We had the good fortune of connecting with Robert Denner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Robert, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I would consider myself a pretty risk adverse person but somehow I seem to constantly be taking risks in my life/career. This is mainly because I have a destination in mind and I have learned it is hard to get there without taking risks. The first risky career decision I made was turning down my mom’s generous offer to pay for college (even med school if I wanted) and instead pursue a tech certification. A few years later, I switched from boat mechanics to auto mechanics which set me back a bit. Five years ago, I moved my family from Pennsylvania and our entire support network to take a job in Boulder where we knew no one. And then most recently, I opened my own shop during a world wide pandemic. I am constantly trying to become a master of my craft. In order to do that, risk seems unavoidable.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have always wanted to have my own business. I was raised by two successful entrepreneurs. It is in my blood. But I also knew that I had a lot to learn before heading out on my own successfully. I spent 10 years soaking up all the knowledge I could from some of the best, earned several certifications and gained hundreds of hours of experience. My background includes a certification from MMI in Marine Mechanics and a certification from Penn Foster in Heavy Duty Diesel. I have earned factory certifications from Subaru, Toyota, GM and Yamaha. I am an ASE Master Technician (including their Advanced Engine Performance, Hybrid and Diesel certifications). I have worked on Mega Yachts in Newport, sailboats in St. Maarten, heavy truck and trailer in central Pennsylvania and, most recently, lots of Subarus in Boulder. In the fall of 2019, a coveted auto shop space 0.2 miles from our house became available and my family took it as a sign that is was time for me to finally open my own place. I worked there nights and weekends for the first couple months while we got the place set up and then in February 2020, I quit my full time job and officially opened KIT Performance. KIT Performance is an automotive shop specializing in engine building and high performance upgrades. My main focus is on Subaru and LS motors. I do everything from small bolt on installations to engine and transmission rebuilds. I also welcome the occasional boat repair job, as boats will always be my first love. Last year was a difficult year to start a business, to say the least, but the amount of flexibility and freedom it afforded our family was worth every second. I look forward to seeing where this new company takes us in years to come.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
For food I would say: Piripi and Old Mine in Erie, Teocalli Cocina and Community in Lafayette, Tangerine and Snarfs in Boulder, Illegal Pete’s and the Delectable Egg in LoDo, any food truck anywhere in the state…I love food trucks. For things to do, some of my favorites are: The Carousel of Happiness in Nederlands, Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve in Golden, Valmont Bike Park, The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, and the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Two of the most influential people in my career so far have been Peter Laurie and Mike Burns. Mike Burns was my team lead when I worked at an automotive dealership in Pennsylvania. I learned so much from him during my time there. It was not really what he said to me but it was how he conducted himself and lead by example. His work ethic and professionalism were inspiring. He is truly a master of his craft and made me want to be one too. Peter Laurie is the owner of a Quad’s Automotive in Narragansett, RI. As a young man, I was working on boats in RI and I was tired of traveling to warmer places for the off season (or getting laid off 3 months every year). I went to Quad’s inquiring about an automotive mechanic job and Pete took a chance on me. My experience working at Quad’s Automotive single handedly set me on the path for success in the automotive industry. From day one, Pete took a vested interest in my success. He helped me push through the fear of the unknown and showed me not to be afraid to work on something new. He taught me all about welding and fabrication. He encouraged me to get my ASE certifications and even paid for them. But beyond the mechanical knowledge, Pete also taught me a lot about life. A few things I took away from my time there were: – My limits are determined by my inability to try. – It is possible to adapt and overcome almost any obstacle. – Never underestimate the INSANE power of a positive attitude – And always, always have tunes on! His shop was something I always aspired to have when I ‘grew up’.