The Power Of Radical Honesty In Consulting With Jeremiah Shirk: Podcast #325

This post was originally published on this site

In consulting, there is bound to be times when you’re confronted with the difficult decision between telling the client hard truths or avoiding ruffling feathers. Today’s guest believes that there is power in radical honesty and that it can be the key differentiator that brings success to your consulting business.

In this episode with Jeremiah, you’ll learn how to:

  • Transform decision-making with data-driven insights for your business.
  • Simplify complex issues with effective problem-solving techniques.
  • Boost your RFP success rate using Jeremiah’s innovative strategy.
  • Collaborate with fellow consultants on large-scale projects for maximum impact.
  • Leverage LinkedIn to amplify your brand and messaging strategy.

Book your complimentary growth session call here

Connect with Jeremiah on LinkedIn

Visit Jeremiah’s Website

Joining Michael on the show is Jeremiah Shirk, the CEO of Showpiece Solutions, where he acts as a non-traditional business consultant coach or COO. His methodology involves addressing complex organizational issues, fostering clarity and forward momentum. His experience includes roles as director of operations for the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee and chief of staff at the Department of Public Works in Indianapolis.

Before we dive into this episode, are you ready to grow and take your consulting business to the next level? Many of the clients we work with started as readers like you. A consistent theme they have shared with us is they wished they had reached out sooner about our Clarity Coaching Program rather than waiting for that perfect time. If you’re interested in learning more about how we help consultants like you, we are offering a free, no-pressure growth session call.

We’re on the call. We will dive deep into your goals, challenges and situation and outline a plan that is tailor-made for you. We will also help you identify where you may be making costly and time-consuming mistakes to ensure you’re benefiting from proven methods and strategies to grow your consulting business. Don’t wait years to find clarity. If you’re committed and serious about reaching a new level of success in your consulting business, go ahead and schedule your free grow session call. Visit to book your free call.

Now let me tell you a little bit more about what you’re going to learn in this episode with Jeremiah. First is how to transform decision-making with data-driven insights for your company, how to simplify complex issues with effective problem-solving techniques and how to boost your RFP success rate using Jeremiah’s innovative strategy. Also, how to collaborate with federal consultants on large-scale projects for maximum impact and how to leverage LinkedIn to amplify your brand and messaging strategy, plus so much more. Here to share with you his story and insights is Jeremiah Shirk. Enjoy.

Jeremiah, welcome.

Thank you, Michael. It’s an honor to be here. Thanks for having me.

Yeah, I’m excited to dive into our conversation and I definitely want to explore your most successful project and work that you’ve done to this point in your business. I thought that we’d start off by going back in time when you looked at your career and I know you had an interesting career in terms of working in different places, not always being corporate business world and so forth. I wonder what experience prior to starting your own consulting business do you feel was most helpful and valuable as you now look with the benefit of hindsight?

I was thinking about a similar question earlier and when I was in junior high school, we were in a small school, so there were like 300 kids, 7th and 8th grade, and we were in an old elementary school that could barely house that many people. I was a manager for the boys’ basketball team, and we had to share one gym for practices and someone would practice early in the afternoon and another team would come in at 5:30, 6:00 at night. On the occasions that we had the 5:30 or 6:00 at night practice, the custodians and janitorial staff would always take their dinner break and I would always pop down to say hello and see what they were doing and chat and talk.

My mom said at one point, “You’re good at being able to have a conversation with anybody no matter their walk of life or their station or whatever they’re working on.” I thought about that because that led me into coaching and teaching and then to some of these other things. The crux of all of that is in that junior high setting, the janitor, the teachers, the coaches and the administration are all serving one goal, which is the betterment of the students in that building, but they’re all doing it differently. The janitorial staff keeps the place clean, the teachers try to teach and educate, the coaches are trying to teach sports and the administrator coordinates all of it.

They have a different way of reaching the overarching goal, but they’re able to do it together, rowing in the same direction. I think that has struck me as one of the narratives that have gone through my career to be able to understand different constituencies and be able to talk to them and understand the. They then make sure that as we’re moving either through a project or through an initiative, each one of those stakeholders gets what they need to be successful in order for the overall thing to be successful. I think that exemplifies what we’ve tried to do here with Showpiece Solutions and how I approach that work. It’s been there regardless of what industry or what work I’ve been doing. It started 100 ago when I was a kid, being a manager for a junior high basketball team.

