Nichols Consulting Group a boon to students, businesses they helpMar 10, 2021 09:55AM ● By Chuck Tashjian
Professor Len K. Harmon works with Nichols College students in a consulting group that provides support to the small business community.
Long and deservedly known as a top school for business, Nichols College is always finding new ways to prepare its students for success in the world of commerce.
Nichols is ranked 12th nationally among undergraduate business schools for salary potential and 13th nationally as a Best Value Business College by Payscale.com. It is also ranked second most affordable online college in Massachusetts by OnlineColleges.net.
According to Nichols’ website, 96% of its 2019 graduates were employed or in a graduate program six months after receiving their diplomas.
One of the people at the forefront of the continuing mission to groom Nichols students for future accomplishment is Leonard K. Harmon, the school’s associate professor of marketing and an instructor with years of classroom experience behind him. Professor Harmon’s credentials as a mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs and other students seeking professional attainment upon graduating includes having worked for such large consumer brands as Nestle’ Chocolate and Transitions Optical.
Who better, then, to talk about the “Nichols Consulting Group,” a program that gives Nichols students a chance to use what they’ve learned on Dudley Hill to help local businesses grow? helped the endeavor along as well. Students who are part of the Nichols Consulting Group are paired with businesses that have expressed a need for assistance with any or all aspects of their enterprise.
“Last fall, we undertook nearly twenty projects,” Professor Harmon said.
Finding prospective clients is not as hard as it might seem, he noted.
“Some companies come to me,” Professor Harmon said. “But we also work with Chambers of Commerce and local economic-development organizations” to obtain clients. In addition to companies Nichols students have worked with so far and for which good results have been generated, “we are now hoping to connect with women-owned companies and minority-owned companies,” Professor Harmon said. “We have thirty students in the Capstone course. We are doing a project with the Worcester Red Sox in sports management, one of our largest majors.”
The reward for students, Professor Harmon said, is that projects they tackle let them “put their skills into practice and more importantly learn how to create a leadership team. They bring their status, concerns and projects to me. From the clients’ standpoint, it has a practical benefit.” Nor does it necessarily end with an initial partnership. “We look to have ongoing relationships with our clients,” he said.
A businessperson with whom the Nichols Consulting Group has formed such a relationship is Michael Frisbie, a Nichols alum and real estate developer who owns a number of Noble gas stations and convenience stores in Connecticut. One of these “had a dairy barn” ingredient that Mr. Frisbie was looking for help with.
“We picked out two graduating students. They went to Ice Cream University and presented a business plan to Mike and the bank and it was accepted,” Professor Harmon said. “This was in May of 2019. They took over the location (the Frisbie Dairy Barn in New Britain) and ran it all summer. This led to us working with Mike on other projects. Then Paul Parks (III), who is an instructor at a martial arts studio (Mastery Martial Arts in North Attleborough), bought the dairy barn with his dad.” After seeing the results the Parks father-and-son team produced, organizationally, “Mike Frisbie told Paul ‘I want you to open ice cream shops in all my gas stations,’ so there were unintended [positive] consequences,” Professor Harmon said.
Professor Harmon points out that while internships—a traditional path into the business sphere—are “valuable,” supervisors do not always have time to think about their role in the arrangement. The Nichols approach works differently by giving students more direct hands-on involvement with the businesses they work with.
In recent years, Nichols students have lent support to SJC Custom Drums in Southbridge, Sturbridge Coffee Roasters of Southbridge and Dudley, Alternatives for Health Herbal Apothecary in Sturbridge, Paw Plaza in Stubridge and Kells Brewing Co. in Natick—for instance.
The Nichols Consulting Group is just one example of a college that keeps its course content fresh. In 2019, Nichols launched two new marketing concentrations: “Digital & Social Media Marketing” and “Marketing Analytics.” Also introduced in the fall of 2019 was a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in corporate finance and investments.
All of this is exciting to Professor Harmon, who teaches marketing, advertising and public relations. He can see how Nichols students are playing key roles in today’s technologically driven marketplace.
As Professor Harmon says, “we are closing the loop on the marketing process—from research and analysis to planning, execution and evaluation of marketing campaigns.”
Paul Parks III, a 2019 Nichols grad, said in a telephone conversation on February 24 that he and Taylor Kerr were the two students Professor Harmon mentioned who worked at Frisbie’s Dairy Barn. “We came in and ran it, [he] wasn’t happy with the previous management. We set up an operations plan, trained employees, remodeled. It was one of the earliest versions of the Nichols Consulting Group,” Mr. Parks said.
“It was a great season, a lot of fun.”
Paul Parks III is also lead instructor at Mastery Martial Arts in North Attleborough.
Now, Mr. Parks said, Mike Frisbie is “building out additional travel plazas and convenience stores” and the Parks’ are involved with that initiative.
“Absolutely, for sure,” he said, of the value of his Nichols education to his budding career.
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.
“When I took over the marketing program from Larry Downs in 2009, he had done a Capstone course and he had worked with an external company,” Professor Harmon said on February 23. “I thought that was a valuable experience for the students so I expanded it and created teams. We worked to develop an action plan” from there, he said.
More recently, a Stansky professorship he was awarded, good for two years, has enabled Professor Harmon to get the neophyte Nichols Consulting Group on a firm footing. A contribution from a Nichols alum