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AVL Case Study: DACS (Jason Dunn)

Chris Schwalbach  ·  November 19, 2021  ·  11 min

AVL is proud of the impact we've made in DACS growth and scalability. 

Jason Dunn, the CEO of DACS (Denver Asphalt & Concrete Services), is bringing high-caliber professionalism and culture to a traditionally unsophisticated industry and is seeing amazing outcomes. AVL has been playing a key role in helping DACS prepare and execute massive growth.

 

Listen in as AVL founder, Chris Schwalbach, interviews Jason Dunn on why he chose to utilize a full-stack fractional CFO firm like AVL Growth Partners and how that has choice has helped impact his company's growth & trajectory.

Transcript

CHRIS:
Okay. Well, thanks for joining us today, Jason, I really appreciate doing this. So let's just jump right in. As long as we're here, I want to ask could you just give us a little background of your role at your company and how you came into that role?

JASON:
Terrific. So I'm the CEO of DACS Corp. We have several businesses and we can talk about how we got there, but asphalt and concrete, pavement maintenance and, and reconstruction is the primary business. We serve commercial customers with this product set. So primarily property managers, property owners, and this is across the front range. And so how I came at this
business, I actually didn't grow up in a field even remotely related to this one. So a little bit out of my comfort zone, at least at the beginning, but I was a 20 year investment professional. And, and in that world though, we did take a very long‑term oriented approach, value, oriented approach to investing in businesses. So we, we felt/thought like owners in what we did, I observed great management teams, not so great management teams over my 20 years have been a business geek since I was in my teens. And so had a lot of ideas that I brought to an operating company, but after I wound down my hedge fund in 2017, my last endeavor, I went hunting for a business to buy. And I was attracted to this space in particular, not only cause it was in the front range, which is a market, my family loves, but then also it was a business that was operating with a very low professional bar. And I don't mean DACS per se, but the industry niche that it's operating in and the broader blue-collar space, this is oftentimes true. But particularly in pavement maintenance and reconstruction, we saw a fairly low level of professionalism being offered versus, you know, if you took a Jim Collins, Good to Great type reading set and, and, and, and brought a set of expectations to a business, what you'd find. And so for me, that was fantastic, both because I didn't know the business was going to have to come to know it, but then also because of the opportunity for us to differentiate in the ideal and capture market, by bringing a level of professionalism, you know, so far on scene, that was what attracted me to it. And that's, that's really how this has played out so far, which has been exciting.

CHRIS:
Very cool. So as a guy that came from that finance value, investing, understanding the money side of the business equation for so many years. And in addition to all of the other skills you developed at that time, they know why leverage an AVL, you know, as part of the key piece of the, the, you know, the foundation of growing this company that you then started in the early days of you running the company.

JASON:
Yeah. So there's a couple of reasons there's definitely a cost advantage in, in the fractional way of delivering this, this set of solutions, which is attractive because we were a small business, but really that's, that's not the first and foremost, first and foremost for us was I've got a really high set of expectations on what a company should deliver from a financial perspective when it's well run. And that came from watching a lot of well‑run businesses at scale.

Unfortunately, small business, it's really hard to resource, you know, a CFO and a controller and a staff accountant and reporting expectations that anything like a public company. Obviously there's going to be a difference. But for me, especially as a CFA myself and a financial analyst, I wanted to be able to see that we had a real competency in the financial part of our business. So I had a high level of expectation there. I was hoping that I might find a way to meet that maybe even before we could afford it and then find that the fractional solution is possible. We did checks to find who was the right partner there, and AVL really shown as that's the no‑brainer conversation to have first. And fortunately, that's the only conversation we had to have.

CHRIS:
So, well, thanks. You know, one of the things I think about often that's contemplated is, Hey, I have this high-level expectation, but I have this fractional, you know, do I have the mind share? Do I have the attention and how are they going to operate in my business? And so can you speak to how your experience in terms of like how we've operated in, in your business and keeping cadence with the things that you want to keep cadence and keep keeping up with Jason?

