Using Neuroscience to Elevate Your Consulting Business with Bill Troy: Podcast #306

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Elevate your consulting business through the lens of neuroscience: discover hidden opportunities, amplify growth, and lead with sharper insights for success. In this episode, we dive deep into business transformation and personal growth. Our guest is none other than Bill Troy, founder of Polaris, a pioneering company that leverages neuroscience to unlock human potential and elevate consulting businesses. He reveals how his business paradigm shifted from control-centered to growth-focused, which ultimately led him to launch the company. Bill unpacks how our brains often blind us to both opportunities and threats hiding in plain sight, and how we can break down the barriers with neuroscience. Bill also touches on navigating entrepreneurial challenges faced by small businesses and the allure of business dynamics. He emphasizes how success lies not in control, but in expanding your capacity. Join us in harnessing neuroscience to revolutionize the consulting landscape, and embracing discomfort as a catalyst for true growth. Tune in now!

Joining us on the show is Bill Troy, who is the Cofounder of Polaris Institute, a community of people utilizing the Polaris process, a science-based approach to life optimization through neurological performance. He’s also the Cofounder of Civilis, a consulting company focusing on proprietary talent acquisition, client acquisition, company culture, and relationship-focused marketing programs.

Bill found a coach to help him find his personal path. He also mentioned hiring a consultant to get clarity to help him and his co-founder grow their company. He dives deep into the personal and professional benefits of doing so. If you want to follow in his footsteps and grow your agency, we are here to help to work directly with the Consulting Success team to receive personal coaching and support. To optimize and grow your consulting business, marketing, and revenue, visit to learn more and apply.

Let me tell you a little bit more about what you’re going to learn from this episode and from Bill. The first is how to find fulfillment beyond your work. How to leverage a coach to grow professionally and personally. How specificity can lead to growth. How to understand human bias in order to fuel innovation and growth. The difference between a starter and a scaler, and why that’s important, and build strategy to win enterprise clients, plus so much more. Here to share with you his full story and insights is Bill Troy. Enjoy.

Bill Troy, welcome.

I’m happy to be here.

Can you walk us through how you split your time between those two? Are you involved in Civilis at all? Give us a sense of how you’re navigating that.

Those are just the two that are publicly known out there. I’ve got two million things going on all the time. Civilis grew out of a marketing firm that my wife and I started together many years ago. It was about marketing from a relationship-based standpoint. It diverged into two different paths. My wife Kim is the person who runs Civilis. She’s the primary consultant. That has evolved into fractional COO in the case of companies that are doing the Entrepreneurial Operating System or Traction which is a fractional integrator. She goes in and helps them get the shifts and trains to run on time and keep things organized.

I’ve gone more in the direction of the human relationship or the more emotional journey of the entrepreneur. That’s what Polaris Institute is about. It’s about trying to figure out how we navigate the human element. It’s great to put a business plan together. We’ve got the plans on paper, and emotional things appear that either drive us forward or hold us back, and all that goes out the window. That’s where Polaris Institute is and that’s where I’m spending most of my time these days.

You started Civilis in 2010 with your wife. It’s been around for quite some time. You’ve described the differences between these two companies, but what ultimately made you decide to extract yourself from that and start Polaris with this new focus? Why not just continue to build that existing consulting business? What was going on that made you shift over?

A lot of entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs because they’re about control trying to control the world around them. Click To Tweet

It’s a personal journey for me. I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time. I had a market research company, TroyResearch, that we started in 1997 with a different business partner Jonathan Little. The company still operates today. He purchased that company and runs it now. We then started Civilis. I found there was something inside of me that wasn’t right. I wanted to go on a different introspective journey. Even though Polaris Institute is about helping consulting and coaching other people, it’s an inner journey for me and for the people involved in it.

One of the things that a lot of people don’t know if they’re not an entrepreneur is what motivates entrepreneurs. Most people think people start businesses to make money. What I learned in my research and my own life was that I was an entrepreneur. A lot of entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs because they’re about control, and trying to control the world around them, “This is what I want to do. This is how much I want to make. This is who’s going to work for me. This is who we’re going to work for.” It becomes about trying to control the entire universe.

We were joking about how I live in the woods here. Even to the point where I’m going to live by myself in the woods behind a gate. You end up manifesting this life you want and entrepreneurship is a seductive path to think you can get there. I found that for me, I was able to control a forceful and compelling personality. We’ve built a company. We’re Inc. 500 and all these things. In the end, control is elusive.

