Larry Nicholson, an accredited small business consultant, is the founder and principal of BluPrint Consultants, LLC , where he advises entrepreneurs, business owners, and leadership teams, providing guidance and management, product and service assessment, due diligence, leadership, and strategic planning advice. He brings to each relationship a wealth of problem-solving experience to small businesses and startup companies. Larry currently resides in Tampa, FL.
In this interview, Larry shares what makes his consulting business different from others and the reason why he keeps it small. He also shares what motivates him on a daily basis and the lessons he learned from servicing multiple industries. Enjoy!
His advice for entrepreneurs starting a business in Florida:
Conduct market research on the industry you would like to serve. The more data and research you can gather on your competitors and your clients will help firm up business decisions and allow you to dedicate time and resources where it really counts.
How did you get the idea for BluPrint Consultants? Is there something you wanted to do different or better than your competitors?
I originally got the idea for BluPrint Consultants back in early 2013. I had always volunteered my time to help entrepreneurs while serving on the board for several non-profit organizations. That was when I really saw a need that entrepreneurs needed real guidance from a professional who had real life business experience and who also had experienced the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship.
What I set out to accomplish that was different than competitors and nonprofit organizations was to really help and serve growing entrepreneurs on a much more personal level. I saw the challenges that entrepreneurs were facing in Florida and wanted to make a difference by bringing an innovative perspective to the businesses of my clients.
What are your visions for your business? Where do you see it in the next 5 years?
Although I ended my business in spring of 2015, unlike many business consulting firms, my visions were to never to become a huge conglomerate but it was simply to be able to stay small and nimble so that I could provide personalized and swift services to my clients. My ultimate goal at the time was to reach dedicated entrepreneurs who were serious about starting and growing their business and to make the greatest impact as I possibly could for their businesses.
What attitude/habits helped make you successful while starting BluPrint Consultants?
The top 3 habits that made me successful in touching over 25 businesses within a 2 year time frame was (1) staying focused and away from negativity, (2) continuous learning to ensure that I recommended the best strategies and processes for my clients and (3) I never took no for an answer.
Did you write a business plan? If so, would you recommend using a template or planning software to help new entrepreneurs?
Being an MBA, yes, I did write a business plan but I quickly realized that I was constantly revising and making tweaks to the plan as I progressed the business. A business plan is only a guide and business owners should understand that there will always be changes to the plan.
A template is a good start, many entrepreneurs have so many ideas running through their minds and it's very difficult to put it all in writing without a template. A template will help ensure that all areas of the business are addressed throughout the plan and that financials and pro formas are accounted for.
What was your biggest business mistake and how did you come out stronger at the end of the day?
I typically view mistakes as lessons-learned. There will always be trial and error throughout all the stages in business. However, my greatest lesson learned was to find a niche market to do business in. At one point, I found myself marketing my services to various industries that I technically wasn't considered a subject matter expert in. But the key here was I identified quickly that I needed to find a few industries to do business with as opposed to opening the door to any prospect who called or inquired about my services.
Did you have a hard time registering your business (as an LLC, Corporation, etc.) with the state? Are there any resources you used to simplify the legal process?
No. the LLC process in Florida is pretty simple and easy to do. I also had a number of contacts who were in the legal field whom were able to help me with legal questions.
What makes BluPrint Consultants unique from others? How did you find your competitive advantage?
What made BluPrint unique from competitors was that I really focused on the needs of my clients and their businesses. I would have professional and personal conversations with each of my clients to get to know them and their businesses like it was my own. This allowed me to create a more custom strategy and approach to the problem that needed to be solved.
How do you stay focused on a day-to-day basis? Do you have a key motivator that keeps you going and fighting the good fight?
Staying focused is very difficult for me in the sense that I'm always strategizing in my head and thinking. I had to really hone in on the task at hand and stick with it. The motivators for me are accomplishments and winning. I love accomplishing goals and there is no better feeling to me than that.
Do you use any tools to keep your business finances under control like QuickBooks, Xero, or FreshBooks?
Yes. Quickbooks was a great financial resource to me with regards to managing expenses, budgeting and filing taxes. It is really easy to use and can be used on most mobile applications.
What advice would you give to our readers who want to start a business in Florida? Where should they start?
My advice for entrepreneurs who want to start a business in Florida is to conduct market research on the industry you would like to serve. The more data and research you can gather on your competitors and your clients will help firm up business decisions and allow you to dedicate time and resources where it really counts.
Unlike many places such as California and New York, it's relatively inexpensive to operate a business in Florida. Florida is typically overlooked by Venture Capitalists and other investors, but the state has such great potential for becoming a top tech and entrepreneurial hub.