Van Haas – Successful Small Business Entrepreneur
Santa Barbara Business Show: 001 – Van Haas
Announcer: Welcome to Santa Barbara Business Show where we brush the tar off our feet and sit down with local business owners and thought leaders. Now here’s your host, Doug Holt.
Doug Holt: Hello everyone and welcome to the Santa Barbara Business Show. I am your host Doug Holt and I am excited to be with you here today. Really excited, I got a great interview today. I got Van Haas is going to be on the phone with us and we’re going to talk about what Van was up to in the Santa Barbara community.
I’ve had a chance to meet Van a number of times and really just a great guy and doing a lot in our community and really brings something unique. So, you’re going to want to stay tuned for that. As always, remember to go over to BrandedInnovation.com/SantaBarbara to get all the show notes or any links that Van and I talk about. You can also get the schedule for future episodes on there and see who else is going to be interviewed on the show.
If you have any suggestions for people to be interviewed, please let us know. You can simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re in to November and all of us have a lot coming up with the holiday schedule as well as with business and closing out the year. So without further adieu, I’m going to jump right into the call with Van.
For those of you that don’t know Van, Van is an entrepreneur and efficiency fanatic who has saved tens of millions of dollars for his clients and companies. Who doesn’t want that? He found the Peak Cost Containment in 2009. Prior to that, he spent close to 10 years as a Finance and Operations Executive where he played a critical role in multi-state expansion while more than tripling revenues and increasing profits more than five times.
Van graduated with high honors from University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) with a BA in Business Economics and Communications. He spends most of his free time with his wife and two young girls but also enjoys cooking gourmet meals paired with interesting and unique wines which we’ll talk about in the show. So without further adieu, let’s get in with Van.
Van, our listeners just heard your bio and I’m sure many of them already know you but for those that haven’t had a chance to meet you and they really should because you’re a great guy. Tell them in your own words what you’re up to in Santa Barbara.
Van Haas: I work with companies all over California and all over the US, really. But here in Santa Barbara, I’m really focusing on small-to-medium sized business market and trying to help them become more efficient at how they spend their money and what vendors they’re using for all their different purchases and just looking to help and be more efficient in general.
Doug Holt: Basically, are you going in and meeting with people in person or some of these are online? Walk me through a typical client for you.
Van Haas: Obviously, the local business is here. They’re in-person and usually, I get recommended by somebody in the community. They either have a good idea of what they’re looking to accomplish or sometimes, they just feel like they want to be more profitable and don’t understand why don’t see more money coming to the bottom line.
And we’ll look at how they’re currently spending their money, look at their sort of list of vendors and what categories they’re spending money in and start to come up with a plan of attack, if you will, to help them be more efficient and help them take home more money than their paying out.
Doug Holt: I think that’s everybody’s goal. I think everybody in businesses want the opposite. That’s awesome. Can you give us an example of one of your wins that you’ve had or tell us about a success story.
Van Haas: One success story would be, it’s a local company and they sell a product over the internet. Most of their business is done through their own website but they also sell the same products on Amazon and similar sites like that. So we’ve looked at specifically credit card processing for them to start with because it was such a big cost category. In the end, I believe there maybe a $1.5 million business, $2 million business and we’re going to save them over $10,000 a year just looking at credit cards first. So that was a great win just right off the bat for with one category.
Doug Holt: Wow. $10,000 holy cow!
Van Haas: Yeah, $10,000 for a business that is relatively small and those savings for similar business that sold more professional services, they were about a $10 million and this was a project I completed probably about 8 to 10 months ago and I saved them over $100,000 per year in credit card processing for that business. Clearly, the results definitely can be phenomenal with the credit card processing fees.
Doug Holt: Now as with credit card processing fees, is that the only thing you do with the company or do you go in and look at other things that are going on as well to see where you can actually save at the bottom line or increase revenue?
Van Haas: Yeah, we look at all the different things. I have a couple of specialties that I just happen to know quite a bit about and do really well in the credit card processing is one of those. But yes, a lot of my clients are having me come in and look at a whole number of things, even sort of industry specific categories that they just want an outsiders opinion on.
And sometimes, that’s actually a great way to go is have somebody who knows nothing about that particular business have a look because I come into the picture and really look at it from a completely different perspective and give them a whole different way of looking at it.