You don’t have control over the universe. I don’t want to get into a whole metaphysical thing, but ultimately you still get older. Pandemics and all these things happen. I’m not in control like I thought I was. I’m putting all this energy into being in control. Many systems that are sold to business owners are about control, “Gets your sales in shape. Whip your team into place.” That’s a long way to say where I’ve been going.

There are elements there that I resonate with. I’ve come to the observation or belief that the only thing that we can ultimately control is ourselves, or how we think about and process what’s happening in our minds and around us. If you can, take us a little bit deeper into your path. When you had that feeling either bubbling up or maybe it was sitting there for a while, a lot of people in a similar position might say to themselves, “I want to do this other thing. This is maybe more the direction I should go.”

Especially if you invested so much time and energy in building a business. I mean in your case it might be different and I’d love it if you could give a little bit more context, but for some people, there is fear around leaving something that they’ve spent so much time building because they might lose income or opportunities. What happens if this new idea doesn’t pan out?

CSP Bill Troy | Elevate Your Consulting Business

Take us through what ultimately gave you the comfort or helped to propel you to take that leap and any lessons that you learned around that. Oftentimes, people have that same feeling inside. They want to try or do something within their business that’s a bit different or something completely different, but they don’t take that step. I’d love to hear a bit more about your experience with that.

It doesn’t seem right to say that you’re blessed and cursed. In some ways, you can be blessed that you’re cursed. You can set up a list of things you want to accomplish in your life and you can check all those boxes off. In a way, that’s where I got to. It’s like, “I have that and I’m not happy. I’m not any happier than I was before when I had nothing or I didn’t do anything.” I basically eliminated every external excuse and realized it’s got to be in here. Happiness isn’t coming from anything external to me. I’ve done it all. I’ve run for decades on marathons, Inc. 500 business, and live in the woods. You start checking these out and it’s like, “What’s left? It’s me.”

This relates back to what you spent a lot of time talking with folks about in this show. It’s the idea of a coach. Polaris grew out of a coach that I used to find my own path personally. What I came to realize was that what I needed to do was go into discomfort. What I was focused on was control. What I really was doing was trying to isolate myself from all discomfort. I want to have whatever whiskey I want to have. I’m trying to eliminate all discomfort in my life. At the point that you eliminated everything that’s uncomfortable and you’ve got everything, it’s like, “It didn’t work.”

What I discovered was that the way to true happiness and true growth is to go through discomfort and embrace it. You use a little analogy here that we use in our Polaris work, which is thinking about physical growth. If you’re going to get better physically, you’re going to get faster, stronger, more flexible, whatever you’re going to do, you’re going to go through some physical discomfort. We all understand you’re going to have sore muscles, out of breath, and sweating. If not, it doesn’t feel good, yet you embrace that because you know that on the other side of that discomfort is better performance, more capacity, and more capability.

You embrace physical discomfort when you’re going through physical training. A lot of us have never realized and never been taught that it’s the same with mental discomfort. You need to go through mental discomfort or the mental and emotional version of sore muscles and being out of breath in order to get stronger and better and have more capacity in that area.

We’re taught in our society that any discomfort you have should be instantly medicated or distracted away with a screen or in a drive-through somehow. Whatever I do not like should be immediately fixed. The idea of going through mental discomfort for me was like, “That’s going to be different and hard.” The journey that I started taking was to find it. That comes back to the idea of having a coach. The role of a coach in your life is to be the person you can trust to take you through that discomfort and know what’s good and bad.

The way to true happiness and true growth is to go through discomfort. Click To Tweet

If you have a physical coach, they know how to tell you to do 1 more lap, not 10 more, but you can handle 1 more. The coach is the person who can say, “This is not feeling good, but this is good. Go a little bit further and now let’s stop.” That’s what you need to have from a mental and emotional standpoint. It is somebody to take, “This is not going to be fun, but you need to go through this.”

I agree with so much of that. My observation has been that for anything that has been meaningful, usually, there is some discomfort or some challenge involved in it. If it’s too easy, you typically don’t appreciate what you’ve created. As you were speaking, it reminded me of that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. You take the path of building a business, and maybe in your case, you’re checking off all these material things, but that’s not why you were doing it.

