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Terri Hayes

On July 11, Terri Hayes hit a major milestone: serving 10 years as the president and CEO of the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Corp. & Visitor Center. Hayes moved to Black Forest from Ely, England, about 14 miles northeast of Cambridge, in 2007 after her husband’s death. Her late husband was assigned to a Royal Air Force base, one the United States Air Force uses to station its 100th Air Refueling Wing and 352nd Special Operations Wing. 

“My late husband was stationed at RAF Mildenhall — a lot of Air Force people here [in Colorado] have been stationed there or at [RAF] Lakenheath. The two bases are significant and about 30 minutes away from each other,” Hayes said.

Before that, Hayes lived in the Pacific Northwest, Arizona and California — in the coastal town of Oxnard, near the former Naval Air Station Point Mugu (now Naval Base Ventura County). 

“I like to say I’ve had multiple lives in my life — but a lot of these lives are 10 years long,” said Hayes. “It’s not like there’s a whole bunch of hopping around, but I’ve had some fun adventures.” 

One of those lives she’s lived has been in the Tri-Lakes region of El Paso County. She chose Colorado because of the late ’70s/early ’80s spinoff sitcom, Mork & Mindy. The show was set in Boulder. “I wanted to be Mindy, of Mork & Mindy. I didn’t know the show was specifically in Boulder, or at least didn’t remember, but I knew it took place in Colorado. I just remembered that Mindy drove a Jeep — a Jeep CJ-5 — and lived in Colorado.” 

Once in Black Forest, Hayes launched a franchise of the staffing agency 10 til 2, which connects people to employment opportunities. “With 10 til 2, I worked with people that wanted only part-time opportunities — sometimes, they were early retirees who were working at a hundred miles an hour and realized they didn’t want to suddenly drop to zero,” said Hayes. “I had a lot of new moms that wanted to be home with their young kids — 10 til 2 allowed them to not leave their industry completely. If someone is in marketing or IT … there’s so many industries that you can’t just leave and go back into later — technology will have raced past you. 10 til 2 allowed them to remain fresh with their knowledge and skills to eventually go back full-time.”

Hayes talked with the Business Journal about her leap “across the pond” and her decade leading the Tri-Lakes Chamber. 

How did you become the president and CEO of the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce? 

Kind of by accident — I was running my staffing company, 10 til 2, perfectly happy. However, my predecessor was no longer going to be there, and the board asked if I would serve as an interim [CEO]. I think I came to mind because just two months prior, I was Ambassador of the Year for the Tri-Lakes Chamber. I was told they were planning on taking up to three months to hire someone but I couldn’t just step away from my business for three months. … It was a Friday and I told them I needed to think about it over the weekend. 

One of the things I hadn’t really admitted to myself was, as much as I believe in the mission of placing part-time people and helping small businesses who are seeking such staff, I was bored — and truly just wanted more … something more meaningful. Also, with a hair’s length of getting my master’s degree in public administration and serving on various civic and community boards, the mission of the Tri-Lakes Chamber was close to my heart and soul. 

I talked to a good friend of mine — a business coach. I asked, ‘Is it crazy that I want to leave a successful business to do something I’ve never done with no idea if I can?’ But it had the two components that I love: I love business, and I love nonprofits. The Tri-Lakes Chamber is a nonprofit that helps local businesses thrive. There’s truly not another kind of industry or position like mine — we’re all supportive. … And how many times does the executive director position come up vacant? 

What’s something new with the Tri-Lakes Chamber?

We just started working with a company that provides health care solutions — it’s not an insurance company, but an insurance alternative that small businesses are able to use. It’s called SALA: Small Association Leadership Alliance. We just launched that a few weeks ago. It’s on our website —  

We just had our Fourth of July Festival. We estimated that we had a crowd size that was probably 75 to 80 percent of what we had in 2019, which we were thrilled with. Everybody was so happy and our vendors were excited to get out there and have people in front of them, face to face. I was told, from people who were in the parade, that everyone along the parade route was just grinning ear to ear.

I think the Fourth of July Festival was the first really big thing that gives us confidence and points towards normalization again. Obviously, we’re not completely out of the woods by any means, but I feel that with this — and some other things happening around the Tri-Lakes communities — businesses are starting to feel positive, and that things are going to be OK.They’re not living and operating in fear anymore. If you go to our website, there is an events tab. If you need a quick introduction to our events, hover over that tab and the first option on the drop down menu is Chamber Events Summary.  

What’s your educational background? 

I originally earned a two-year degree in architectural drafting and interior design while living in Arizona. While in England, I took courses through the University of Maryland Global Campus, earning an undergraduate degree in business. I’m also so close to having a master’s in public administration — I just need to finish that final pesky paper. 

Did you work in interior design? 

I did commercial interior design for several years but realized that the industry is very cyclical, with lots of ups and downs. After the second time I got laid off — right before Christmas — I decided I didn’t want to be in that field anymore; it was just too volatile. You got work when work was to be had. With one of the companies I worked for, the owner was a brilliant designer but a horrible business manager. I think of that when doing the job I’m in now, with the chamber. I recognized early on: Just because you have a great idea or great product does not mean you’re going to have a successful business. You have to either get the proper training or surround yourself with people that can help you. 

When I left interior design, I was in the health care field for 10 years as a corporate trainer, traveling around the country training nurses and patient representatives on different products of home health care — for people to get IV treatments and things like that at home, versus having to go to the hospital. 

Eventually, they did a major reorganization — after I had been there 10 years. They decided to cut a whole bunch of budgets, and … I got laid off. I ended up moving to Southern California and I worked in financial services, which I loved — absolutely loved. I met my late husband there in California, and we got married. He was in the military, and got transferred to England — which is why I left that industry, but I was also working a lot of evenings and a lot of weekends. The field didn’t lend itself for a good quality of life. The more successful you are in financial services, it seems, resulted in working more and more and more. 

When you came back to the States and moved to Colorado, how did that go? 

I definitely jumped into the deep end because in part-time staffing, networking is the No. 1 way to meet and make clients. I joined a few chambers, worked as an ambassador, and I attended events. I got to know a ton of people — it was really kind of fun for me. I like to think of the Pikes Peak region as the “smallest big community” that there is, because of the amount of coincidences where people know each other — where you know this person from this world and this other person from this different world … it’s just kind of mind-blowing how the business community is so close knit here. That includes Colorado Springs, of course — which is your big guy. 

If you could travel back 10 years, what would you tell yourself? 

Relax, don’t take things personally, and watch that work-life balance … because your life can easily sit in the “work” category way too much. Although I have to admit I still struggle with that, and I think that is a byproduct of having a job I love. 

Do you drive a Jeep like Mindy? 

I do not; I drive an SUV Highlander hybrid — but maybe someday.