How To Grow A National Brand Via Franchising By Creating An Amazing Culture With Nick Lopez

FM 21 | National Brand

 

Nick Lopez, founder and CEO of Lime Painting, joins us to share his journey of expanding Lime into a national company via franchising by paying particularly close attention to the values and culture of the company.

Nick’s journey in the franchise world started when he founded a painting company in college and built a unique business model by applying many of the things he was learning in classes. Fast forward a few years, and Nick has built Lime Painting into a national company with 80 locations.

Nick also shares how his crawl-walk-run approach to franchising helped him accelerate his franchise expansion.

Listen to the podcast here


 

How To Grow A National Brand Via Franchising By Creating An Amazing Culture With Nick Lopez

I am joined by the CEO and Founder of an emerging franchise in the home improvement space called LIME Painting. We’re going to talk about how they’re a lot more than painting. Nick Lopez, welcome. How are you?

I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.

I appreciate you getting up bright and early with your time to join me here. Nick, welcome. I’d love to kick it off by sharing your story and how you got to the point where you are now, and maybe talking a little bit about where LIME is now and its growth. I’ll kick it over to you.

Thanks for having me on the show. My story starts back in college. I’m from Denver. After leaving high school, I wanted to go to school out of state, and Michigan State happened to check all the boxes. There was a wrestler in my sophomore year of high school, and he had won the national title. My logic as a sophomore in high school was that by the time I get to Michigan State my freshman year, he’d be a senior and get the opportunity to learn from him and take over the weight class and run with it from there. Clearly, being an out-of-state student, it’s pretty expensive.

My hope was that a scholarship would pay for school. I did that. I pretty much took out a $500 credit card and maxed it out at 18. I wish I would have taken that life class. Nonetheless, that’s how I got to Michigan State. Fair enough, I’m in Coach Minkel’s office and introducing myself and before you know it, I preferred to walk on, and I ended up becoming the roommate with that wrestler.

I’m learning from a lot of great wrestlers and made some great friendships. It was a special time in my life. I grew up playing three sports at a time. I have a lot of energy. My parents would put me in as many sports as possible to keep me from tearing the house apart. I’m a dad of four. I can see the high-energy gene there. My house is constantly getting torn up.

How old are your kids?

They’re 6, 5, 4, and 2. We had some birthdays around the horizon and in that season that everybody getting a little bit older. They’re all young and wild and show me what it was like for my parents. I was pretty much a gym rat and I loved the whole cultural piece of being on a team. I’ve very much enjoyed that at Michigan State, but unfortunately, I get to a point where I received a tuition bill and it’s about $2,200. For me, that was so much money being a broke college kid.

Thankfully, I met my wife in college. She was athletic. She ran the Athletic Math Department at Michigan State. I’d go in there every Thursday, and she would tutor me. At the end of the semester, I told her I was done wrestling. She friend requested me and it was something different about it when I accepted that friend request. As the story goes on, when I received that tuition bill, she was the one who helped me ultimately pay for it, even against her older sister’s advice, “You’re probably never going to see that $2,200 again.” She was right. I still haven’t paid her back.

That’s how I got to a point where my freshman year I started a company called Spartan College Painters. I had seen plenty of college kids running college paint companies and me having big college bills, so I started my own company. I looked at the bigger the house, the bigger the college bills it would help me pay. I was stumbling on our niche. LIME Painting focuses on high-end properties, the top third. We’re more of a luxury paint company.

I had heard from clients so many times simple things like, “Thanks for showing up. Thanks for doing a good job. Thanks for answering your phone.” I’m sitting in a business lecture class learning about competitive advantage. This lightbulb starts going off. On the front end, clients have very little trust. They’re saying things like, “Are you going to run off with my deposit? Are you going to charge me more when you start the job? Are you going to job hop?” I’m like, “What’s job hop?” There’s all this lack of trust up front and compliments on the back end.

FM 21 | National Brand
National Brand: On the front end, clients have very little trust. There’s all this lack of trust up front, and compliments on the back end.

 

I started looking into national companies that were focused on these consumers that wanted to pay more to get more. I had vetted quality solutions. It was my name going on it. These were high-end homes. Common sense to me was that quality was of the utmost importance. I started realizing that that wasn’t the case. I got my Marketing degree and I’m learning about positioning. If you have price and quality, that’s your lane and that’s where you stay. Designing this business model with that in mind, but I start looking into other competitors across the country that are doing this.