Different people might think that, but as entrepreneurs, what we tend to enjoy is the journey. The journey is where we have that discomfort. If all of a sudden that discomfort is gone because we’re out the other side and successful, there are no challenges. We’re not being stimulated as much and therefore it’s not as as rewarding.

Thank you for sharing a bit of that. I’d love to know how you then navigate it. For somebody who’s maybe joining us and going, “I know I want to do this thing. I haven’t done it for whatever reason. I can see that I need to go ahead, get started, and give it a go even if I ‘fail’ or have some lessons learned along those lines.” Is there anything that you did when you were transitioning out of this previous consulting business that I know your wife is now leading? Is there anything that you took when you were saying, “I want to make sure this ship still sails and is doing wonderfully as I leave that and focus on this new idea?” Was there anything that you guys did there to make sure that things would continue to work well as you extracted yourself?

I had to make a description of what I wanted the next business to do. What was the purpose of it? Why do I want another company? I like starting companies and new ideas, but what’s the point of this? It needs to have a different point than the last one. For me in particular, that was about giving up control. How do you grow something? I found that my last company was successful. All the companies have been successful, but only as far as I wanted them to be successful. Interestingly, they all were limited as well by my desires. They were supposed to support whatever I wanted in the universe. For me, that was an awakening that I was holding them back. I was the source of power and success and drove them, but then I also limited them.

That’s weird. I never thought about that before. Now with Polaris for example, as a business model, I’m having to explore with my partner and the other people that are involved in the organization, what it looks like to build something that is beyond me and doesn’t need me. Maybe that’s easy for some people. For me, that’s been very difficult because I was out of control. What does that look like? What do you let go of? How do you push but realize that I can’t push for what I want? I have to bring in other voices. It’s a new dance that I’m trying to learn. How to build something that is its own thing?

CSP Bill Troy | Elevate Your Consulting Business

We forget that a company is a legal entity. It’s a legal person. Certainly, if it’s a corporation, it’s a legal person, like you and I. Are we creating a person that can live, survive, grow, and thrive on its own, or are we creating something that’s a slave to us that does whatever we want? The idea of building something that has its own life and systems that keep going beyond us for me is what I’m exploring.

There are those who might be in a similar situation where they know they need to build a team or essentially start delegating more and therefore lose some control in their mind. Are there any lessons that you’ve learned or that you’ve done that you’ve found to be helpful in feeling more comfortable to delegate or delegate more effectively?

For me, it’s all about finding people I can trust. This is one of the things I’m sure you’ve seen as well. Everybody has opinions on what you should do, scale out, or buy, “Do AdWords or whatever.” How to scale your business. How to get sales. Everybody will give you an opinion instantaneously. They’re very confident about it. They show how they’ve helped everybody else do it. You have to find the person who knows you and you can trust when they say, “This is the right thing to do.” You’re like, “It doesn’t feel right, but I’ll trust you because I trust you.” For me, it’s a discernment of finding those people.

That’s the key job. Once you’ve found those people, then you can go forward and trust them. I was talking to a sales consultant about working with our company the other day, and she understood that. She said, “You’ve got to find what’s right for you and the rest of the people on the team.” That’s more important than whether it works. A lot of these work. It’s a matter of whether you feel good about them and whether you feel like it’s a good fit for you. It’s about finding the right person or people because they’re going to tell you to do things you don’t like, which everybody will. The problem is that you don’t know who to trust because they all sound like things you don’t like.

We experienced this when we started to tell our story more on On our story page, we have a little video or a little film. We then have a list of our values and things of that nature. What we found is people started to use that language more when they would reach out to us. I’m sure some people would go through that little film or read our values and read more about the company. It would not resonate with them and that’s okay.

It would push some people away, but it also would attract more of the right people. Our focus is to get more of the kinds of people that resonate with our values and that we are confident we can help. At the same time, we’re not trying to work with everybody. Knowing that there’s that fit is a good insight and share. I appreciate you bringing that forward.

Everybody will give you an opinion instantaneously and they’re very confident about it and they show how it has helped everybody else do it. But you have to find the person that you can trust when they say this is the right thing to do. Click To Tweet

The scary part is being specific because you think when you’re being specific, you’re eliminating all these possibilities. The more specific you can be, the more the right people appear to say, “I’m looking for exactly this client or employee,” or whatever. The more specific you can be, I find that all the time. If I’m sitting down with somebody saying, “We need to hire somebody. Do you know anybody? We need someone that’s this and they had this,” they go, “You got to talk to Fred.” They instantly know a real person. Being more specific is the scary part that works.

