Dennis Guse with American Business Advisors Discusses How To Take Your Business to the Next Level
June 5, 2018
Erik Wolf: Hello and welcome. I’m on my third cup of coffee and so that must mean it’s time to record another fabulous edition of The Denver Executive Association Trusted Advisor podcast. It is both my duty and privilege to hang out with thirtyish of Denver’s top business leaders twice a month right above the hockey arena at Denver University. We talk. We share knowledge, we share connections, and we share business and twice a month I get to inflict my special brand of torture upon my fellow members. My name is Erik Wolf and I’m with the digital marketing agency estound. We serve small and mid-sized business owners as nearby as Denver and as far away as New Zealand with website design and development, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, marketing automation and much more. My guest today is Mr. Dennis Guse, Senior Vice President of American Business Advisors, the leading strategic management consulting firm specializing in building cash cows and improving quality of life for midsize and small companies, family businesses and their owners since way back in 1984. He has served in various strategic and financial advisory roles to both Fortune 500 and small and mid-sized companies. And I don’t think anyone told him this was radio because I have to say you’re looking pretty dapper today my friend.
Dennis Guse: Thank you.
Erik Wolf: Welcome Denis happy to have you.
Dennis Guse: Thank you so much. So talk to me Guse why don’t we chat about what you do at American Business Advisors and what this whole stuff about cash cows is all about.
Dennis Guse: You bet. And a lot of people say that they like the cash cows theme so I’ll get to that in a moment. But American Business Advisors, as you mentioned, was founded back in 1984 with the goal of helping small and mid-sized businesses to grow their business. And the way that we achieve that is through full service developmental consulting. We are a team of professional advisors who help businesses grow and move into the top 25% in their industry. We help them to plan for the future. We help them to get unstuck. We help them to analyze and understand their business better particularly how they’re going to continue to grow their business or how they want to grow their business. And so a lot of planning and effort goes into thinking about the business itself.
Erik Wolf: So what would your clients say, as you’re working with these folks, what would they say is the biggest value or benefit that they get from working with you and your group?
Dennis Guse: Sure. I think the biggest value that they see is an extra set of eyes and ears in the business. As full-service developmental consultants, we’re looking at all aspects of their business. So my eyes and ears are trained to be thinking about not just the specific area that I’m helping them with currently but how is that going to impact the rest of the business. And so we have what we call the 14 dynamics of building a cash cow and that includes thinking about and analyzing all aspects of the business from the Strategic Planning pieces to the financial components, to the marketing components, to leadership development, to building the wealth and accumulating the wealth and what are you going to do with surplus wealth, to the communications inside of the organization. So it’s really eyes and ears around all aspects of the business. And you know we serve businesses that are between about 1 million and 100 million in annual revenues. And so obviously a business with 1 million of annual revenues is very different than a business that has 5 million of annual revenues or a business that has 100 million of annual revenues. And so it takes a skilled professional to be able to think about the different challenges that all those different type sizes of business are going to be facing.
Erik Wolf: So the term cash cow, are we using that in kind of the traditional like Boston Consulting, product development, lifecycle sort of way or how do you define the term and the way that you use it.
Dennis Guse: That’s a really good question because I’ve heard a variety of people talk about what the cash cow is. And some people say, “Well that kind of has a negative connotation to it in that you’re just milking it for all it’s worth.” Well that’s not the way that we define it. A cash cow is a business that is profitably generating additional profits and cash flow so that the business can continue to grow or so that the owners can enjoy the benefits of the profits that are generated from their business. If you want to put it in cultural terms, you still have to feed the cow, you still have to make sure that the cow is well taken care of in order for that cow to continue to permit produce milk for you. And so it’s the same thing inside your business. You have to make sure that you’re taking care of your business. You’re feeding it appropriately, you’re keeping the team happy that’s working for you in order for it to continue to generate profits for you in order for it to be a healthy happy business.
Erik Wolf: And so important distinction: it is a milk cow, not a beef cow.
Dennis Guse: There you go.
Erik Wolf: So that’s a really important thing because when you are a business owner, you’re doing it because you do want a certain lifestyle and your customers do want to extract certain things, be it straight cash or other benefits from the fact that they have their businesses and so planning around that goal seems to be a very intelligent way for you guys to approach it.
Dennis Guse: Absolutely and you know that’s the flip side of the coin. So we help companies to build a cash cow. And the flip side of that coin is to improve the quality of their life. If all they want is a business that’s kicking out a lot of cash for them and they’re just focused on the business, well they’re not probably going to have a lot of quality of life. But what we do is we help them to find a way to have that business producing the wealth for them so that they can have a quality of life. A lot of entrepreneurs when they get started, they’re investing everything into their business, all their time, all of their efforts. They get overwhelmed and consumed by the business itself. And so what we help them to do is figure out ways of having the business be an organism that’s working for them and that it’s not draining them. So they’re getting the benefit of the additional cash, but they’re also getting the benefit of an improved quality of life.
Erik Wolf: How did you get started with American Business Advisors?
Dennis Guse: Sure. So my story is I actually worked in large corporations for about 15 years and I was born and raised in a small family business and I always had the passion for small businesses.
Erik Wolf: What was the small family business?