Clearly, if I’m giving this value in East Lansing, and there are 18, 19, or 20 winnings these bids against national companies and so-called local high-end paint companies. After doing some due diligence, it was clear there was a real opportunity nationally to give this value to clients outside the market. There weren’t any high-end paint companies.

I talked to a mentor. He gave me a book called E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. That was several years ago, about halfway through college. That’s when I was introduced to franchising and learned about this idea of working on the business, not in it, creating systems and processes, roles so you can scale and duplicate that consistent service. I spent the rest of my time in college doing that, applying my Business Sales degree to create a model that would do what Gerber talked about. I moved home to Denver in 2013 and I started LIME Painting. In 2023, we’re going into our ten-year anniversary, which is pretty exciting.

I started a company and for me, it was taking a bite from one parking lot and moving it to another from East Lansing to Denver. I heard things like, “Is it even going to work in a different market?” and stuff like that, but I grew the company. I do a couple of million-dollar businesses. Those first four years were about proving out the unit economics and doubling down on the business model making it more differentiated and improving the margins by eliminating quirks in the business that systems can solve.

By joining the IFA in 2016 and traveling around the circuit and got my CFE over the course of a couple of years in 2016 and 2017, and then in 2018, we onboarded our first franchise owner. In 2019, we onboarded our next few. In August 2020, we had seven locations. As of November 2022, we have 80 locations and that’s been the byproduct of a lot of advisors, great strategic partners, and folks much smarter than me that understand franchising. One thing I appreciated about my business and sales degree was that I knew those things contributed to the success that we had. I wanted to lean on folks that were much more experienced in franchising to show me and teach me the ropes of franchising. That’s pretty much the story.

You applied what you were learning in college to create what LIME is now. That’s pretty cool. You were able to take something theoretical in the classroom and tinker around with that application in your business. Not a lot of people get to do that versus sitting in the classroom and waiting to start their career and stuff like that. Congrats on your growth man. In 2016, you joined the IFA, got your first franchisee in 2018, and in 2022, you had 7 locations. It sounds like you grew organically and then it hit the button on national expansion around then, right?

Exactly.

For any emerging franchise companies reading, there’s navigating through that path of national expansion and there are so many advisors and people out there that can give you “advice.” How did you navigate through all the “advisors” that are out there to figure out what was going to be right for you guys in LIME?

It starts with relationships. Every business is made up of different leadership teams. In my case, I was bootstrapping, I was the founder. It was what made sense and what it seemed like a good fit for me who had values, vision, and strategy that lined up with my vision for LIME. It then turned into trial and error of relationships and seeing where it clicked on both ends.

I went through partnerships with many different consultants and advisors and run its course. I would download and implement as much as they could help me with. We come to a dead-end or crossroads. At that dead-end or crossroad, it was like, “What’s next? Who’s the next advisor, consultant, or partner that is going to take us to where we need to go to our next dead end or crossroads?”

For me, it’s been building relationships and a lot of goodwill and friendships that have taken us on our journey. There are a lot of different turns and dead ends and it’s just been a matter of, “What’s next?” Failure is always that dead end. It is what could be at the end, but I look at it as what’s next as opposed to there’s failure. There’s always an answer or solution. It’s a matter of finding it and going down that path of what’s next.

As opposed to failure, there's always solution. It's just a matter of finding it and going down that path of what's next. Click To Tweet

You have an amazing and humble ambitious mindset. You’re not afraid to ask for somebody’s opinion or something like that. It sounds like, as you went through your journey to take LIME national. There are a lot of people that’ll help you if you ask for help. They’ll give you their opinion on whether it’s the right thing for your business or not. That’s one thing.

You brought up an interesting point about this idea of failure. It’s such a negative connotation like, “I failed at this. My life is over and I’m never going to recover,” but failure is a good thing in business as long as you have the right mindset in terms of looking at it, “Now, we know what doesn’t work so we don’t have to spend any more time and resources going down that path. Let’s close that door and continue to find what door is going to be the right thing for us.”

It’s a good way to think about failure. As you said, it’s an investment and now you know what not to focus on, which there’s a lot of value in. There’s only one way to find out what doesn’t work and sometimes you got to do it. Was it Facebook where you met your wife? Was it a friend request through Facebook? Back in my day, it was AOL Instant Messenger. That was the means of communicating with other folks, but was it Facebook?