Let’s talk about some of the work you’re doing at Polaris. I know you mentioned that neuroscience reveals that you are blind to opportunities and threats hiding in plain sight, which is the more it makes complete sense but it’s a very powerful initial statement. Can you explain what you mean when you say that?

The short version is the new part of this. This has been proven using MRI technology in the last two years or so. We’re at the top of the food chain, but as a species, I’m round, slow, and soft. I have no weapons or defenses. I have nothing. Everything out there in the world is bigger, sharper, meaner, and faster than us. That was even more true back in the jungle of Savannah. How can we keep from getting eaten? Our brains think of every possible contingency and we head it off with a tool, a protective device, a house, or whatever. Our brain is looking for threats to mitigate. We’re addicted to threat mitigation. That’s a whole different topic that we can get into about how addictive our world is in giving us threats to worry about.

How many hours in the world we are thinking about what we would’ve done if we were in a submarine at the bottom of the ocean? We’re never going to go in a submarine at the bottom of the ocean. The whole planet was fixated for a few days on that threat. I would’ve said this, “I wouldn’t have gotten on.” Our brains get fixated on these kinds of things.

Our brain detects and mitigates threats all the time. The challenge is there’s an engineering problem with our brain. That is our brain is expensive to use from an energy perspective. Our brain i always looking to mitigate all these threats as easily and cheaply as possible. It doesn’t want to reprocess every single time you pick up a fork, “What is this sharp thing? What do I do with this?” “It’s a fork. Just use it.”

Your brain then memorizes everything it can that you’ve experienced in your life and then uses the version from memory whenever possible, “This is how you tie your shoes.” You couldn’t even explain how you tied your shoes. I don’t know what the steps are. I just do it. Driving your car and going to work without even knowing you did it. Your brain runs on autopilot from memory almost all the time. It doesn’t feel like that. I can feel myself sitting in this chair talking to you, but my brain knows what it feels like to sit in this chair. My brain is going, “Pull up that old feeling of how to sit in this chair and give that experience. My brain is giving me the experiences that it knows I should be feeling right now.

CSP Bill Troy | Elevate Your Consulting Business

The point is that once it knows that, it keeps using that version without ever checking to see if it’s still accurate. A great one from a business standpoint is money. We all learned what money was at some point in our youth or young adulthood. There was some moment when money made sense. When I was fourteen, my parents were getting shoes for the school year. They wanted to get the Sears canvas. I’m like, “No, the Adidas.” “When you get your own job and your own money, you can decide what shoes you can get.” I’m like, “Okay.” I know what money is. Money is no one can tell me what to do ever again because I can make my own decisions.

The point is that my brain locked that in that is what money is. For the next 50 years, the more money I have, fewer people can tell me what to do. It runs on autopilot. You don’t even think about it anymore. You don’t even realize that you’re thinking that. That’s how you end up with a scarcity mindset, abundance mindset, money is value, or money is love. The point is that you keep acting as though that’s true when in fact it’s just one version of what’s true. It’s what was true for me at fourteen. It doesn’t have to be true anymore.

We never go back and check. Our brains never go, “Let’s check to see if we have a good version that’s healthy of what money is in our current life, love, success, health, or anything else.” The point is that our brain is creating our experience from its past memories and it never checks to see if they’re valid anymore. The ability to stop and figure out, “This is what I think is true. Is it really true?” It is the first step to being able to change what you see. Many of the things that drive us forward or hold us back are things like that from our past that keep running on autopilot.

I know that you work with both leaders and their teams in this area. Can you offer another example or two that you see pop up in a business context that people might be dealing with either consciously or subconsciously as part of the business landscape that is related to this?

It sounds weird but it gets down to very small things. I’ll give you two quick examples. One, we’re doing a lot of work in DE&I these days. We have a lot of discussions internally in the company about the word bias. Bias is a term that seems negative. You don’t want to have bias. You have bias. In fact, our entire brains operate 100% of the time on bias. I’m biased about what’s for lunch. I don’t even see a salad. I see a hamburger when I think of lunch. That’s bias.

What are you hungry for? What do you want? Where do you want to go? What movie do you want to see? All that is bias. The idea that we are all 100% biased all the time then destigmatizes and normalizes bias to say we have to stop and realize we’re all biased because all our brain knows is what it’s ever seen in the past. We have to stop and go, “What else could be possible?” We can use that in multiple ways. If we have a team, each person’s bias is another perspective on reality that we can use to see multiple versions of reality.

