Half-past eleven on a sunny a Colorado Springs day, I found myself in front of a dark and non-descript office building. Walking in, I was unsure if I had found the right one. Inside I went right to the directory, and sure enough, there it was: Human Capital Associates. Founded by Robert Blaha in 1993, Human Capital Associates was an astronomical success, but today its office doubles as Mr. Blaha’s campaign headquarters—he is challenging five year incumbent Doug Lamborn for Colorado’s 5th District Congressional seat.
Robert moved to Colorado with his wife 19 years ago, and raised a family of seven children, but his story begins in Iowa. Born and raised in rural Iowa, Robert learned about hard work, dedication, and service from his grandfather—a county doctor. Robert still reflected that unmistakable rustic virtue and wit; “If you get up earlier and work harder you will be luckier than the other guy.” And sitting in that office, I could see the results of that virtue. Robert, a confident and articulate man, served on the boards of four businesses and several non-profits in Colorado Springs, in addition to founding Human Capital Associates. Always energetic, he created a “customized leadership process” meant to fix real problems other businesses face. Human Capital Associate’s “lean six sigma” optimizes businesses by reducing waste, creating consistency, and driving expediency. Above all, it brings businesses back to the business of serving customers.
Service, a theme that came up time and time again during our conversation, is critical to any business. I asked Robert what virtue he valued most in a leader, and, not surprisingly, he said he “a service based mentality.” He added, “I believe strongly in the servant-leader,” and reminded me that all great businesses put their customers first. In congress, he plans on putting the taxpayer first; “as a leader, a congressman, you have to put the taxpayer first,” noting that “they are your customer.” And, in a time where politicians frequently serve only part of the voter base, it was refreshing to hear a man say that he wanted to serve the entire voter base.
Robert is an outsider to politics, having devoted his life to his business and family. Nostalgically, he recalled the Regan Revolution and America in the 80s when America could “boldly proclaim that we are the big guy.” He did not mean that we were the most powerful nation, nor the wealthiest—we still are—he meant that we were the most free, and we were proud of that freedom. He mentioned that there was a “sense of wellness and health about our country.” Americans loved their freedom, and loved their nation, but things have changed.
Robert is running for congress to combat that change. He had a revelation, a “discouraging moment”, when he reflected on the last decade of elections. The problem, he thinks, is that there is a “group of people on the left and the right who made the decision, ‘this is how I am going to live my life.’” He believes that politics is a matter of service, not a lifestyle, and the moment it became a lifestyle was the moment that the people began to lose their country. I noticed a sense of lament in his voice, especially when he said, “the general electorate is working hard living life, and unfortunately their country is being stolen from them.” I even noticed pity for the very men he hopes to remove when he asked, “What are they doing with their lives?” The man I was sitting across from clearly knew what a fulfilling life is, and I suspect he knows that a life spent in plunder is not a life spent well. While I am not sure if he coined the phrase, “permanent political class”, he certainly sees one in Washington, and he sees it taking money and power from the people and distributing it amongst themselves.
He wants to combat this through a Constitutional Amendment that imposes term limits on congressmen, and has personally vowed to serve no longer than six years. The night before, at a Q&A session, Robert recommended that an outside firm analyze congressional benefits, asses their appropriateness, and eliminate exuberant benefits such as pensions and healthcare. In addition, he wants to end congress’ ability to vote itself perks, and wants to make it illegal to use any inside information for financial gain. Robert wants to put service back into public service.
Overall, Robert was hopeful for the future, and ready to meet the challenge. Above all, he told me that we need more leaders in congress. Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Alan West, and Rand Paul were several leaders he held great respect for in congress, but “we need twenty, not five, leaders.” He was critical of Lamborn, a known and respected conservative, for not doing enough to champion freedom and justice, “the sad part is…in his mind he thinks just voting yes or no is changing minds.” Robert wants leadership that makes a difference, and wants his tenure as congressman to represent more than a conservative vote. He wants to energize the party and give back to the people their nation, and he wants to do it now, “now is the time.”
Our talk lasted 30 minutes, at which point Robert and I parted—he needed to travel to Buena Vista for his campaign. We ended our conversation with a small discussion of what needs to be done. For Robert, it is participation and activism, and fortitude is required for both. Above all, people need to care, and not hope that others will care for them. He said that “apathy is wearisome”—and that’s true in business as well as politics. Above all, he wants Republicans to be more active in educating their fellow citizens on the benefits of a free society, “we have to be more articulate.”
Watch Blaha’s latest TV commercial:
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