Chris Renner isn’t one to do something small. For the self-starting entrepreneur, it’s go big or go home. In fact, the words “big” and “home” describe the success that he’s made in Summit County with his building company, Pinnacle Mountain Homes.
Finding a balance
When he first arrived in Breckenridge from Dallas, Texas, in 1993, Renner had no designs on the housing industry. With a degree in accounting from Baylor University, he worked as a small-business consultant, helping companies integrate technology into their accounting systems.
“I had 50 or 60 clients in Summit County in a small-business computer consulting perspective,” he said, “and that gave me a great foundation for understanding what companies work (and) what companies didn’t work.”
Renner made sure to find time to play as well as work. That was the whole idea of moving to Summit County in the first place, after all, “to escape the heat of Texas and of corporate America,” as he described it. “I never really lost the drive of corporate America, I just didn’t like the city, so I had to find a way to blend those together.”
The blend worked well for Renner, who met his wife, Shannon, in Summit County, marrying her in 1995 at Keystone Ranch.
In 1998, the whirlwind of entrepreneurship sucked Renner up again, landing him first in Denver and then back in Dallas with nearly $30 million in venture capital for a new Internet company — dairy.com. Within five months Renner had managed to jump from the laid-back atmosphere of the mountains to life in the fast lane, with 50 employees and a rapidly growing business.
“It was the go-go days of the Internet. It was 24/7. It was that crazy,” he said. “It was a crazy time. Money was flowing, coffee was flowing, lots of caffeine, and it was a gold rush.”
The breakneck pace lasted for four years before Renner decided that he missed Colorado. So he sold out of the company and returned to Summit County.
“I moved back to Breckenridge really with the idea of, ‘I want to be in this community (and) I have no idea what I’m going to do next,’” he said.
A new business model
He went back to consulting for a few years until another idea struck. “As I was doing management consulting for a number of clients, one of those clients was a builder and I saw the opportunity for a new business model for the industry,” he said.
Using his experience with computer consulting, Renner started to compile a new model that would integrate technology into the building business.
In 2005, he created Pinnacle Mountain Homes, with the goal of building custom-made luxury homes using a model focused on technology, transparency and communication.
It worked. The first year, the company built three homes. It built seven the next, then nine, then 10 and so on. It quickly doubled in size and continued to grow even through the economic recession.
Renner credits the company’s success to an increase in efficiency, particularly on the construction side. Drawing on his consulting experience, Renner worked with Pinnacle’s subcontractors, helping them streamline their business practices and taking construction time to nine months, down from the standard 10-12.
The success didn’t go unnoticed, and Pinnacle was included in Inc. magazine’s 2011 list of fastest-growing private companies in the nation. Further accolades arrived the next year when Builder’s Magazine named Pinnacle its Best Builder in 2012.
A more holistic approach
Pinnacle’s success hasn’t made Renner complacent, or kept him from expanding into new markets. In the fall of last year, Pinnacle acquired Breckenridge property management company Visit Breck, extending its reach into the lodging market.
The reason for this move lies behind the desire to reach more people.
“We’ve been building these wonderful luxury homes and really they’re only accessible to the few that can afford to build a luxury home like that,” Renner said, “but as we expand that into renting homes, all of a sudden, a touch of luxury is accessible to vacationers and second homeowners alike.”
Renner’s vision for Pinnacle is a more holistic approach, embracing not only custom home clients but people who want to enjoy a custom home in the mountains, even if only for a few days or weeks.
“It was a natural transition for us to try to help serve all of the other vacationers and tourists who come to enjoy our town and our county,” he explained, “so moving into the lodging business allows us to be (involved in that).”
Currently, Pinnacle rents and manages more than 100 properties in Breckenridge. These properties are all single-family homes, rather than condominiums.
Renner has big plans for Visit Breck, just as he did with Pinnacle.
“We expect to double over the next two years,” he said.
Passion for education
Even with all the growth and expansion going on at Pinnacle, Renner makes sure he doesn’t live at the office. The way he manages this, he said, is to rely on his team of employees.
“The big key to all that we — and I saw ‘we’ very importantly — have been able to accomplish is we have amazing people working in our construction business,” he said. “It’s very self-maintained, and even our lodging business, after owning it for less than a year, the people that we have in place are able to run that and I like to use the words, ‘I enjoy working on the business, not in the business.’”
Much of that extra time Renner has spent with his family — wife Shannon and sons Chase and Jack. Although not a fanatic, he said he enjoys the typical mountain recreations like skiing and hiking.
“We love the mountains and we love nature and we love the intimacy of a small town and our community, and really for us it’s more about the size of our community than it is about being so close to the outdoors,” Renner said. “So that’s really what draws us and keeps us here.”
In addition to spending time with his family, Renner decided to use his free time to fulfill another one of his passions — education.
“In my spare time, I decided it might be fun to start a school,” he said.
He’s referring to the Peak School, which he helped found last year. Just as with his businesses, the school, which started with 23 students, will double in size when the school year starts up again. The goal is to find a meaningful way to give back to the community.
“I’m passionate about education,” he said. “I’m passionate about giving our families in Summit County options for education.”
Aaron Burnett contributed to the reporting of this story.
“We love the mountains and we love nature and we love the intimacy of a small town and our community, and really for us it’s more about the size of our community than it is about being so close to the outdoors.”
— Chris Renner