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Entrepreneurship and Resilience

Insights from Drew Yancey on thriving amidst challenges and cultivating economic growth

Entrepreneurship in Fort Collins can often feel like a whirlwind of change. Even though our economy is robust, business owners in Fort Collins continue to encounter challenges in talent acquisition and face stiff competition, given the city's desirability as a business location. We sat down with one of our area’s most seasoned professionals, business consultant Drew Yancey who shared his insights with us below.

What inspired you to pursue a career in business financial consulting, and how has your journey shaped your approach to advising clients?

My journey is a big part of what I do today. I had the great blessing of being born into a large family business. I was the fourth generation of one of the largest food distributors in North America. It started as a small produce stand in rural Northern Colorado. We were really able to live the full American dream of building that business over many generations, and eventually selling the business. After that, I spent many years in corporate strategy consulting. So, kind of the other end of the spectrum working with these large corporations, a lot of times publicly traded companies, and what I observed is that many of the same challenges that we faced in our own business, larger companies face as well. They're just magnified to a grander scale. It really gave me a passion for combining some of the sophisticated tool sets and analysis that comes with advising large companies but distilling that down and bringing it to smaller businesses to really help them grow.

What should every business owner know about finances before starting their business and how would you advise balancing fiscal responsibility with growth?

I wish every business owner understood the importance of cash flow management before starting their business. It's not just about profit; having the cash available to cover your expenses and invest in growth opportunities is crucial for sustainable growth. Balancing fiscal responsibility with growth involves careful planning and budgeting. Prioritize investments that offer the highest return on investment and consider using a mix of equity and debt financing to fuel growth without overextending financially.

In your experience, what are the most common financial challenges that businesses in Fort Collins face, and how do you help them navigate these obstacles?

For my family’s business, by probably the mid-90s, it made sense for us, logistically, to move out of Northern Colorado, because our client base expanded. But, we never did. We always wanted to stay rooted in Northern Colorado. Part of that was because of the strong economy that we have. In general, I still believe that Northern Colorado is a great place to build a business. But at the same time, it's never been harder to scale a business, especially in a place like Northern Colorado where all of those things that we know are great about our economy, a strong labor force and a relatively stable housing market, also make it really hard to find and attract talent. It's also a very competitive landscape. So, what this means for the financial strategic management of a business is that, first and foremost, you have to have a plan. A lot of businesses, as they grow into that middle market space, have to make a pretty big shift. The owners and the leaders of the business have to spend more time working on the finances of the business, as opposed to just working reactively.

Considering the current economic landscape, what key strategies do you recommend for local businesses to thrive and remain financially resilient?

The word resilience is absolutely critical here. As businesses grow and mature, it's really critical that their business models get further fortified financially. What we mean by that, is that they're less susceptible to the ups and downs that come with being either a startup or a business. It's just trying to get exposure. So, as I mentioned earlier, this really starts with having a financial planner. We wouldn't go on a hike in the Rocky Mountains without a map. Likewise, we wouldn't want to grow a business without a plan on how to grow financially. I always say a great place to start is work with a three-year time window. Don't just think about the next year. What does ‘amazing’ look like for the finances of your business in three years? What that'll force you to think through is a lot of those long-term success factors. Things like developing your leadership, am I investing in the right, new markets and products, am I expanding our innovation footprint? All of these questions become a lot easier to see over a three-year time window. Then what you can do from there is reverse engineer and build a financial plan that has annual milestones. If you know you're hitting these annual milestones, you’re going to grow.

What strategies do you recommend for someone wanting to be an industry leader?

To become an industry leader, focus on innovation and building a strong brand. Continuously improve your offerings based on customer feedback and stay ahead of industry trends to set the pace for your competitors.

How do you assess the financial health of a business, and what indicators do you look for when determining its potential for growth and success?

This is an area where I see a lot of business owners and leaders have some misconceptions. The obvious place to start is the financials of the business. There's absolutely a role to be played for knowing your financials, your profit and loss statement, your balance sheet, and cash flow statement. You don't necessarily have to know those the way that your CFO or director of finance would, but you need to know the big picture. If you think about it, those financial statements are ultimately looking in the rearview mirror. They're a statement about where the business is coming from. As a business owner and leader, you also need to be really focused on those leading indicators, not just a lagging indicator. That's where looking at your business from the outside is really valuable. One of the things that I've done as a focus area in my practice as an advisor is I work with a lot of businesses that are going through some sort of an exit. What we always say is we want to stress test your business the way that a buyer would, we're looking for those leading indicators. Is there a diverse revenue stream? Do we have strong management and leadership in place? Are we making wise decisions with the use of our cash? Other variables that are going to be more of a leading indicator of future growth?

How can an established business prepare for a profitable exit?

 For a profitable exit, an established business should focus on increasing its valuation through revenue growth, diversifying its customer base, and streamlining operations. Additionally, maintaining clean financial records and a strong management team will make the business more attractive to potential buyers or investors.

What role do you believe small businesses play in driving economic growth and innovation in communities like Fort Collins, and how do you support their financial goals? 

They are essential. Small businesses is a term that I often say has become pretty broad. There are a lot of large small businesses, meaning that as a business moves past that startup phase and really enters into the middle market space, anywhere from five million in revenue all the way on up, they play an increasingly critical role, not just from the standpoint of the products and services they sell. Something that was always top of mind for us as a multi-generational family-owned business was ultimately the people that came to work every day. This was core to who we were as a business, and by providing strong, foundational growth in our business we were giving people in our community the opportunity to not just make a living but to grow in their careers, to develop as human beings, and to enjoy the work that they got to be involved in.

Can you tell us more about your business Teleios Strategy?

At Teleios, we help companies design and execute growth strategy. I have taken my years of experience both as an entrepreneur that has successfully scaled a variety of businesses and as an advisor to Fortune 500s to focus on helping middle market businesses grow.

Drew Yancey 

Founder of Teleios Strategy 

Drew is deeply passionate about helping companies achieve what they did not think was possible. He leverages his extensive track record in high-performance team building and strategic execution to solve challenging problems at the nexus of growth, strategy, and innovation. Drawing on vast advising and executive experience that stretches across multiple industries, Drew delivers unique results at scale.

Drew holds a Master of Divinity from Denver Seminary, an MBA from Texas A&M University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham, UK.

He’s not just all business, though. Drew's an explorer at heart—40 countries and counting! A seventh-generation Coloradoan, he cherishes time with his wonderful family in the great outdoors.

“We’re giving people in our community the opportunity to not just make a living but to grow in their careers, to develop as human beings, and to enjoy the work that they get to be involved in.” - Drew Yancey

  • Drew Yancey