The scary part in being specific is because you think, when you’re being specific, you’re eliminating all these possibilities. But the more specific you can be, the more the right people appear. Click To Tweet

We can see different possibilities. It’s fantastic for innovation. From a biased standpoint, we can realize we have groupthink going on. It’s an okay thing. No one is good or bad. It’s just the way our brains work. I’ll give you one little microscopic example that’s so small but can be so huge. One of the stories my partner talks about is, “What is a decision?” That’s like, “A decision is where you choose something,” but it turns out it’s not. In her case, she has a view of what a decision is as something that creates possibilities. A decision allows us to see more options beyond that like we’ve decided now we can move on to the next thing.

A decision is an energizing path-creation tool for her. She likes making decisions. Her husband who she was in business for years as well is a person who believes a decision is an endpoint. A decision eliminates possibilities because you’ve eliminated all the possibilities besides the one you chose, which is true. It turns out they’re both true. If you’re trying to work with someone and one person believes a decision need to be made we can have more options available to us, or a decision needs to be delayed until we have every possible thing we could ever think of, there’s friction there.

Those two people can’t get along and decide anything together. It’s something as simple as, “What is a decision?” The joke that she always makes is that when they were working together in their company, their employees used to say, “If you want a decision made, ask Anna. If you want the right decision made, ask Austin because he’ll take the time to figure it out.” The point is that fundamental things like that get in the way of a team. You’re driving each other nuts because one of them won’t make a decision. One of them is making a decision without half-baked. It’s all that stuff that becomes the human element that you have to navigate to succeed on a team.

That’s a very interesting example. That’s one I’ve thought quite a bit about. I’m interested in your perspective and what you’ve observed over the years. You’ve run multiple companies, Inc. 500 companies, and so forth. If we use those two examples of Anna and Austin, from what I’ve seen, it feels like the more successful entrepreneurs or if we look at percentages, those that tend to make decisions even without having all the information and those that look at “It’s better to make a decision and learn from it than delay making a decision” tend to make a lot more progress and be more successful in the business world. Is that true from your experience or not?

I don’t have data to back it up. As a person who is a quick decision-maker, I’m going to say go decisions. It’s probably one of those things where everything we find is always both a blessing and a curse. It’s always a two-edged sword. I could be an example of that where I have great initial success and then I get bored and move on to something else. Maybe I’m a good starter but I’m not a good scaler. In fact, that’s one of the things that’s happening. We mentioned Kim is running Civilis now. She’s a scaler. I’m a starter. There’s no right or wrong, but starters probably make decisions faster, and scalers are probably more deliberate.

There’s definitely a place for both, and both are very valuable. If I think about an investment firm, you need to have those that are also going to pull you back a little bit, get all the facts, and help you to make better decisions. In entrepreneurship, at least at a certain level, if you’re not taking action because you’re holding back all the time, it’s hard to make progress. That was the point. Once you started Polaris in 2021, you’re leveraging neuroscience and the kinds of things that you’re talking about to help leaders and teams perform better or be more successful.

CSP Bill Troy | Elevate Your Consulting Business

Is this something that you found took off right away? Was this a hard sell to get people to see the value of bringing in neuroscience and this kind of approach, or did people see the value in it right away and it took off? Did it require a bit of education on your part? What has been your experience of offering and selling something that maybe isn’t top of mind for people right away potentially or is it top of mind? What has your experience been with that?

We’ve found that it is top of mind in certain circles. That’s more of an enterprise-type of circle. Entrepreneurial companies aren’t typically at the point where they’re working on something that nuanced. When you’re talking about enterprise companies, they are thinking about that. They’re wrestling with massive human resource issues from the pandemic, work from home, and the idea of what mental health is. They have been very open to this because they’re looking for a new solution. In fact, this idea of mental health is something that we’ve been able to explain to them. They’ve only been focused on mental health repair. You think of a physical repair like hospitals and doctors, “You have a broken leg.” That’s great. That gets you back in the game. We’re talking about getting stronger like a workout regimen or a gym.

They’ve focused on adding mental health resources to help people take days off to recover. If you’re in a team environment that’s like you’re going to the sidelines and recuperating. You go into the locker room. You’re not with the team anymore. We’re talking about how the team works to get stronger and faster together. They have seen the gap there. They have to figure it out. For example, in our case, our mental health and mental growth program isn’t as attractive in the HR department as it is in the operations department. It’s like, “We can attach this to our business metrics so we can get stronger and faster, and build capacity from a mental and emotional standpoint.”

