In September 2010, Larry Clark left a position as Director of Corporate Business Development with Hill York, at the time one of the largest independently-owned mechanical contractors in Florida, to launch Sustainable Performance Solutions (SPS). "I saw an opportunity to do my own thing and to focus on a specific niche," he said. "I wanted to focus on energy & sustainability consulting. There were some large engineering firms doing energy & sustainability consulting and design. I made the early strategic decision to not focus on design and to become very specialized in our consulting services."
That approach has paid off. Clark explained, "We were recently short-listed for a project for a county government building. A larger firm had a lower fee than us, but they gave us the project because they knew we specialized in what they were looking for." SPS specializes in Energy Audits, including Investment Grade Energy Audits, Sustainability Planning & Commissioning and LEED & Green Globes Certification Assistance. Most, if not all, of their business comes from word of mouth marketing. Clark jokingly added, "Our marketing strategy is to pick up the phone."
In the early days, one of the biggest challenges Larry can recall was getting paid. "When I left Hill York, I didn't take any clients with me, but people knew me, and the phone rang," he said. "We said yes to a very large project that took 120 days to pay. That was a little stressful, because you still had to pay your employees."
Clark is pleased with some of the changes in the industry since he launched SPS in 2010. "Businesses are starting to understand that sustainability means more than just financial sustainability," he said. "In 2010, sustainability was still not part of average American's lexicon." He's also seen an uptick in new construction and the increased popularity of green certifications.
What advice does Larry have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "First of all, have a really good business plan," he said. "Second, don't jump in too quickly. Your decision shouldn't be an impulse. I worked on the business plan for several months before I pulled the trigger. Also try not to burn any more bridges than you have to. I was actually retained by Hill York to do some consulting work after I left and formed my own company." Larry also credits his supportive wife and his strong Christian faith for guiding him.
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