New consulting team includes start-ups in focus

Blue RiverBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

The name they have chosen – blueriver Partners, LLC – came after many discussions, but they believe it reflects the spirit for their new venture.

“Blue is a calming, but strong color,” according to Mike Akers, one of the Founders of the new Knoxville-based consulting group that works nationally. “Rivers come from so many different directions which is reflective of our team.”

We met Akers more than a year ago when he was considering professional opportunities after a successful corporate career. Those examinations included discussions with others. During that process, Akers says he found a handful of independent consultants who shared a set of common values.

“We are almost obsessed with driving value and having a satisfied customer,” he says of the team that places the highest priorities on client outcomes and overall integrity.

Equally significant is the breadth and depth of the team.

“We can go in and handle most any of the major chock holes they (a client) face,” Akers believes.

He cites the complementary skills that the founders have, starting with his 25 years of C level experience in finance and operations with a strong focus on growing a firm’s revenues. Other team members include:

  • Bob Webb, who has similar skills to Akers, and also specializes in turnaround activities for companies in distress;
  • Bob Camp, a revenue turnaround and growth specialist focused on sales strategy, execution and organizational development;
  • Brad Greene, an Industrial Engineer with a history in lean manufacturing, process optimization and organizational change;
  • Jenny Fowler, a marketing communications and public relations veteran, who contributes market opportunity analyses, strategic plans, and hands-on execution; and
  • Christian Biddle, who brings expertise in innovative use of technologies from design to implementation.

The team at blueriver Partners plans to serve small to mid-size companies with a focus on growth and creating local jobs as well as select start-up businesses. In Akers case, helping entrepreneurs is something he already does as a mentor at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.

“We can help entrepreneurs get the boxes checked, so they can become qualified to present to angels and venture capitalists,” he says, adding blueriver Partners can earn its fee through a direct payment for the services or through another arrangement such as equity.

Akers sees a significant opportunity for the new firm in four distinct areas.  “Stressed” or “distressed” types of clients could be facing profit or cash flow challenges, or some sort of conflict, maybe among partners or even in a generational transition.

A second candidate for blueriver Partner’s services would be an owner or board of directors wanting to take the company to another level of size and revenue, new markets, or an expansion of their products and services.

The third area involves “an investor who wants to invest, but not operate the company,” Akers explains. In this last instance, blueriver Partners can be the equivalent of the “C Suite for hire.”

“We will even be interim management if that’s what is needed,” he says, adding, “We will consider putting skin in the game.”  The firm will also help setup a company’s systems and processes once capital has been raised.  Getting it right in the beginning is less disruptive and more cost effective than fixing problems a year or two in the future.

A fourth area of focus is helping an owner or potential investor with all of the issues involved in relocating a company from one community or facility to another.

Akers explains that the six-member team can do things as individual consultants or under the blueriver Partners brand.

“We feel comfortable with others (from the team) representing each of us,” he says.

Those wanting to learn more about blueriver Partners can go to its website at

Stay connected with us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Article ideas and other suggestions should be sent to Include the name and contact information (phone and email) for follow-up.