Andy Beran has been a Greater Phoenix SCORE Mentor since 2008. His expertise encompasses the following areas:
- Team Member
- Strategic Business Partner
Andy currently owns a medical transport company in the Phoenix area. Since purchasing the company in 2010, he returned the business to consistent profitability and growth.
Another successful business he owns is Envoy America, a safe and professional transport service for Senior Citizens in Arizona. In this Startup Savant interview, he shares how Envoy America came about and how he envisioned to provide safe and secure ride, not only for his parents, but for all Seniors across the state.
WHAT MOTOIVATED YOU TO START ENVOY AMERICA? DID YOU SEE A WAY TO SERVE CUSTOMERS BETTER THAN YOUR COMPETITORS?
As my parents aged, we struggled to find reliable and safe transportation options. We didn’t feel comfortable with them driving, yet they certainly weren’t ready to move to a Senior Living Community.
They needed help getting around – and the typical solutions – like Taxi’s, or public transportation just didn’t work. They needed someone to do the driving, but also to help with shopping, carry heavy bags, wait for them at the doctor’s office, and more. My sister helped a lot, but I was living 3,000 miles away.
We designed Envoy America to be the solution that my parents, and millions of other Seniors and their families, were looking for.
HOW HAVE YOUR MOTIVATIONS CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED ENVOY AMERICA? IS THERE AN AREA THAT YOU HAVE GROWN MOST?
Like any entrepreneurial endeavour, there is a certain amount of pivoting and adjusting along the way as vision is turned into reality. While the fundamental model remains the same, the tactics have changed somewhat.
For instance, at first we expected to market directly to the Seniors and their families and caregivers. As we grew, we realized there was a significant need for the Envoy America service approach also from national organizations and independent living facilities.
We have broadened our approach to address the needs of B2B and National Partners as well.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE BIGGEST MILESTONE THAT YOU HAVE HIT WITH YOUR BUSINESS? HOW DID YOU GET THERE?
The biggest milestone to date was moving from our pilot – where we tested all the key elements of the business model – to full “production”. We started out in Scottsdale, Arizona and quickly expanded to include all of Phoenix – the 6th largest metropolitan area of the country.
At that point, it wasn’t enough for things to “work". They had to be repeatable, scalable, and deliver the desired results. It was a big milestone – and quite humbling!
WHO HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST INFLUENCER ALONG YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY? HOW DID THEY SHAPE ENVOY AMERICA?
Over the past 7 years, I’ve had the privilege of volunteering with, and leading, the Phoenix Chapter of SCORE. SCORE is an organization with a single charter – to help small businesses start-up, grow, and succeed. Through SCORE I’ve met entrepreneurs of every size and shape, as well as a team of volunteers with successful careers as entrepreneurs through Fortune 50 senior executives.
SCORE gave me the confidence, and the support, to pursue this entrepreneurial journey.
WHAT'S YOUR MOST UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?
The first 20 years of my working life was with Intel – in finance, marketing, strategic planning, and M&A. I travelled all over the world and living in 5 different places. I was involved 100% with the company and the market, but not the local community.
As an entrepreneur, for the first time, I was a member of the local business community. A member of the Chamber, a volunteer, a committee member, and a board member. I lobbied local politicians and supported my fellow business associates. There is nothing like the world of small business ownership and entrepreneurism.
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST THING YOU STRUGGLE WITH AS A BUSINESS OWNER? DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR HOW FUTURE ENTREPRENEURS CAN OVERCOME IT?
Other than the “time demon” which we all battle, the challenge I struggle with is bridging the gap between vision and boots on the ground execution. Between falling in love with the problem you are trying to solve versus falling in love with the solution.
For any entrepreneur or business owner, the real challenge is to solve the customer’s problem, hopefully with a solution that makes money. But it’s the problem – not your vision or solution – that is the core issue.
So my advice to future entrepreneurs is to focus on the problem you are solving, not the solution that you are convinced will work! If a better solution comes along, be ready to rip up your business plan, adopt, adapt, and move forward. It will be better for the customer – and that means better for you and the company.
ARE YOU USING ANY APPS THAT HELP YOU STAY ON TRACK EVERY DAY?
I’m a huge fan of Evernote for to do’s and notes – and it is linked to everything – and syncs on all my devices. Otherwise I use Gmail and Google Calendar, Microsoft Suite, and the software directly supporting the business.
HOW DOES BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR AFFECT YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY?
I “retired” from a well paying, corporate career after 21 years, at the ripe old age of 45. I made sure I had the financial resources to support my family. I had the full support of my wife and partner. But we all recognized the risk associated with the change.
My wife remains convinced that entrepreneurship is the best way to transfer wealth from a few entrepreneurs and small business owners to employees and vendors. I’m sure she is right.
In the end, I am lucky to be doing what I want, with a flexible schedule, and a fulfilling dream to change the world. All with the support of my friends and family.
LOOKING BACK, WHAT'S ONE THING YOU WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY WITH ENVOY AMERICA? WHY WOULD YOU CHANGE IT?
There isn’t one specific big thing I would change, but lots of smaller things. Primarily, when you are resource constrained, and time is your enemy, you have to be quick to recognize a weakness or dead end, and redirect as needed. That’s hard, but necessary. It could be an under-performing employee or a system that isn’t meeting the needs of the company. Some can be fixed, but others you must be willing to walk away from.
So with the benefit of hindsight, I would have tried to take action sooner, and moved ahead without looking back.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OUR READERS WHO WANT TO START A BUSINESS IN ARIZONA? WHERE SHOULD THEY START?
We are lucky to live in a state with excellent small business resources, a generally pro-business regulatory environment, and a spirit of wild west cooperation. Costs are low, and opportunities abound.
Assemble a support team – a lawyer, an accountant, an independent insurance agent, and a mentor. Use them effectively. Especially the mentor – and – shameless plug here – you can find no better team of mentors than at Greater Phoenix SCORE.
Use technology, outsource where you can. Be a trusted partner in the community. Help others and accept help from others.
I think there is no better place to start a business than in Arizona.