Yes. It wasn’t MySpace or anything like that. It was a Facebook friend request.

I love it. That is so cool, but you guys have got to know each other pretty well through the tutoring and whatnot. You’re building this national company and figured out this high-end painting niche, but it’s not painting that you guys do. You figured out that there is this opportunity to offer additional services to the homeowners, what stuff was that?

Those first four years in Denver proved the business model and doubled down on differentiating the business. It was clear that we weren’t differentiated enough. Meaning that there was still more opportunity to bring clients more value. I’m doing right by clients, at least I thought. I would paint a house and we’d paint over the gutters that were leaking onto the substrates that caused them to need to be painted in the first place. It’s things like that where I felt like we were missing opportunities to do more for the client.

Not being differentiated enough as a business means that there is still more opportunity to bring clients more value. Click To Tweet

As I got more experienced in this space, it was clear that paint was one of many different types of coatings. A coating, you could think of it like a glove. If you have your hand out in the elements and there’s not a glove on if it’s hot or cold, your skin is directly affected by the elements. On the flip side, you can put lotion on your hands, it soaks into your pores and conditions them. It’s like a stain. You have these stains and these coatings more like paints. These surfaces on a home are porous, much like the skin on your hands. They’re exposed to the elements.

On high-end homes and custom properties, like the properties we work on, there are a ton of different surfaces. The sun and water deteriorate them and they’re expensive. You look at the Stucco siding on a house, the metal railings, security doors, and accent pieces. There are usually these 24-inch metal lights. It could be up to twenty or so of them around the property, and so on and so forth. There are so many surfaces that make up a custom home. If we’re doing the painting, the paint looks great, but all the other surfaces are faded, chalked, cracking, crumbling, and deteriorating, and they’re high-value items. You take the same approach as you do paint, you prep it and apply it. It’s that straightforward.

Our applicators, being that we’re working with clients that want to pay more to get more, we’re truly able to recruit artisans and very talented individuals and craftsmen that traditionally for the most part our painters, but if they switch the product in their equipment from paint to a coating for stucco, it’s applied the exact same way. It’s a different product.

Maybe there are some tweaks on the prep but you apply that over and over throughout the surfaces on a custom property. All of a sudden, you’re bringing a lot of value to that client and you’re very differentiated in the market. That client goes to do due diligence as they rightfully and most of the time do. They realized, “I called a painter and he told me you got to call the stucco guy. You got to call the stamp concrete guy. We don’t acid stain and seal that. You got to call the metal company. We don’t do powder coating. For the gutters, you got to call a gutter company. We don’t do gutter installs,” and so on and so forth.

This client is left with this unique set of recommendations and now they can’t undo what they learned. They know that their house is not just old, rather it’s deteriorating. They know how to solve it. At LIME, we’ve provided those solutions. They have a turnkey one point of contact on the account manager side and then a quality control role, our creator, that’s working with our subcontractors, ensuring that that scope of work’s being done the right way.

Now, that client has a turnkey solution for their entire property and is done in a reasonable amount of time with the highest-grade products and extensive scopes of work. Again, they want the job done right. They care about quality and they’re wanting to pay more to get more. That’s our niche. Those are the ways that we bring a lot of value to clients.

It’s an emotional, cool thing to watch a customer look at the finished product of transforming their house. They want their house to look beautiful. They don’t know all the nooks and crannies and where their house is deteriorating and which surface is messed up because they’re not poking around those areas of their home, but you nailed it.

Being a one-stop shop to help a customer go from in their head, they know they want the house to look like, even if they start with changing the color of their house or whatever in the room, but there’s all this other stuff that going into that transformation. It’s cool how you’ve been able to tap into that and figure out a way to be that one-stop shop through the subcontractors.

There’s a whole world of contractors that are amazingly talented at what they do, but they want to paint. They want to go there, paint, and get paid consistently. They don’t want to have to deal with all the front-end customer service stuff, project scoping, and stuff like that. That’s the beauty of your business model. It’s a variable labor force too, by being able to partner with these subcontractors.

We bring a lot of value and differentiation to homeowners. We bring that same value and differentiation but a different set to subcontractors. All along the lines of what you talked about, providing that turnkey option for them to get consistent work that pays well. We pay timely and we pay them more. We give them jobs pretty much every week as much as we can.

