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How it Feels to Exceed Your 10-Year Plan

Chris Schwalbach  ·  September 22, 2020  ·  4 min

AVL Growth Partners has reached an exciting milestone. Eleven years of delivering full-stack finance and accounting services for growth-stage companies. Celebrating an odd-numbered anniversary may seem unconventional, but in this year of pandemic tumult, it’s worth celebrating the good things.

In 2009, I had just wrapped up a CFO role with a tech startup in Denver. During the transition to my theoretical next role, I began helping out a few early-stage companies with their business plans, capital raises, financial reporting, and financial modeling. Within a few weeks, I recognized that no organization truly offered a full finance operations stack as a professional service on an on-demand basis to help these early-stage companies. From there, AVL Growth Partners was born to help entrepreneurs grow and succeed by providing a full complement of CFO and finance operations, from executive guidance to front-line execution. AVL Growth scaled from $1K to $700M in revenue under management — just over our 10-year plan.

From a solopreneur to a scaling Colorado success story, we have over 40 finance professionals deployed across 23 businesses and is growing. When I reflected on our transition from startup to scale-up over these eleven years, I think back to how focused on tech we were on day one. We didn’t enter the thrilling world of CPG until many years later. Our extreme focus was too narrow in hindsight, and I wish we had participated more in our community sooner. It’s so easy to be heads-down, and it’s required in many ways. However, the joy that comes from growth isn’t really about revenue. Instead, when I reflect, it’s the 11 first babies, four-second babies, one grandbaby, three engagements, and a work-from-anywhere model that makes me the proudest. For our clients, we’ve helped engineer five exits, 2 restructures, two corporate turnarounds, and secured funding for more than 100 clients. It’s kind of unbelievable.

When I reflect on what’s next, it’s challenging to get clearance from what is still anemotionally and financially challenging year for all of AVL’s clients. I want to find new ways to support them beyond the CFO/Accounting suite. It is time to chart a course for the next stage of growth and apply AVL’s tools and EOS model inward to innovate for our clients.

11 Things AVL’s CEO & Founder Wish He Knew 11 years ago

  1. I would have learned about EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) much earlier.
  2. I would have understood how valuable our internal training & development series were for our team. They have a thirst for this continual growth & learning.
  3. For many years, we were focused very much on Colorado and thought that the primary way to grow in other geographies would be to build offices there. We have learned that growing beyond Colorado is not a function of where our team is located, but rather where our efforts and relationships are placed.
  4. AVL started as a 1099 contractor model with the desire to operate as a team. However, with teamwork, development, promotion paths, and our team’s pursuit of growth, converting to an employee model has dramatically impacted our team’s caliber, growth, and ability to operate as a team.
  5. CPG – For many years, AVL was focused significantly on the Tech market. I wish I would have realized many years earlier how much of a CPG goldmine we were sitting on top of in Colorado! It’s such a unique and talented community that we love being a part of.
  6. TechStars — We are so fortunate to have the birthplace of Techstars in our backyard. Yet, I completely underestimated the behemoth that has been created now. I wish that AVL could have been closer, stayed more involved, and played a larger role in supporting the Techstars community.
  7. How many amazing and talented people would seek out the AVL model as their employer so they could craft their purpose-filled and passion-filled life.
  8. I would not have underestimated how wonderful our partners and supporters would be along the way. There is genuine caring in Colorado, and so many people have helped us along the way. I had no idea how supportive this community would become, and I have a lot to do to pay it forward.
  9. Babies & Families & Houses —> We’ve been able to see 11-first babies, 4-second babies, and 1-grandbaby on our team. Our team has sold 10-houses and bought 11, and we’ve celebrated 3-engagements too! I had no idea how much joy I would receive in seeing people create such extraordinary lives.
  10. Massive RUM stat (RUM = Revenue Under Management). As we help an early-stage company here and a growth company there, I never appreciated that we would have (11 years later) over $700M in revenue under our CFO watch with our clients. It’s a massive number representing tons of jobs all over the country.
  11. I wish I had learned how to get out of my way earlier!