JASON:
Yeah. So I think there's at least three phases of this. And the first phase we knew we were going to have to make an investment just to get this started in terms of where do we, you know, we needed to find where we wanted to be right now. And for the year ahead, from the standpoint of financial capability controls and reporting, for instance, and there with AVL, it's been exciting because we were paired with great talent off the bat. And Chris, our CFO, and Kim, our controller, fantastic talent there, it was digestible because obviously, we're paying on a fractional basis. And we wanted to really leverage the expertise of our existing terrific department head Danielle running our finance and administration organization. So, so that was our starting point. We knew we had an investment in terms of getting up to speed, that there would be a second phase of the engagement where we'd probably be running at speed, be a little more leveraged in terms of our time, AVL would have helped us put in place the building blocks, you know, including from our reporting capabilities and cadence to our projections development for the upcoming years. And so we moved into that phase, you know, within three to six months, and now we're in a new phase, which is really exciting, and this is where AVL gets to help us scale. Of course, again, I'd love to be able to have, be able to afford a fantastic CFO that is inside our organization, a fantastic controller, and all the accounting that we need. We can't do that yet, but we don't want to be changing those key people that are involved over and over again, as we scale, we just want the scalability and we want the affordability,
the AVL setup as we have, it is terrific because basically we have Chris and Kim our CFO and our controller. They're a part of our accountability chart today. They are a part of our organization. We don't differentiate them from a mindset perspective on fractional versus full‑time employees, but we know we absolutely can scale both their usage as we demand more hours. But then also if we get to the point where it's like, no, we've got to turn another staff accountant on because we're running out of bandwidth.

AVL can help us there. AVL can help us along that continuum of getting into in‑source to the extent that we're going to need to go to in-sourced as we grow. What does that specifically look at? Look like for us, we've launched a lot of new businesses. I say a lot of three new businesses early on. It was just a snow business that we were launching. We've launched this year, an exciting new business in trucking, but we've also got other entities that are coming up that are starting to own the assets that we are deploying. So there's no way without the expertise at a high level,
that AVL is delivering for us or without the scalability that the fractional model offers us, that we could. So aggressively start getting into these new businesses, deal with them, eat them, you know, as fast as we are.

CHRIS:
Well, speaking of all that you've mentioned of the new businesses. So what has been, you know, kind of results-wise, have you been able to grow, have you been able to scale? What has our involvement allowed you to do as a CEO that you may not have otherwise been able to do and, and achieve what for the business during the last couple, you know, the last year-plus?

JASON:
Yeah. So this has been an exciting story and we're super grateful, but, you know, we acquired the business in 2018. 2018 was a year to hang on, just make sure that we had the credibility to be able to move forward with our people. But in 2019 we implemented traction EOS. We brought AVL into the picture soon after, as we saw, okay, we have a management system in EOS. We now need to make sure that have the core competencies developed from finance to operations to sales, and that we also need to have that leadership component operational i.e. me to currently functioning as both a visionary and an integrator speaking in traction terms or an EOS terms that we had those pieces of the puzzle. So we brought AVL in, we had a very successful implementation of EOS and fortunately that bringing professionalism to our market has worked. We've been differentiated with customers. Our customers have responded with a very rapidly growing market share. So what does that look like over the last 12 months, for instance. Just asphalt and concrete, so far year to date is up 90%. We're well, ahead of our goals in terms of our tenure track that we've set out on, which is really exciting. We've more quickly and aggressively gotten into the snow business, which has been terrific. We've been able to get into a trucking and have that take off like a rocket here in the first year truck trucking brokerage that moves now into trucking owned fleet. As we move into 2022, we have a real estate business that we'll be building in 2022.

But what that means is for me, I'm already serving as visionary and integrator i.e. something like a CEO and a COO. If I'm having to also worry about my finance operations, are they functioning? Are we coding correctly? All of the rapidly growing transactions that are coming in, are we able to report to our shareholders effectively or not? If I had to worry about that, I can't get out there and grow new businesses, much less manage my business day-to-day, but all of these things are necessary to get to the point or in the organization where we want to go to, which is - I've just hired our first integrator. So he'll come in as our COO he'll likely be our future president. If things go well and, and push pushes me into the comfort zone I have, which is in that visionary seat, in that strategic seat and that seat to build culture, I get to focus because I know I have this competency in finance and we're trying to build out similar capabilities in our other departments that are scalable, competent today, competent for the future and can run with our plan.

CHRIS:
Well, I can't thank you enough. I really appreciate it. This has been a great snapshot of an amazing client experience for us. I know our team absolutely enjoys and thrives, and just as excited to work with you every time, every day, every time they get to interact with you. So thanks for making it a great time for our team, as well as a, I'm glad we could help you kind of achieve your goals ahead of schedule.

JASON:
Thanks for building a great partner for us. And again, we look at it as internal team members. So it's odd to kind of talk about it in an external format like that, but no, it's, it's been an absolute pleasure. It makes perfect sense. And, and then also super excited we can engage on an EOS basis as well. That was really important to us. It was so cool to see that in your organization. So, so yeah, it's been a pleasure and we look forward to more,

CHRIS:
You know, we've found that so much of those EOS companies for us create another piece of a common language to allow us to work together so well. So we, we, we, we love it. We look at them as a really good place for us to do great work, cause we're all have, you know, singing off the same song sheet, so to speak in a, in a much more the systematic way. So that's great. That's great. Well, great. Thank you.

This case study interview was recorded on October 19, 2021.

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