Clearly, they’re independent contractors, but it creates synergy for them. They’re not having to worry about their employees sitting at home for 1 week or 2 and therefore there’s pressure on them to get a job. They’re cutting prices and getting into opportunities where they’re not making great money and playing that game.

The next thing you know, a client that they gave a great deal to keep their guys busy, they’re leaving that job for a great paying job and coming back to that other client and that’s “the job hopping” that consumers experience in the market. It’s multifaceted in a lot of different ways, but clearly, it gives subcontractors a ton of value as well.

You called the project managers and estimators, the creators in your business model. They’re a buffer, not just between the customer and the subcontractors, but also between the subcontractors and the customers, which the subcontractors like as well. They know whom they have to deal with on a project. Sometimes they don’t have to deal with those homeowners that can be a little squirrely sometimes, but as I said, it’s an emotional thing. That’s genius. Where did LIME come from? What’s the story behind naming the company LIME Painting?

I was sitting in a neighborhood in college. I’m like, “We’ve done so much work over the years in here and didn’t get credit for it.” If we had a color that clients could recognize, even if they didn’t know our name, they knew, “The purple guys, they come in every year and they transform homes. That’s what the purple guys do.” I started realizing that color would give that brand recognition.

I went to Michigan State and it’s green. Lime is the most eye-catching color. That’s essentially what our model is. You can see our job sites from space basically. That’s the whole point. There are referrals and compounding that happen around job sites. There’s no better sales tool than a job site. It’s marketing focus, but since then LIME’s become our values. It stands for Love, Integrity, Mission, and Excellence.

I love it. You filled the marketing gap in your business originally and now you’ve transformed it into being the values. I would imagine helping to shape the culture that you are cultivating within LIME around the country. Can you talk a little bit about the culture? What is your opinion on culture and what do you do to pay attention to it as you grow?

Business is all about people. Businesses are made up of people. They serve people and it is all relationships. Whether you know it or not, your business has a culture. Values do such a tremendous job of directing, reinforcing, and being a vetting tool for the type of people that come into the company. If they’re much more than words in a business plan or words on a coffee cup, if leadership and the leaders within the company do a great job of living out and setting the example of those values, they come to life. It creates an infectious culture because the folks that are joining your organization are joining it for your values and it reinforces itself and gains a lot of momentum.

For us, we’re very much a family-like culture. We love to collaborate and communicate, and very much servant-focus. We’re in the customer service business, so we’re dealing with people all day long, and having that selfless servant style of doing business with one another and our customers even more so sets us apart. It further differentiates us. That’s exactly what our clients and our subcontractors are looking for. It’s so hard to find in our space. For us, being intentional about our values, it’s another point of differentiation, but for everyone that aligns with the values, it’s a good quality of life.

FM 21 | National Brand
National Brand: By being intentional about our values, it’s just another point of differentiation. But for everyone that aligns with the values, it’s just a good quality of life.

 

I love it. They say culture eats strategy for breakfast or something like that. As you’ve grown, you’re getting more and more people into your organization as you expand nationally. What are some of the things that you do to make sure that the culture remains the culture that you want it to be? Do you guys do anything ongoing to help reinforce those values in the culture as you grow?

It’s about being intentional about communicating those values. Now in Q4, we’re ramping up our teams across the country. We’re a sales organization so we’re building up our ratio of salespeople to locations and preparing for Q1, a new season, and training them all. Over the years, we’ve seen more and more folks that are interviewing with us talking about the values before we’re even talking about the values. That’s the infectious piece.

You hit this point of momentum where it becomes obvious. We’re intentional about putting the values up front and center. Folks that aren’t interested don’t apply. Folks that are looking at us in the discovery process for a franchise won’t move forward. Eventually, you have so many folks that are committed to the values and you can’t deny it.

When you have a lot of points of collaboration within the company, although it’s a national company, we’re intentional about webinars, workshops, and our owners getting together and mentoring each other. Our franchise advisory council heads up all the mentoring, but that’s all conveyed and that tone is set from the very beginning.

They come into LIME looking forward to that. Our franchise owners and sales folks, whoever’s new talking to those sales folks and franchise owners validating things. They’re getting that affirmation that that’s the LIME life. Folks come on board and they get to live those things out. It starts to reinforce itself and take on a life of itself.

