Last Word with Cody Foster
How do you balance your Advisors Excel responsibilities and AIM Strategies projects?
I have hired really good people and let them do their job. I still spend over 95% of my time on Advisors Excel and have a great team that works on other projects that we have going. I have also found it is really critical to build a team of people that are really good at the things I am really bad at. Nobody would ever accuse me of paying attention to all the small details, so it is important to have people that do that for me.
Why are you passionate about Topeka?
Because I live here. I have never understood, and probably never will, people who complain about or put down our city. I love Topeka. I love the people. I love the lifestyle. It is small enough that you can be involved and make a difference, but big enough that you can hide a bit also if you want. But more than anything, it is the city I call home, and I want to make it the best city I can.
Specifically, why downtown?
Infrastructure and Opportunity. I have said before that it is not so much about “downtown” as much as it is that downtown has the density and properties to become a quality of place destination. When you look at some of the amazing buildings, the number of large businesses and people working downtown, and the attractions like the Capitol, I felt like it could be a great destination, and I think that’s proving to be true.
Now that the Cyrus Hotel is open, what is next on your agenda?
We have two main priorities. First is making sure we continue to improve on each project: Pennant, Iron Rail and Cyrus. People may think it is easy, but opening a restaurant, or a hotel, is a lot of work. Opening three in less than 11 months is borderline insane. I feel like each place is getting better, but we still have plenty of work to do to get them where we want them. You will likely see some menu tweaks and other improvements this year as we settle in and have some time to work on improving the food, service and experience.
Second, we want to focus on fixing up the other buildings we have downtown. I don’t think we will launch additional businesses this year as much as we will get those buildings more move- in ready and hope to attract some other great businesses to Downtown Topeka. There is a really strong business case to be made to relocating downtown as the volume has really increased in a major way. Every project we launched in 2018 exceeded our projections in major ways.
What advice would you give new entrepreneurs on how to get started and be successful?
There are a few things that I think are really important to understand if you are an entrepreneur. First, most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year, and underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade. It is going to take a lot of hard work. You can’t shortcut success; it takes work and it takes time. Don’t get frustrated with the process of building a business.
Second, comparison is the thief of joy. I have always tried to focus on making our businesses the best they can be and not comparing what we do, or where we are to other people. You don’t have the perspective to see what they have done to get where they are. I laugh when people tell me, “You guys are this overnight success.” We have been doing this for 15 years now, but most people didn’t know anything about us for the first 5-7 years that we were in business, but that is when the foundation for our success was built. If you compared your business to ours today, you may not be excited about where your business is. If you compared your business to ours in 2007, you would feel really good about where your business is today. So, just don’t compare.
Finally, if you can find a partner you trust, it can be a game changer. I was lucky when we started Advisors Excel to have two friends and partners that I trusted completely. Having someone that you can count on, and that will challenge you, makes you a stronger entrepreneur.
When you look back at the last 15 years, what makes you the most proud?
That I made the most of the opportunities that God gave me and used those opportunities to shine a light on him.
What can other Topeka business leaders do to help create growth?
Support other Topeka businesses. Encourage your employees to support Topeka businesses. Be a positive voice for all the amazing things going on in our community right now. And finally, do everything you can to continue to grow your business and create more jobs.
With all the irons in the fire how are you able to relax or sleep at night?
I have never had much of a problem sleeping at night. In the grand scheme of things, what happens in any given day isn’t that big of a deal. A glass or two of wine doesn’t hurt either.