That’s a great story and I think though you and I have the opposite in hairstyles, we definitely have alignment around the importance of connecting with people in all walks of life and not only being able to do it but probably enjoying it. As you translate that into working with organizations or as a consultant or a leader of a team or in different firms, being able to connect with different people at different levels of the organization is super important. I think even more than that, it’s like empathy and to try and understand and recognize that what they’re going through is different. As you said, in that situation, they’re all working towards supporting the same thing but they have different things going on in their lives that might influence how they show up.

Leadership Lessons From Public Service

For a consultant working with a client or an organization, it’s like you forget you’re working with maybe your one main client, but you need to get everybody on board to ultimately support the vision or to support that change. I think that’s a great story. You worked in politics as well and I wonder what that taught you because for those that have not worked in politics, me being one of those people, I have no idea what it’s like. I’ve talked with many people over the years who have. I’d love to hear about your experience around working in politics and if there is anything from that that you were maybe able to pull into now being a business leader and working with clients and all the stuff that you do. What stands out for you?

There are some rich experiences in public service and I would recommend anyone that has the chance to do it because every day is different and you’ll learn something along the way every single day. It’s hard, but it’s also fun because it’s challenging. The thing that sticks out to me is building an organization or an agency, I may say political versus Political because again, it goes back to everyone trying to reach some excellence and what they’re doing, it just may not have the rhetoric around it.

They’re trying to get there in their own way and there might be an overarching rhetoric that gets us into that Political space. I like to keep it the nuts and bolts. I had the opportunity to work in municipal government and some other areas, but the municipal government piece is interesting because I was working in the Midwest and mayors in the Midwest get elected and reelected by their ability to pick up trash, to plow snow and to fill potholes.

Every day is different in public service. You’ll learn something along the way every single day. Click To Tweet

I’m sitting in Nashville, Tennessee as we record this and we’re in the midst of a little bit of a snowstorm here and that doesn’t happen here very often, but it reminds me of we were working and my agency was in public work, so we were responsible for those things I told you that gets mayors reelected. We were having some pushback from some elected officials and residents in the city related to the efficacy of the snowplowing operation.

When I asked those questions of our public information officer and our operations team, they told me, “We’re out there. We’re doing it, it’s happening. It’s just people aren’t seeing it always happen or they think that we’ve skipped over their road, etc.” I thought there had to be a better way for us to tell this story while we’re out there on the news every day saying snow plows are out 24/7. We have this many crew. We’re using this material. When I say material, I mean road salt and the like and these are the numbers behind it.

We weren’t giving enough transparency into the agency for people to believe it. I had talked with our operations team and said, “How are we sure that the folks that are out there plowing the street are hitting the routes and doing the things they’re supposed to?” They said, “They radio in when they finish a route and it goes into what’s called Snow Force Software System. We’re able to track where people have been and what they’re doing.”

I said, “That’s so interesting.” I called our IT people and said, “Is there a way to build a communications bridge between what we’re already doing onto an adjustable GIS map so that we can now use this for our communications team and it creates accountability for our team.” Now we’ve built communications and transparency, which leads to an overarching accountability for the work that we’re doing.

It was highly successful in that the amount of complaints was reduced immediately and the ability of our operations team and leadership to go look and say, “Why are we missing things in District 2 and/or why is District 2 four hours ahead of District 1?’ It created space for people to ask better questions so we could have better answers in our communications channels. I tell that story to say transparency is important because it leads to accountability which then informs your communication strategy so that everyone can feel like they have the information they need to understand what’s happening and also to tell us if we’re wrong. Without those things, everything’s wrong and we had no ability to answer it.

How would you maybe take that same example and apply it to maybe something from within your business right now from working with clients? Is there a situation where that same approach to transparency to focusing more on communication that you could talk about or share?