Did you see that right away or did you try a different direction and different path? I’m wondering when you took this new offering to the market, what did you initially see, and then did you have to make some pivots and adjustments to get to where you are now?

I definitely have to make some pivots. I was listening to your interview with Jamie Douraghy. Jamie and I are both EO members and so are Anna and my partners. We’re both in the entrepreneurial world where a lot of self-starters and self-built companies. Since we’re at that place in life, we were exploring these topics. We thought this would be the same thing for our peers. People will want to explore this. It wasn’t quite the case. You reach a phase in your business life where you realize at some point, “I have more gray hair than you.”

You have more hair than I do.

Our brain is detecting and mitigating threats all the time. The challenge is there’s an engineering problem with our brain. And that is our brain is really expensive to use from an energy perspective. Click To Tweet

There is going to be life beyond your business. You’re going to sell it at some point. It’s going to end at some point. You’re going to retire at some point. Life will go on for 20, 30, 40, or 50 years. I don’t know. I know some very young entrepreneurs that have had big exits. Now they’re like, “I got a huge bank account and it’s just Tuesday. What am I doing today?” There is something beyond business. I think a few of us from the entrepreneurial world who are involved with Polaris are in that phase. Most people in the entrepreneurial world are still building their businesses and working toward that.

I’m wondering. How were you able to identify that your program or your offer with Polaris was a great fit for enterprise as opposed to mid-market or even smaller businesses? Where did that learning take place? What happened? Was it a series of conversations? If you could, walk us through how you get to that level of clarity where you go, “This is where we should focus as opposed to other areas of the market.”

We hired a consultant to do the research project for us and to talk to prospects that we had, people who had been through our program, and prospects we had that we hadn’t closed. Apparently, we closed these opportunities. She also has people she knows in the enterprise world herself. We did a research project to find out, “What is this space? What’s the gap? What can Bill and Anna not see about their own company that they’re missing?” That was the answer for us. It’s to get someone that we could trust to take us into some discomfort there and go, “This makes sense.”

The funny thing is we’re still working through it because there’s a whole different language. You’re selling something into an enterprise versus selling it to an entrepreneurial type of customer. It’s a completely different language, a different buying and selling process, so much longer cycle, and different conversations. We’re even still learning that terminology in the language to be able to communicate that.

How quickly would you say that you started to see some traction there? From the time that you made that adjustment to say, “We’re going to focus more on enterprise,” was it the next day that you started to see people being more receptive? Did it take several months? What did that look like in terms of once you knew where the bullseye was and you started going towards it? When did that start to show you some promise there?

I would say days. It was quick. It’s funny when you hit on the right thing because we were pounding and pounding away in the wrong direction. All of a sudden, it clicks in. In fact, we’re in the process of redoing all of our website and marketing materials to go in this new direction. We already have leads. We’re going to close one that already appeared before we can even get the stuff done. When you hit on the right recipe, all of a sudden, they appear.

Everything we find is always about the blessing and a curse. It’s always a two-edged sword. Click To Tweet

We talk to our clients about this all the time. If you’re not clear on who your ideal client is, your messaging doesn’t resonate with them, and you’re saying the wrong thing to the wrong person, it’s a struggle. The moment that you reach that tipping point or that connection of the right message to the right person, things start to shift in a positive way. That’s great that it has been your experience. I am also wondering, how do you take this to market from a pricing perspective? What are you offering? How did you know what to price these programs and your offers in the work that you’re doing? How do you get to that structure that you’re using?

We took two directions to get there. One is we were able to find some of that from the research, like who we are up against out there. This is an interesting thing because we’re a startup at this point still and we’re going up against some big consulting firms out there. How do we differentiate ourselves? It turns out that in our case in that space, all of a sudden, we went from the price being a huge issue all the time constantly to suddenly being not an issue at all.

Do you mean when you’re targeting smaller companies, the price was a major issue, and the moment you went to enterprise, then the price was insignificant?

As we say, if we can move the needle, whatever, it doesn’t matter what it costs.

How does your price then stack up? You’re going against much larger firms. Is the strategy and the thinking to try and be at the same level as them? Is it to be more than or to be less than them? How do you think about that in comparison to these more established players?