Oftentimes, talking with the same vendors that they purchase something, let’s say, it’s a specific supply for their industry. Talking to those suppliers that they even talking to you for decades oftentimes results in really, really interesting developments that they had no idea existed. Sometimes, we could help combine and spend. They’re spending with multiple vendors all into one vendor that they’ve been doing business with for a very long time.
Sometimes, we look at different rate structures, different pricing end goals or different ways we think we can negotiate with this current vendors. So yeah, I’ve looked at everything from credit card processing fees to telecom to real niche-industry specific tools like databases for one client that was actually a private investigator so that was kind of fun to food, for restaurants and similar types of businesses to construction materials and supplies for business that had that need. I have a process and a method of contract negotiation that really works across the board.
Doug Holt: Wow. Sounds like a case of not being able to see the forest from the trees and I think all business owners complain about that. Fortune 500 companies are always bringing in outside consultants and people to look at things in a different perspective. But you’re offering this to the small-medium sized business here in Santa Barbara, is that right?
Van Haas: Yeah, that’s right. That was my goal when I started the company is to bring some of that thing. And I’m glad you mentioned it that the same tools and skills that the Fortune 500 companies have in-house, if you will, and I can bring that to a much smaller business on a very part-time level that still have a very similar effect and that is to really look at driving down cost, controlling cost and managing cost as a way to add more profitability into a business.
Fortune 500 companies, the stock market knows this very well, most of the profit gains over the last 3 or 4 or 5 years have come from efficiencies and cost management and that is really missing with the small-to-medium sized businesses. Oftentimes, they don’t realize how those 5 percent here, 10 percent there, 20 percent over there can all of a sudden add up to a lot of money on the bottom line. It’s just going out the door and they don’t realize it.
Doug Holt: This wasn’t something I was planning I’m getting into but I’m really curious. Can you walk me through, let’s just say, hypothetically speaking, I’m a potential client. I’m listening to you now. I want to find out more. Walk me through what does process look like for the business owner or the C-Suite Team when they bring you in?
Van Haas: Typically, what I do is I have them generate a report out of their accounting software, QuickBooks is probably the most common very easy reports. It’s reports that’s already built out and I just make a couple of small modifications to it and they can send me that report. It’s basically a breakdown of all of the money that they’re spending by vendor with the categories attached to it.
With this report, I can run some different analysis in the background that I’d like to run to get a look at all the spend by vendor, by category and a combination of the two. I look at their business that they have early looked at in a different perspective, I guess. Years, they have a list of maybe five, ten categories that I think are potential targets and with the real goal of talking through those to see whether enough they are.
And inevitably, the business owner, they might have one or two or three that sort of been in the back of their mind for months if not years that they just haven’t been able to get the time to get around to take a look at. From that, we usually either determine, “Hey, there’s not enough here to move forward with” or yeah, they want me to go ahead and take a look and I put together a proposal to do that. My proposals, there’s always an ROI if you will. It’s going to cost X but that should result in savings that more than pay for what my fee is.
Doug Holt: So it sounds like there’s almost no risk here.
Van Haas: Yeah, that’s the way I tried to structure it. I feel like if they’re hiring me to be more efficient and save money, unless it’s a very unique situation where we come up with a different plan of action. By and large, my clients, they’re looking to save money and that’s what I want to help them to. So those savings should yield a profit on the back set for them.
Doug Holt: Great. I’m going to talk to you a little bit more about that offline because I’m interested in talking to you as well. In your bio, what something that caught me and the passion that we both share is you mentioned your love for gourmet food and wine. And I know several people, they’re also going to be listening to this have the same passion. Anything caught your attention lately?
Van Haas: My wife and I love to go out and try all the new places around town and elsewhere but just like a lot of others, I think The Lark is one our favorite for just a real interesting take on a lot of different dishes, fun, creative food. That’s probably one of our favorite places to stop in.
As far as wine is concerned, locally, several new wineries that have opened or have been opened out for a little while, one that we tasted recently was Happy Cannon Winery. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to taste there but it’s over near the Wine Cast, right behind the Wine Cast in the courtyard of that complex. They have some really great wines that we enjoyed recently.