I said a long time ago, “It’s beyond me. It’s the owners and the leaders of the locations that contribute to the direction of LIME,” whether that’s strategic or new initiatives. For us, it’s key to get that input from the people at LIME as opposed to top-down, “We’re making all the decisions. We’re rolling these things out and it is what it is,” that collaborative piece is communicated so much upfront and that’s what people look forward to. As I said, they live it out and it reinforces itself.

You’re straight up unapologetic, “These are our values in your face. If you don’t align with these and we’re probably not a good fit for you, Mr. Franchisee, Mr. Project Manager, Mrs. Project manager, or Mrs. Franchisee,” or whatever it may be. “We are a culture-value-based company, and it’s part of your secret sauce.” Being able to bring like-minded people that can align with the culture and the values that you’re building, it’s one of these things. You can’t measure it. You read about it in books, but making it happen and creating this living and breathing ecosystem of your values can be a very special thing.

Again, as you said, culture kicks strategies all day, but when you have culture and strategy. That’s a special combination. We’re constantly in that pursuit. We’re constantly hitting that dead end and crossroads for how to do those two things, to bring strategy and culture together. It’s not perfect, but a part of the beauty is the humility in saying, “It’s not perfect, but together we’re going to work for it to be perfect,” but it’s never going to be perfect.

The market’s always going to be changing. We’re always going to be adapting, but those levers of collaboration are part of it all. It takes extreme humility. That’s humility from leadership and folks that make up LIME because humility eliminates personal agendas and ego that throws a wrench in collaboration. What makes culture so special?

FM 21 | National Brand
National Brand: Part of the beauty is the humility in saying it’s not perfect, but together, we’re in a work for it to be perfect. And guess what? It’s never going to be perfect.

 

No doubt. Being very intentional about humility, being humble, and being able to listen to somebody’s opinion, whether or not you agree with it, people have a right to an opinion. Being able to listen to it and let people express their opinion can go a long way in reinforcing the culture that you’re looking to build. I saw it organically and we did a very similar thing back in the day.

Disaster restoration is not the sexiest business in the world, but we had a culture. We were anal about our culture and very candid and upfront like, “This is who we are. This is how we’re rolling. You either get it or you don’t. If you don’t, we’ll tell you.” It creates this family-like feel. The people that you want to have in your organization want to become a part of this. It’s special. It’s hard to describe.

You’re bringing me back many years ago, but you’re also very intentional about what you’re doing. You can’t just say you want to have culture. You can’t just say these values. You have to live and breathe it. You have to manage it and make it a point for the company. We’ve talked about all these values and this amazing culture you’re building. What are your values?

It’s love, integrity, mission, and excellence. Most of those are pretty straightforward. I’ll clarify the M, the mission. We have a public charity, it’s a nonprofit, it’s called LIME Light Outreach. That’s our outreach. Our M or mission is our outreach. We’re using our business as a way to give back and do good in the communities that we’re building within. Having that outward focus, but clearly, that’s a way of doing business.

LIME Light Outreach is the turnkey way for any owner to build a halo effect in their market. We could easily give to the Boys & Girls Club or any tremendous nonprofit directly. For us, what we thought would be important is being a branding-focused organization. Having a brand in every market that LIME Light Outreach, as I said, it’s creating that halo effect. We’re easily able to raise campaign funds and then use those to partner with established nonprofits. We like to focus on local nonprofits, but LIME Light is focused on the youth.

We have four pillars of knowledge and we want to empower the youth through knowledge. Our four pillars are faith, family, patriotism, and prosperity. We have designed any campaign that fits those four pillars of knowledge. For prosperity, it could be some business classes or entrepreneurial classes for the youth. It’s very flexible and open-ended there. As long as we’re partnering with the youth, somehow designing a campaign, funding it, and giving back makes it an easy way to support something that we want to move the dial with.

That’s a great way to get even more involved in the community in helping to exude the values as you said your mission. That’s a big part of your value. it’s your own 501(c)(3) organization that you guys have established that the franchise owners can collaborate with to help raise funds and then direct funds to a youth-based nonprofit in their area that they want to support and help, is that how it works?

Yes.

That’s cool. Have you seen some franchise owners grasp onto it a little bit more than others or all the franchise owners rallying around the LIME Light Outreach?

Speaking from my own experience, it took me some time to be able to make a big impact. We had 7 locations in August 2020. They were at 80. A lot of our owners are in their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd year so a lot of the focus is to make the business successful and double down on your business, but ultimately from that, be able to give back through LIME Light Outreach.