We’re still learning that. We don’t have quite the granularity on that, that we would like. It’s been more about, “Let’s price it.” We’ve started with the talent we need on the team and say, “What is the best talent in the world going to cost and what kind of opportunities does that create?” That’s where the price needs to be. We haven’t hit a ceiling on it yet. We’re still experimenting with that. A client used to say, “That’s a lot.” We now had a client that said, “Price is not going to be the thing we decide on here.”

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What else have you done specifically around competing with larger companies? What do you talk about internally? What are some things that you are thinking about and talking about or maybe you’ve already done that so you can go ahead and go toe-to-toe, win business, and take business away from some of these larger companies? Many times, smaller firms or independent consultants feel they can’t compete. We might as well not even try and enter that ring if there’s a more established player. That’s exactly what you’re doing. I’d love it if you could share any lessons or best practices or things you’re talking about internally in relation to that.

Our plan is to scale up by bringing people in to build out a coaching or consultant framework network. If I try to go and get into those companies, I won’t succeed. They don’t know me. I don’t have relationships. I don’t speak the language. I’ll be stumbling through it. We need to find people in that world. My experience is that there are a lot of people in the world who are say 55 to 60 years old. They’ve spent 20 or 25 years in a certain industry like wall bearings, pharmaceuticals, or whatever.

Somehow, they kept being cast out through some reorganization or exit. Now, they’re trying to figure out what to do. A lot of them become consultants and coaches. Our plan is to bring people on from those spaces and provide them with a framework that would work for the companies that they work with where they already know people. They have relationships. They don’t have experience being a coach. Our plan is to find people from those worlds.

You provide almost the license, framework, and training for them, and then you’ll build a network that will then apply your intellectual property. They’ll need to generate their own leads through their network or whatever else they’re doing. They’ll be armed with your system and tools to go to market. The other thing I’m interested in is family business. The Civilis, before your wife, looking at the website, it looks like there’s maybe more than one family member that is part of the company. Can you talk about that for a moment in terms of who’s involved from your family and what that experience has been like?

My brother is involved with Civilis with my wife Kim. There are two Troys on that website. I’m involved sometimes with some projects and Kim is advising me. She’s the brains of the family. She’s the Fortune 500 executive in the family. I’m a self-made entrepreneur. She also has opinions on this corporate direction and the enterprise direction Polaris is taking. One of the challenges in our case is that all of us are alphas and, “How do you figure out who’s in charge today?”

We’ve divided things up to make that clear, but we also have different strengths. A lot of times, I feel like trying to put together an all-star team for the Olympics for basketball. Every person who comes to the all-star team is the person on their team or the man or the woman playing against a female or male in the team. They are used to being the star. How do they learn to play together? That’s a whole different thing. That’s what we spend a lot of time talking about. The way you have to do that is to be transparent about it. The issue out there is, “This is what I think and don’t think. These are my issues.” It goes back to some of those things you were talking about, “What’s the decision?” That’s where you’re driving each other nuts.

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“You went off and did what? You didn’t even ask us. Can’t you make that? Let’s go.” It’s that sort of stuff. This happens with clients too, not just family members in a family company. We did this with a client that is in space launching things into orbit for NASA. We sat there with a team of people who were the most brilliant on the planet. We said, “Write down three things that could keep this company from succeeding and keep these base vehicles from not making it?” What are those things? There wasn’t a single intellectual informational thing on the list. There was no worry about rocket nozzles or launch trajectories. It was all about infighting and politics. It was all the interpersonal stuff. Ultimately, it’s about that, whether it’s a family company or a big enterprise.

My cousin Sam is a cofounder here. We’ve built different businesses over the years. I completely agree. It’s been my experience as well to have an open line of communication, be very transparent, be direct when you need to, get on the same page, and do whatever is necessary to do so. It’s been our recipe for success in that area.

We also have a little decision-making process we use too. The short version is that everyone gets their say, but everyone doesn’t get their way. Before we have some decision that needs to be made, “Who’s the decision maker?” The first decision to make is who the decision maker is. Someone has to make a decision and we all have to support whatever they decide whether we agree with it or not. “Jack, you’re the decision maker on this.” It could be somebody not even in the company. It could be the receptionist or whatever. Somebody that’s going to roll and we’re all going to go, “I didn’t win that one, but I’m going. I’m going to salute it.” The big thing. It’s deciding that you’re going to support the decision versus having to win the argument.

