We had the good fortune of connecting with Duane Cronin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Duane, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I think of risk all the time. So much so in fact, that I feel I may be an eccentric of sorts on the issue. I view risk as the intersection between outcomes and action. In one hand, you have a set of outcomes and in the other you have the actions taken or not taken that result in these outcomes. I feel the majority of people lack a solid platform for decision making, which invariably causes them to take unnecessary risks or mis-assess great opportunities as risky endeavors. This impedes their ability to get what they want out of life. Do you know anyone with a lucky roulette color or perhaps a lucky side of the coin toss? What sound logic can these biases be based on? Any good decision making process, should include an audit of how we can be sure our assumptions are true or likely to be true. Without this sort of audit, we are literally just taking shots in dark. When making a decision, my goal is to learn as much as possible about a pool of outcomes so I can accurately determine what is likely to occur or how likely it is to occur. However, I make a ton of mistakes in this process, but in doing so, I learn something. That way, I don’t repeat those mistakes in the future. Additionally, I try to surround myself with people with more knowledge than myself, so I can bounce my ideas off of them as a stress-test for the validity of my own assumptions. The combination of pooling both my own thoughts with those who may know much more than me has greatly improved the outcomes for myself, my company and my investors over time. As a professional investor and asset manager, I really don’t consider myself someone who manages money. Rather, I consider myself someone who manages risk. Despite this fact and somewhat ironically, over the past month I’ve been called by people close to me “Extremely risk averse,” within weeks of being told by others I have “Balls of steel.” How can both be true? I would say parties at either end of the spectrum lack a solid platform for analyzing decision making. As a result they do not clearly understand my potential outcomes and therefore do not understand the actual risk associated with my actions. In truth, all decisions in life are much easier if you have a better understanding of your outcomes and what is risk other than an unknown outcome?
What should our readers know about your business?
This business was started like so many others, in a small (640 square foot) apartment. I actually worked out of a built-in armoire as there was no reasonable place to put a desk. At least it was nice to be able to shut the doors and have the desk disappear. I’m not sure there was anything remarkable about my story. It seems like a lot of business owners go through that extraordinarily difficult period where they have few clients, almost no money and it’s a grind. I don’t think it’s easy for most businesses and it certainly wasn’t for us. I think the one theme, you’ll hear over and over again from those that made it to the other side, is they had incredible focus. You overcome all of the aforementioned challenges with incredible focus. You ask what lessons I’ve learned along the way? A journey that saw my family literally selling off our vehicles and any non-appreciating assets to chase this dream? You learn pretty quickly that it’s not about you. If you want to be successful, it’s really about the positive impact you can have on others, especially your employees. As a business owner, no matter how talented you are, you can’t execute everything your business needs to thrive. You absolutely need your people. People who indifferently punch in and out to simply pay the bills are not likely to elevate you to where you want to be. However, people who love coming to work for the culture and the meaningful impact they’re having, will absolutely elevate your entire business. Here’s the catch, it’s not the workers responsibility to enjoy your work environment or the role you’ve put them in. As a leader, it is without a doubt your responsibility to create that environment. I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job of that and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of. Truthfully, the folks who work for us simply to punch in and punch out, usually don’t last very long. It’s very uncomfortable for them, when everyone else is bought in entirely. With that being said, despite it being my responsibility to cultivate that environment, I certainly didn’t do it alone. I have leadership that has really helped balance my weaknesses to help build what we have today.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
