Success can sometimes be a detriment. A business can go from startup to sensation almost overnight, and those that are not prepared to strategically move forward can become overwhelmed. Some businesses stagnate, others shut down. Entrepreneurs who find themselves in that no man’s land between failure and growth would be wise to seek the services of Dan Schmidt (’02), who has carved out a successful niche guiding business owners into the next phase of their ventures.
Schmidt logged several years on both the auditing and consulting sides of the accounting and finance world since graduating from Truman. In 2014, he created the Emerging Business CFO as a side project, and by the following year he was able to make it his full-time occupation. Based in Kansas City, EBCFO is a fractional CFO and accounting services firm.
“It was created to fill a gap I saw with early growth stage companies,” Schmidt said. “It’s about helping entrepreneurs and small business owners understand the business side of their business.”
Schmidt has looked at enough balance sheets to know a business is more than just numbers on a page. Even if those numbers look good, the owner needs to understand what they mean and what the next move should be. Schmidt works primarily with a client base that earns between $1 million and $10 million in annual revenues.
“This is the stage that most business owners struggle through – cashflow is tight, complexity has increased to the point that the owner can’t keep it all in his or her head, and informed strategy becomes paramount for continued success,” he said.
EBCFO is not limited to clients in the Kansas City area. Because the firm uses 100 percent cloud-based technology its employees have been able to provide services in destinations as far as the United Kingdom, Ghana and Australia in addition to a growing stable of domestic clients.
It helps that Schmidt has an entrepreneurial spirit of his own. He was the neighborhood kid with the lemonade stand in elementary school and the lawn care business in his teen years. During college, he managed the business side of his band, Until Tomorrow. Schmidt also can relate to clients because he has taken the leap of faith himself in committing to EBCFO. With a wife and three young boys at home, he knows the concerns of others who are in a similar position.
“The running joke at home is that it wasn’t so much a leap of faith as it was blindly jumping off the cliff,” he said. “Sometimes if you look at the implications too long you don’t end up moving. So, we jumped, and then figured out how to land on the way down.”
Part of the credit for his soft landing goes to his liberal arts education. That multifaceted approach to learning has come in handy, whether it is troubleshooting for his own business or in his role as a consultant.
“A founder is required to move in and out of different modes of thinking multiple times a day,” Schmidt said. “It’s also crucial to be able to grapple with problems from multiple perspectives. The liberal arts focus at Truman has proven invaluable for me in this. I’ve lost count of the times that a mode of thinking from my music, chemistry or general education coursework has directly correlated to a finance or accounting problem.”
Education is something Schmidt feels is key to success. He encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to be voracious readers, as well as to find a mentor and a community of like-minded people to offer support. His most important piece of advice, however, is to remember the reason for starting a business in the first place and maintain the proper perspective.
“Find balance and rhythm in your life,” he said. “Work is a great opportunity to add value to and serve those around you, but it shouldn’t be the only way you do.”