Dennis Guse: So we were farmers actually believe it or not. So the cash cow is very apropos.
Erik Wolf: You actually lived with the cash cows.
Dennis Guse: I lived with the cows. That’s right. That’s exactly right. But it had to make some decisions about whether I’d go take over the family business or not and had really been thinking even before that about what is it that I can do to help others, to serve others. And had always looked at small and midsize businesses as really being the heartbeat of America. Being part of a family farm, growing up a family business, we interacted with all kinds of service providers and vendors that were small businesses. And so my heart is really for the small and midsize businesses of America and helping them to continue to grow and thrive and prosper. And so back in 2015 is when I started with American Business Advisors and I actually approached the owner at the time and said I would like to join the team and here is a plan for me to eventually buy and own American Business Advisors. And he had seen a lot of resumes in the past but had never seen someone approach him with the idea of becoming a partner and owning the business at some point. And so he was very interested in talking with me. And here we are several years later and I’m able to step in and have ownership of the business and be able to provide those services to small and midsize businesses and to really live out that passion of helping small to midsize businesses to grow.
Erik Wolf: That was beautiful I think I almost heard like a little, there was one moment I think I might have heard God Bless America just playing in the background. Maybe we can do that in editing? Can you give me a quick sort of hero story? An American Business Advisors to the rescue kind of story were you guys stepped in and really just helped somebody right out of a tough spot.
Dennis Guse: Sure. And we have several of those that I could point to both between myself and partners of mine. You know we’ve got one business that we’ve been working with who about five years ago was generating about $3 million dollars in annual revenues. And they were kicking off a profit of about 80 to 90 thousand dollars per year. And each year, year over year for the past 3 to 5 years that we’ve been working with them, they’ve continued to grow and we’ve helped them navigate all those challenges to the point where this year they’re going to be doing over $14 million dollars in revenue and be generating about $1.3 Million dollars in profit, bottom line profit and so that’s a huge success story. And we’ve been helping them with all kinds of areas from the financial aspects of it, to the strategy planning of it. We’ve helped them to do some hiring inside of the business. As you know businesses that grow and people so helping them think about how to do that, how to manage their cash flow so that they can sustain that growth and so forth.
Erik Wolf: That’s really terrific actually that’s a big leap. This is a trusted advisor podcast and so if you don’t mind I’m going to put you on the spot and ask you for some free advice.
Dennis Guse: OK.
Erik Wolf: What is one quick tip that you would give to somebody who is looking to get, who’s a business owner, and they’re looking to get more out of their business.
Dennis Guse: You know I think that the the best answer to that question is that every business owner needs to take time to stop doing what’s urgent to think about that which is important, to plan out the future and then to set some goals for the future, and then to find the right resources to apply to those goals to make sure that they’re able to implement and achieve the expected and desired results. And all too often business owners get very caught up in the tyranny of the urgent, doing that which is here and now. You know a lot of times you walk in in the morning and you think you have a plan to do these three or five things and within the first half an hour that all goes out the window and you’re fighting fires and doing all kinds of other things. And so being able to stop, pause, think about what it is you want to achieve and make sure that you’re continually achieving those goals and moving towards your ultimate vision for the business.
Erik Wolf: And so follow up, you’re saying things that a lot of people say, “Oh well don’t worry about the tyranny of the urgent and you work on your business and you get that stuff done.” And how do you teach or how do you get that level of restraint when you’re the business owner and you’re sitting at your desk, you’re looking at your computer, you’re doing what you do, and it feels like the world is burning down around you. How do you keep that focus and not get up and start fighting the fire because that’s what you want to do and that what we all want to do? When the fire comes, somebody give me a hose I’m in there.
Dennis Guse: Right. Absolutely. And it’s really interesting as we’re working with our clients, I mentioned before that we’re the eyes and ears, that extra set of eyes and ears in the business. And so we actually help train our clients to think about that which is most important and to prioritize it. Obviously, there are always going to be a lot of fires that you’re going to want to fight but it’s learning methodologies to be able to understand that which is most important and then to be able to train yourself to do that which is most important. Because in any scenario, we’re all going to be overwhelmed with the desire to do those things that are you know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease right? But that’s not the most important thing to do. And so a lot of times having that outside advisor to help you understand the things that are the most important is going to be tremendously valuable.
Erik Wolf: Ok so so we’re going to milk the cow. We’re going to forget about the squeaky wheel, we’re going to do all of that and we’re going to make some money. Dennis thank you for being here. I really enjoyed it. How can my many many multitudes of listeners get in touch with you?
Dennis Guse: Sure they can go ahead and contact us on our website at abadvisors.com or you can definitely give me an e-mail. And that would be firstname.lastname@example.org or if you want to call 303-335-4218 is our office number.
Erik Wolf: Not your cell. They can’t call you at home?
Dennis Guse: If they want to call my cell phone, I’ll give that too. It’s 303-880-5638. I’d love to talk directly with you.
Erik Wolf: OK and Dennis is an early riser so everybody knows. Wonderful thank you again. I really really appreciate it. This was fun. And I thank everyone for listening to the DEA trusted advisor podcast. We will catch you next time.
Dennis Guse: Thank you Erik.