For a lot of our locations that are participating in LIME Light, it’s pretty easy things like over the holidays serving canned goods or outerwear and for Christmas, doing gifts. For example, we wrapped and gave presents to unpainted houses with a paint kit. We gave them out all throughout the city. These families went on to social media and posted who and where they gave those painted houses to. In a season of receiving, the whole objective was to put work into it and then give it.

We had families posting that they were giving it to their local police station or fire station and things like that. On the other side of the spectrum is doing golf outings and raising funds through the golf outing. We raised about $60,000 for a local nonprofit and it was tailored toward children of single moms that receive Transformational Housing. These families are coming from domestic abuse and unfortunate situations. We were able to focus on the children of single moms and do a golf outing and raise that much money.

It’s all around the spectrum depending on where your business is at, but as your business becomes more and more successful, you can give back in bigger ways. Another good one is having lime green trash bags with the LIME Light Outreach logo. For every client that we’re serving, we’re receiving different donations and we’re able to team up with a local nonprofit. It’s not always financially driven and if you’re getting going or more established, there are different variations of how involved you can get.

That’s cool though that owners have the discretion to work with LIME Light Outreach. Once they get to a point that’s great advice like, “New franchise owners, go get profitable first and then focus on giving back a little bit, but take care of your business first and get that going.” For anybody who’s reading and didn’t connect the dots around the specific values that Nick mentioned, love, integrity, mission, and excellence, if you take the first letters of those words, it spells LIME.

You guys have gone from 7 locations to 80 locations pretty quickly in a couple of years. That’s pretty rapid growth. I had Amy and Jesse Hudson on and we got on the topic around personal development and growth and how having a growth mindset as a business owner, whether you’re a franchise owner, which they are, but yourself as a Founder and CEO of a national company.

Personal growth is something that the best leaders and the most successful business people tend to embrace. Are there certain things that you are intentional about for yourself personally as you guys continue to grow and expand and the organization gets bigger and changes? Are there any personal things that you do that help you cultivate the right mindset and be the leader you need to be for LIME?

I always say business is the ultimate personal development course. It is constantly revealing to you where you need to level up. For everybody, it’s different and it is all personality-driven. If you’re a very hands-on go-getter, you’re probably going to have to cultivate the skills to slow down and be a little bit more methodical. If you’re the opposite, you’re much more methodical, you’re going to have to get more pep in your step to get out, get your hands, and start moving the dial.

Business is the ultimate personal development course. It is constantly revealing to you where you need to level up. Click To Tweet

Those two examples there demonstrate the gaps, uncertainty, and ambiguity that at the core, such an important part of business ownership is being comfortable being uncomfortable. You’re uncomfortable because you don’t have all the answers or you’re putting yourself in a situation that you’re not experienced with or familiar with. For me, getting into those rhythms for operating in that context.

If at the end of the tunnel is a failure, when you’re in uncertainty, that’s a tough position to be in because at the core is business ownership and there’s ambiguity. If at the end of the tunnel is a failure, it’s not very optimistic, but if you know that there ultimately is a solution to that ambiguity, it’s a matter of waiting it out. Developing those mechanics to soak in anticipation for what could be in a negative context, but rather be patient. Patience is such a key thing to develop, at least for me.

For a few years, every year at the top of the year, I have a new word for myself. That’s the theme for the year. For a few years, patience was the word. Could you imagine that? It’s long few years. That’s the process of realizing the skillsets in receiving the answers that you need to get to the next phase. Patience, humility, and recognizing that business is a personal development course. It’s unique for each person. Enjoying the process and focusing on the process is everything I explained. It’s the journey.

If it’s about the outcome or the end result, it’s tough to be on your game if you’re not present. If where you’re going is a potential failure, then it’s a tough mix, but where you’re going is where there’s going to be an answer. I may not know it right now, but there will be an answer. That’s the world I live in, the gray area. I’m always pushing the boundaries, breaking the ceiling, and leveling up. You can’t do those things if you’re always operating in the familiar. It’ll be of the plateau. Personal development is all about hitting the next level.

It’s a good north star to have even if you’re going down one of the tunnels like you talked about, and it’s a “tunnel that doesn’t work out.” Call it a failure or whatever, but there has to be some north star guiding you to pick yourself up off the floor and hunker back down and say, “We’re gearing up for another tunnel. We’re going to figure this thing out. We don’t know what’s at the end of this tunnel, but we’re going to have an idea. We know where we’re trying to get to. We know what we want our business, life, family, and our finances to look like.”