We’ve done something similar in Consulting Success where we’ve broken down the different departments or functions of the company, and essentially assigned the decision-maker for each one of those, and who else may be working with them. I’m wondering, is that something you’ve been doing for a while? What has been the result of doing that?

We’ve done it for a long time. We’ve probably done it for 15 or 20 years and I love it. I don’t say it’s a game, but it’s almost like extra fun to even come up with someone unique to be the decision maker, to call in someone and they’re going to be the decision maker on this. It helps to lighten things up and realize, “It’s one decision. We can change it later, but let’s go and then make the best case, and then make the decision and go.”

It’s also powerful to get people to give you more responsibility and ownership. As you said, make a decision. If it doesn’t work out, then at least learn from it. You’re giving people the ability to feel like it’s something that they own. They’re going to want to show up and do their best to increase their chances of being successful. A couple of final questions before we wrap up. Inside of Polaris, as well as maybe the other consulting company, anything right now that you’re doing with AI or anything that you’re thinking about when it comes to AI, and and how you might leverage it inside of your business?

The biggest thing we’re doing with Polaris right now is helping our clients work through the emotional impact of AI.

Expand on that for a moment.

There are way smarter people than us that are working on the technology. That’s not plenty of that, but employees and business owners are fearful of what this means because they don’t know what it means. “What could it mean? Is my job, my company, or my entire industry going away?” We are spending a lot of time helping people work through the emotional load of that, “Do you stay on task? How do you floor it?” Figure out what’s going on, stay on top of it, and not let it distract you because that’s one of those things right now.

We talked about how your brain is a threat detection and mitigation addict. The media is feeding us. There is AI and there are changes happening, but you have to be careful not to be swallowed up by the fear of AI that you stop taking action now. You start fixating on story after story of AI because the media will give you that and freeze you. There’s paranoia. We’re spending time working with clients and helping to work through the emotions of that.

One other final question here and then we’ll make sure people can learn where they should go to get more information about Civilis and Polaris Institute. Is there a book that you have either read or listened to in the last six months that you feel has been very helpful for you? It could be fiction or nonfiction, but something that has been helpful in your journey or maybe something you enjoyed that you might recommend to others.

I want to mention this because you often ask people about habits. I want to mention one that’s going to be very controversial with people that I did about five years ago, which was to turn the TV off. I don’t watch TV and that’s a shock. My wife and I go to the movies sometimes. I’m not in front of the television at all. That seems crazy to some people. What happens then is that an amazing number of hours appear in your life. You didn’t realize you were being swallowed up. It’ll be 7:00 and you’re like, “I got 3 or 4 hours before I go to bed. What am I going to do? I don’t know what to do.” That then leads to great things to read and other things to do.

That’s why I mention turning the TV off. I want to mention three books. The first two are Polaris-related. One that was pivotal for me when we were putting Polaris together is called How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett. She’s a Boston University professor who explains from a physiological standpoint why we are emotional, what the points of emotions are, where they come from, and how they happen. It helps to see things from a functional standpoint because when you’re in an emotional state, it feels like that’s reality and it’s not. It’s something your brain has created.

From a change management standpoint, we try to tell everybody to work with James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. Start with the basic things one step at a time. You’ve got to sneak up on change. You can’t let it happen. The last one was for fun. One of the things I started doing with a friend of mine was when I turned the TV off and we did a Zoom book club to give her something to talk about. I’ve been reading for fun Undaunted Courage, which is the story of Lewis and Clark’s expedition.

From a business standpoint, if you want to read about hard work, these guys dragged tons and tons of stuff in boats up the Missouri River against the current, slower than they could walk. Every day Lewis or Clark would get out and walk the shore. They could walk faster. They meet them at the next camp. That’s hard work for 1,500 miles to pull 5 tons of stuff up a river on a boat. There’s some perspective for you.

There you have it for this episode between Michael and Bill. If you enjoy this show, as always, be sure that you hit that subscribe button wherever you listen to your favorite shows. If you want to help support the show, you can do so by heading over to Apple Podcasts where you’ll have a chance to leave a rating and review. Ratings and reviews truly help our show grow and get in front of more people like you.

Also, a reminder to visit If you want to work directly with the Consulting Success team to receive personal coaching and support to optimize and grow your consulting business, marketing, and revenue. That’s the end of the line for us for this episode. We look forward to talking to you again in the next episode. Until next time.

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