Doug Holt: No, I haven’t been over there yet. I’ll have to make it down there. I’ll probably prime my routine this week maybe. Well obviously, you’ve had a great success. What books are you reading right now or what’s the book that’s really made an impact in your life?
Van Haas: It’s one that I read a while back, a few years old. But I haven’t accomplished the goal but it was one that really helped me look at things a little bit differently. It’s the book called 4-Hour Workweek. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read that one.
Doug Holt: I have.
Van Haas: The reason I liked it, it wasn’t necessarily to figure out how to only work 4-hours- a-week but the author does a good job of just challenging the status quo and that’s really what I try to do in my business is challenge the status quo to find new ways to help businesses. But this was challenging the established rules or unwritten rules about work and what you need to do to be successful. So I just felt like that really made me reevaluate some things, it taught me some interesting lessons on business and products and what to look for and trying to be successful and build your business.
Doug Holt: Yeah, Tim Ferriss, the author talks a lot about analytics and testing and I think you get some trouble with the title 4-Hour Workweek. He’s a big internet marketer and he did what’s called AB Split Testing and he actually tested various titles of the book and 4-Hour Workweek just happened to be what people clicked on the most. The book never talks about working only 4 hours. It really talks about doing a lot of testing and analytics and looking at the data and it sounds like that’s exactly what you do in businesses.
Van Haas: Yeah, absolutely. And I actually read that about the title as well. It’s obvious, he’s a very smart guy and has been very successful and applied that method I think to a number of different businesses. You’re absolutely right, it just touched down a lot of things that are near and dear to me and made me think about all of them in a little bit different way but the testing is so key.
I don’t believe that he doesn’t just test it once and then just figure, “Okay, I have the best solution now.” It’s an ongoing process which is really important to cost management too. It is an ongoing process, you really have to keep at it, keep vigilant with it. It doesn’t have to be super complicated but it does need a little bit of attention.
Doug Holt: So with a typical client, would you come in do the initial analysis and then come back at a certain pre-determined period to re-go over everything?
Van Haas: Yeah, some of my clients, they have me come back in. Some clients have me actually stay onboard for quite a long time instead of kind of a maintenance level, if you will. Some of my projects are done on a success fee. So I’m sharing in part of the savings that I deliver, so with those clients. Actually, I’m auditing and kind of managing the category for a specific set of time.
So yeah, the answer is kind of yes to your question but it really just depends on what works for the client. If I’m not the one managing the cost, my goal was to help train them and help them understand what the Key Performance Indicators (KPI), you can kind of apply that same thought to a lot of what I do is we set some KPI’s to this cost and explain, you know, I want to teach them how to manage that moving forward.
Doug Holt: Van, after graduating UCSB, I believe you left temporarily then you moved back. How have you found the business climate to be in Santa Barbara?
Van Haas: I was a little bit concerned coming back here because typically, I’ve worked with a little bit larger businesses and there aren’t quite as many in the Santa Barbara market but in reality, there’s a lot of business going on here. It’s a variant market, there’s a lot of activity and this community is very welcoming and I’ve been nothing but pleased with being able to be connected here and start to do business with maybe little bit smaller businesses but still having very good impact in a lot of successes here locally.
Doug Holt: That’s fantastic. Van, if someone wants to learn more and I know people listening are going to want to. Where should they go? Where can they find you?
Van Haas: They can find me on the website www.accountixsolutions.com. And you can also find me on LinkedIn, welcome anyone to connect with me there and learn more.
Doug Holt: Fantastic. Van, thanks so much for taking the time with us.
Van Haas: Thank you, Doug.
Doug Holt: I want to thank Van again for being with us today. As always, you’ll get the show notes over at BrandedInnovation.com/SantaBarbara. As well as links to Van’s website, the 4-Hour Workweek and anything else that we talked about during the show.
If you enjoyed the show, please go over to iTunes and give us a review. Those five star ratings really help us add a lot. Of course, we’re only on the show for about 20 to 30 minutes but they take about an hour to do produce. That’s all for this week. From all of us at Branded Innovation, make it a productive and fun November. We’ll see you downtown.
Announcer: That’s a wrap. For show notes and details on this episode, go to BrandedInnovation.com/SantaBarbara and don’t forget to leave us a review in iTunes if you love the show. We’ll see you next time on State Street.
Links and Resources:
Van Haas’ Site: www.accountixsolutions.com