed to hear reports that Colorado Springs doesn’t innovate. We certainly could use more innovation (who couldn’t?) but we have a diverse sub-culture of intelligent, risk-inclined, passionate entrepreneurs who have been too fragmented and under-supported by our community to hit the radar of venture capitalists and the national media. These entrepreneurs are my clients, business partners, and source for like-minded employees and it is to them that I credit my success.

What’s new with young professionals in Colorado Springs?

The young professionals of Colorado Springs want to be involved. Several hundred of us recently made a big statement with the Springs Vision Forum and there are similar initiatives in various stages of planning all around the city. The theme I’m hearing is that young people want to know that their decisions will have an impact on their community and their job, and the young professionals who are most plugged in to these areas seem to be the most satisfied with life here. To our leaders: Get our ideas! Channel our energy toward innovative projects we can be proud to be part of. And don’t waste our time with inactive “discussion.” We want to make it happen.

There’s been a lot of talk in Colorado Springs about retaining young professionals. What kind of efforts have you seen? What would you like to see?

I think we need to retain young families, not just young professionals. When I was a college graduate, I was a self-interested, fickle, inexperienced kid with a technologically shortened attention span. I’d go wherever the best offer called me and changed jobs for relatively small perceived gains. For these reasons, we need to focus our efforts on a more stable group of young professionals: married, preferably with kids.

Married young people with kids have a vested interest in passing on a strong community to the next generation, they are less likely to change communities or jobs, will give time and money to initiatives they see improving their family’s quality of life, tend to build strong support networks around themselves, and have multiple connection points to the community: church, school, work, friends. Couples with two jobs and no kids are still relatively stable because they have at least two connections points to their community.

I’m convinced that single young professionals who want to party the night away will go to Silicon Valley, New York, or even Denver anyway. Why should we compete with those well-established communities?

What types of resources would you like to see available to young professionals to help them succeed?

I want to see three things that we’re not offering today: cash, authority, and mentorship. I met with an entrepreneur planning to start a new manufacturing facility and living here in Colorado Springs. When he met with our local EDC, he was offered the usual tax incentives and connections. When he met with Pueblo’s EDC, they offered him cash up front, based on the number of jobs he projected to provide. Where do you think he’s going to put his new manufacturing plant? We have to put our money where our mouth is and develop a system for vetting new ideas and directly investing in them.

We also need to provide a system to connect our young talent and give them real power to affect this community. For example, if all of the boards in town would reserve just one seat for an otherwise qualified person under 30, and if we communicate those opportunities and have the patience to work with their relative inexperience, I think we’d see more successful young entrepreneurs. The chance to regularly interact with people who’ve “been there, done that” helps them believe in what can be done.

What advice do you have for your peers about making Colorado Springs a better place?

Gandhi said it best: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Although I’ve mentioned that leadership could do a lot to focus the young professionals in Colorado Springs, in no way do I intend to pass the blame or remove any of our responsibility for taking action before anyone leads us. When we see something we think ought to change, try to change it. Investing our own resources into an initiative is a sure-fire way of attracting the attention of our community to join us. We can usually accomplish a lot more than we think we can.

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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Janna Says:

    Great article. Etienne lives what he says and does what he says. He exemplifies what is great about young professionals in Colorado Springs.

  2. Lydia Bender Says:

    I love that Etienne Hardre’ is so positive and vocal for the community he lives in. He has a strong moral foundation that he stands on and with the love and backing of his wife and other family members will continue to go far in the business comminity. His outright belief in the LORD JESUS CHRIST and his family are very refreshing and a real plus in todays society. Etienne is right we do need more young professionsals to speak out and become leaders in their communities.

  3. Sean Holveck Says:

    I agree that young professionals that are in their early twenties and are unmarried are less stable than those that are a bit older, but I feel its a terrible blanket statement to make. It is this attitude that gives Colorado Springs a bad reputation for young professionals. With articles and statements like this we are saying we don’t want you unless you are married and are the “stable” individual. Where is progress in that? We have the few speaking for the many. And the few don’t seem to see the whole picture.

    I am a young professional. I own a home on the westside. I sit on three different boards in the community. I volunteer my time as much as I possibly can, and I have attempted since I moved here to shape our community into a more open environment. I am single. I’d love to have found the right one, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be welcome or sought out because I haven’t. That’s ridiculous. I don’t go out and party all night. I’ll admit I like to meet a friend for a drink, but it doesn’t get out of hand, it’s social. I am an artist. I am a homeowner. I am an engaged citizen with many parts of this community. And yes, I am single. And yes, I feel like perhaps there are other places I should go that I am wanted, but I stay because I believe we can do better.

    It is unfortunate that we don’t cater to our entrepreneurial spirit and we don’t attract young professionals because our overall community is seen from the outside, and perhaps it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, that we are not open and not ready to support the hoards of different kinds of people we have that live within our city. Our city itself is seen as an unstable young professional, only the ones that don’t really know who they are yet.

    I speak out every chance I get about how great Colorado Springs is, but I also have to be careful to acknowledge we have a long way to go as a city. I could move to Denver or Boulder or Ft. Collins or NY or LA, or Chicago or a whole slew of places that wants to support young open minds that are willing to work, supports their growth as leaders. But I believe we can be better and should be better, we have more potential here than so many other cities. I skoffed when the Chamber said we went to Oklahoma City to use them as an example. Being from Oklahoma City, I know they made something from nothing in the downtown area. It’s a shame that we have made very little with so much.

    I would never disagree that Colorado Springs is a great place for young or old. Economically speaking and culturally speaking though we don’t have the support of the city for the constituents we do have. We lack identity and we lack vision and unity.

    I agree with Etienne that as young professionals we need leaders who will encourage us to lead and to “do” something. We want to do something not talk about it and watch nothing happen. We are not empowered as citizens, not just young professionals, to make things happen because we have a very close-minded city that does not want to change. When we want to do something we always get a negative “no” why not turn a no into a not in that way, but try this instead. I realize as “youngsters” we don’t know everything, but guide us to do it in the right way instead of getting in the way and being a roadblock.

    All in all I appreciate all those that fight the good fight everyday. But we are too few. We need everyone’s support. Not just as young professionals, but as a whole community. We need to support each other, recognize the differences but in the end we need a common goal.