Chris Myers has seen and done an awful lot in his 29 years. Professionally, the vice president of Hoff & Leigh’s Colorado Springs operations has also sold sewing machines, raced mountain bikes, managed retail and worked as a recruiter (to name a few) — all before entering the world of commercial real estate.
The Colorado Springs native has also overcome sizable personal hurdles. He left traditional schooling before graduation and earned his GED, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and was 16 when he lost his father to a heart attack.
But Myers said he’s learned from every challenge he’s faced and that each one has helped shape him into the person he is today.
He spoke with the Business Journal this week about his past, his future in real estate and how far his hometown has come.
Where are you from?
I’m from Colorado Springs. My family has been here three generations. I was born at Memorial Hospital, I went to Wasson High School and then Palmer. I was racing mountain bikes while in high school — the whole last half of high school I was on the road racing for Brodie Bikes out of Canada — so I got my GED.
When I got my pro license, I realized there wasn’t great money in mountain bike racing. That was right during the recession. I said, ‘Oh, this is probably not for me.’ I graduated with my GED in 2007 to get moving forward and took some college classes through [Brigham Young University] online. Then I went to Fort Lewis College in Durango but I didn’t graduate. I came back here. My family’s business was having some troubles.
What’s your family’s business?
It’s Myers Sewing Machine Company. We sell and repair sewing machines in town. My grandfather started it back in 1952. They’re still cranking. When I left them we were one of the top 10 independent dealers in the nation.
How did you end up with Hoff & Leigh?
It’s been a crazy adventure. When I was with the family business, I had a multiple sclerosis attack one day. My whole left side went paralyzed for a couple months.
The reason I got out of the business is because I was at a low point of my life and really stressed out. I was trying to do too much and wasn’t enjoying life. After the attack I realized the family business wasn’t for me. It was too stressful. From there I asked myself what other skills I had. I had also done web design for probably 10 years at that point and I’d hooked up with a financial adviser group in town that recruited advisers. I did a lot of work with Bessemer Trust and Merrill Lynch. We moved people from places like Wells Fargo to other firms.
While I was doing that, my mom’s boyfriend was selling his building downtown. That’s how he met [Hoff & Leigh co-owner] Holly [Trinidad]. They hit it off. Holly and [her husband, Hoff & Leigh co-owner and President] RD [Trinidad] were at my parents’ house while I was doing all of this. Holly said, ‘Oh, you’re a recruiter. We’re trying to recruit for our network. Maybe you can help us out.” … It kind of went from there.
What were your responsibilities when you started at Hoff & Leigh?
I started here helping them recruit in 2013. Hoff & Leigh is now a network. It had always been in Colorado Springs but now we’ve expanded to a Castle Rock office, a Denver office, we’re in Akron, Ohio. We want to keep growing that model. We’ll do backend administration and let the brokers do their own thing.
I helped them open an office in Jacksonville, Fla. I’d find established brokers to go and start their own firm who then don’t have to hire a receptionist and a marketing team and deal with all that. Now I’m slowly taking over this office. I’m essentially becoming a managing broker and doing what Holly does so Holly and RD can do their own thing.
Has the city’s reputation changed since you grew up here?
It’s incredible. Everything is growing and Colorado Springs has a great economy. This whole city has changed so much. Growing up here, we never had all these cool restaurants and bars and things going on. Now we’re able to retain young people and families who think this is a cool place to live. That brings more and more business in. And we’re at the base of a 14,000-foot peak. It’s awesome.
Colorado Springs has had challenges through the years. But people only think of the bad news. … You can find bad things with Denver — any city. We’ve just always had a spotlight on us, but it’s what you make it.
If I lived in Denver, I could live this little hipster lifestyle. If I want to go to the mountains for a little hike, it’s an hour drive through all this traffic. Colorado Springs — if you’re on the Westside, you’re 10 minutes from the base of Pikes Peak.
People get caught up in the city, but the city doesn’t define you. You just need to find who you are.
What do the next 10 years look like in the commercial real estate industry?
I think it’s going to take off. We’re seeing a lot of infill — finally. That’s a great thing that’s changing in Colorado Springs — we’re seeing old buildings get renovated. This [Hoff & Leigh office] for example was the old 5Star Bank [building] and was sad and lonely. Holly and RD came in and renovated it. Between this building and the one next door that they own — the whole area filled in.
It’s good to see infill taking off. South Nevada and North Nevada — all the cool stuff isn’t just to the east. There’s cool stuff everywhere.
What are some challenges for the industry in the Springs?
Finding people to work is half the battle. … Inventory is probably the other challenge right now. Trying to find a small industrial building is really hard. Or retail. There’s not a lot of product. You hear stories about ’07 and buildings were vacant everywhere and, all of a sudden, small office and industrial spaces started going very fast.
I’m a huge advocate for small business. It’s a passion of mine. My thing is trying to find that small product and figure out how I can help.
Is Colorado Springs a good fit for young professionals?
It’s a large enough city to facilitate whatever business you want to run and there’s a large enough population where you have people to pull from. We also have this outdoorsy lifestyle and now we have all these bars and restaurants we didn’t have 10 years ago. You can still have a fun Denver or Boulder lifestyle with cool events and happenings. You have Pikes Peak right there, which means endless National Forest trails, and all these cool parks. There are a lot of things that facilitate people wanting to live here. We’re kinda sorta a big city. Not really. But kinda sorta.
Was it odd going from mountain biking to real estate?
No, because that’s life. Like every time something terrible happens, there’s always a silver lining. When I was 16 I switched from Wasson to Palmer because all my friends were at Palmer. I never would have gone to Palmer if my dad hadn’t passed away. But Palmer is where my mountain bike was stolen … so I went shopping for sponsors and got connected with Brodie. All these steps have led to something better and better. Everything changed for the best.
How are you involved in the community?
I work with the Multiple Sclerosis Society and their MS events. I also do a little photography with Kids on Bikes. I used to be a wedding videographer — it was pretty mundane. But I still had the skill set. … I realized I love photography as a hobby, so why not go and take photos of events and give back? As soon as someone tries to pay me for photography, it’s not fun. It’s my hobby and this is my job. I need to keep my hobbies out there.
Any advice for fellow young professionals?
The biggest thing is we need to be supporting each other. There are a lot of people who try to one-up each other, but everyone needs to work together and get done what needs to get done.
The way I approach my career is I want to be friends with everyone. I want to do any deal I can for anyone because, guess what — then everyone likes me and will pick up the phone when I call. [Hoff & Leigh co-founder] Bob Hoff just passed away, but I want to live like him. Everyone loved Bob. I hear all these brokers in town tell great stories about Bob and how he’d help everyone.
I think we just need to stick together.