You got to have that north star, that’s the guiding light to help you persevere through the tough days. You’ll then be able to celebrate once you know you’ve gotten there too. It’s the most liberating feeling in the world. It’s achieving something that you tried and failed on your own, your money, sweat, equity, blood, and tears. You got beat up a little bit on the way, but then you got to where you wanted to get to. I can’t describe it. I got to ask you, so for a few years, your word was patience. Why was it patience?

Five years of working at Michigan State in Spartan College Painters is what I call the laboratory. Learning in the classroom, applying in the field, refining, and then I get to Denver. Four years of doubling down on the business model and then joining the IFA and working on the CFE. It’s like you get to this point where the business model is established and tight and you want to start expanding right now.

I was already several years in. Joining the IFA and taking a few years to get a CFE and learning how to franchise, “We’re ready to franchise.” We could have done that and started expanding and growing, but again, I appreciated what I learned in my business degree. I knew that that was a direct impact on the business model and the systems that we had.

Having to be patient in that period was like, “We’re ready to franchise,” and then once we started franchising in 2018, it was like, “No. I’ll onboard a single owner and get familiar with what are the bottlenecks of the business.” As you start to go from corporate locations to franchise owners, there are going to be gaps in the business.

In 2019, I onboarded a few more and made sure that what we double down on in the first unit is ringing true here and continuing to rinse out any additional bottlenecks in the business. That was a season of extreme patience. It’s ready to go, but at the same time taking the time and being intentional. It required a lot of patience. I had mastered the paint business and that was on autopilot. I’m ready to go and ready to scale, but the reality was being patient about it and laying good foundational work. It was a season of patience.

I love it though. You went crawl, walk, and now you’re running. Do you think that you could be running at the speed that you are right now if you didn’t go through that couple of years of patience to make the tweaks, learn to franchise, and get that foundation in place?

Absolutely not.

If a franchise company follows the exact same approach that you did, master the business, master the unit model, and then slowly transition into franchising because it’s a different ballgame when you’re trying to help people replicate the business that you’ve mastered, get one, a couple, keep them local, keep them geographically within a reasonable distance, and get them up and running.

Take the next phase of growth, the walk phase, and onboard a few more, you could make the argument that over a five-year period you could get to where you wanted to get to faster by following that approach versus trying to come out of the gates and grow to 80 units in your first year because that could be a recipe for a little rut row.

Maybe we’re not ready to help these franchise owners replicate everything because we thought our business model was not ready to be replicated until you break it a couple of times. I respect it. There’s a lot of wisdom for any young emerging franchise company reading this. What you dropped is delayed gratification. You can hunker down for the delayed gratification you can get to where you want to get to faster over a multiyear period versus trying to come out the gate swinging and onboard a bunch of franchise owners.

At the end of the day, your franchise owner’s success and happiness and the values and the culture that you build will at some point become this organism that continues to grow without you per se. That’s what you want. It’s like this transcendence almost. I’m on a soapbox, but I respect it. I love to see what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Congratulations on the success. What’s next for you and for LIME?

Building the number one paint businesses in every market and going deep in our markets. Leveling up our marketing, tech, ops, systems, onboarding, and training, and doing everything we can to support and produce franchise partners that are going deep in their market. That’s next. At a national level, we’ve gone wide and we’re in the process of going wide. Now, our focus is going deep.

I love it. The next phase or chapter in growth. That’s good stuff. Nick, if people want to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

You can find me on LinkedIn. You can go to LIMEPainting.com and learn tons. We also have a podcast show called Level Up. You can learn about it on LIMEPainting.com and find the Level Up with Nick Lopez Show on pretty much any platform. You can always reach out to me via email. It’s Nick@LIMEPainting.com.

I appreciate you coming on and sharing your story and journey.

 

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About Nick Lopez

FM 21 | National BrandNick Lopez, founder and CEO of Lime Painting, joins us to share his journey of expanding Lime into a national company via franchising by paying particularly close attention to the values and culture of the company.

Nick’s journey in the franchise world started when he founded a painting company in college and built a unique business model by applying many of the things he was learning in classes. Fast forward a few years, and Nick has built Lime Painting into a national company with 80 locations.

Nick also shares how his crawl-walk-run approach to franchising helped him accelerate his franchise expansion.