With a week in Colorado you can do a lot, an awful lot. I’m big on being active, so come ready to play. I would probably pick a tweener season, like Early Spring so you can enjoy both Winter and Sumer activities, but be prepared for any and all seasons at any given time. As such, I’d fly in around the end of March. Day 1: I would immediately head south to Telluride. Here You’ll find one of the most picturesque mountain towns in the country. If you’re lucky enough to find half-way affordable lodging, stay in the town itself. You won’t regret it. There’s a reason the rich and famous hide out in this mountain get away. Colorado is also a beer mecca, so a theme you’ll pick up along your trip is there’s plenty of great craft beer to be enjoyed. Stronghouse Brewpub will be the destination in Telluride. You’ll enjoy a great atmosphere, excellent food and some tasty in-house brewed beer while here. Don’t hit the sauce too hard, because in the morning you’ll hit the slopes at one of the top-rated ski resorts in the world. Day 2: I highly recommend making it up to lifts 14 and 15 to enjoy some of the best views and skiing you’ll find anywhere. Snap a shot at 12,500 feet at the top of lift 15 before making your way back into town. It won’t be any fun to leave, but hit the road not the happy hour bars as you’ve got a date with Silverton Mountain next. Make sure to stop for some photos on your way through Ouray. Trust me the canyon views are awe inspiring. Don’t stay too long, you’ll need your legs for tomorrow. Keeping with tradition, you’ll stop at Avalanche Brewing in Silverton. Tacos are great, pizza won’t hurt your feelings and their hand crafted Gose is world class. Day 3: Hopefully, you’ve heeded my warnings and gotten a solid nights rest. Silverton Mountain is like no place else in the U.S. There’s exactly one chairlift serving up some of the most difficult and hardly touched terrain you’ll ever find. Did I mention you hike to the best spots? Trust me, the untouched powder will be worth it! If your legs will allow it, head South to Durango for the evening. An eclectic college mountain town that will serve as a solid landing spot for the day. Get on the waiting list at Steam Works Brewing early, very early. If not, you’ll be lucky if they don’t waitlist out their entire capacity by 6PM on a week night! Conductor Double IPA is the beer of choice, especially if on a nitro handle. If you feel like staying out, tonight is the night. Tomorrow will be a little sight-seeing and a lot of driving. Day 4: Head to Mesa Verde National Park about 35 minutes outside of Durango to see some of the most interesting dwellings created by Native Americans. Built right into the side of a cliff, they’re not to be missed. Hit the road at a decent hour, because you’re looping back to Denver tonight. Being local to Denver, I’m not a hotel expert, but I have stayed in the Brown Palace and loved it. It’s historic, grand and right in the center of town. I suggest staying there for the evening. We’ll flip the schedule around some and grab a bite before grabbing a beer. Osteria Marco in Lodo is a solid choice. Anything on the menu should be fantastic. Finish up here by heading to Great Divide brewing. Here you must have one of their many iterations of their Yeti stout. Peanut Butter Yeti was on the last time I was there and it was quite good. Day 5: We’ll save this as a wild card, but if the weather is good, I would simply site see the Denver area. You may well see mid to high 70 degree temperatures, which doesn’t offend anyone. Washington Park is a great spot to walk around, catch a volleyball game or just catch some rays. If you’re in the mood for some sweets, I recommend Sweet Cooie’s Ice Cream and Confectionary. The name is a bit goofy, but the Ice Cream is to die for. Especially if you like real ingredients in your sweets. Day 6: It’s time to stretch your legs! Lions Lair and Sunshine Canyon outside of Boulder should fit the bill. Get there early, so you have plenty of time to check out Boulder and the Pearl St area afterwards. There’s plenty of shops and interesting people to see. Lest we forget, there’s also some more outstanding beer in town. Head to Avery Brewing company when you get done seeing town. Day 7: After a long day of hiking and hanging in Colorado it’s time to see what the town has to offer. It also just so happens to be opening week for our Colorado Rockies. Catch a rooftop pint and throw some cornhole bags on the top of Tap Fourteen in Denver before the game. Then watch the ball fly in the thin Colorado air. In need of a little funkiness? May I suggest Crooked Stave? Colorado’s famous sour craft brewery. Since it’s you’re last night, if you’re feeling like having a long one, View house isn’t far away. There’s plenty to do into the wee hours of the night here. Hopefully, you packed enough activity to burn the beer calories off before heading home!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There’s a lot of folks I could probably give credit to including the usual suspects like my family, friends and colleagues. However, outside of that list of people, I don’t think I would be where I am today without a few folks who have played a vital role in my success: 1. My Paternal Grandfather who made up the shortfall between my academic and athletic scholarships allowing me to go to college and gain an education until he passed away. When graduated I dedicated my degree and success to that point to what he meant and did for me. 2. Both my Aunt Bobbye and my Parent In-laws have been enormous backers of my endeavors both emotionally and financially. Without them, no question I would not be where I am today. It means a lot more when you actually put your money on the line after saying you believe in someone. 3. Ray Dalio and his book “Principles” have absolutely given me a framework to marry to my inherent approach to life. His way of thinking about life just resonates so strongly with me. 4. Lastly, my team. Any good business owner knows he’s only as strong as his team, mine is fantastic and I couldn’t be more appreciative of them.