Data-Driven Success

I had a project actually it’s similar in the framework, if you will. The senior leadership felt like they had a personnel and a people problem. I was able to dive in. By the way, the work we do here, it’s not transactional. This is deep work. We dive in, we sit next to you and we try to become a part of what you’re doing so we can understand it as we’ve talked here earlier in the episode. The overarching question was, “We think we have a people problem, can you come to help us solve this?” “Sure, let me take a look.” The data showed that they did have a people problem but if you dove into the qualitative data and talked to their team, what was happening is they had a systems problem.

That’s where the snowing operation is the same idea. It’s the people versus systems and there was a gap in the systems that now allow the people to be successful. In the recent scenario, we found that they could throw as many people at these issues as they wanted. The command and control and the infrastructure around the work those people were supposed to be doing weren’t there in a position to support them for them to be successful. It’s going to continue to spiral into this, “We have a people problem.”

We figured that out through candid conversations with people up and down the chart to understand where the failure points were and where the pain points were. We then took a comprehensive look at what they were actually trying to accomplish and then be able to say, “Here are the three failure points along the way that make it look like you have a personnel or people problem and in fact, you have a structural problem related to the systems you have in place.”

At the beginning of that engagement, before maybe the proposal was signed or agreement signed before you actually went into the building, did you have a sense that it was not a people problem and that there might be more going on or were you thinking, “The client says this is a people problem, let’s go and fix the people problem?” What was your perspective on that early on?

Consulting Success Podcast | Jeremiah Shirk | Honesty In Consulting

I always take folks for their word and what they say, but I also will ask them harder questions than they may have thought through. It usually starts with, “How can we think about this differently?” Everyone has an idea about what that might look like, but it also gives you a glimpse into the areas where they aren’t necessarily exploring it but they’ve had the thought. You can peel the onion back on some of those things and see if there’s any fruit on the other side of it by asking questions like that.

I had a contractor working with me on that particular project and she always laughed because every time we engaged with the client, I would always end the conversation with, “What have we not asked you that we should have?” You’re always going to get rich information out of that because they’re expecting one avenue here and we may drill down through that and I may have been able to explore some areas that they hadn’t thought about previously, but the same holds true for them. They might have expected me to be working down Avenue B, if you will, and we didn’t touch on that enough. That allows us even further conversation which, again, starts to build that trust and transparency so that we can have candid and hard conversations when we need to.

What percentage of your business is public sector?

I would say it’s roughly about 50/50, frankly. Some of it’s in connection with other firms doing work for public entities.

I asked that question because oftentimes people’s experience with public sector work, especially if they’re new to it, it’s very slow-moving. It’s hard to even get in with the RFPs and these big documents. You have a unique experience or maybe angle or view on this because you’ve worked inside the public sector. You now also consult and work with clients inside the public sector. What do you think people often misunderstand or don’t see that if they saw it, if they truly understood it, they would likely be more successful working with public sector clients.

Generally, folks have a tendency to take what’s in the RFQ or the RFP and respond to that and that only, and they spend a lot of time in those documents saying, “Here’s everything we’ve done in the history of our company and here’s why we’re relevant.” If you’re responding to that RFP or RFQ, you’re already relevant to some degree and the qualifications, in my mind, become a secondary or tertiary priority rather than do you understand what we’re asking you to do and what value you can bring to that question or that issue and hit me with that early.

I say all that because that’s how I wanted to read those things when I was sitting in that chair. On this side of it, it’s hard to respond to an RFP or an RFQ and not jump in with, “Here’s why we’re credible and here’s the history of our firm and all the things we’ve done. By the way, here’s our project approach. Here are the things we’re thinking about. Here’s how we can help you.”

You fight it all day long. One response, you might do it, the next response you can’t because you can’t get yourself to get away from trying to create your credibility off the bat. To me, it would be refreshing if people and even folks receiving them or would write them in a way, “Tell us what you’re bringing to us. What is the value and what are we not thinking about,” and then give us that stuff on the back end and we’ll look at credentials and so on after the later down in the priority list.

What do you think about public sector work from the perspective of private sector clients you can directly interact? You can build that relationship, there’s a lot more “control” over that process. Whereas with the public sector, in many cases, you may not actually know who the real buyer is or it’s hard to get a direct line to talk with that decision maker before you submit your response to your proposal.

I’m wondering in terms of when you think about growing your business and what you can control and what you can’t control, how do you personally go into thinking about selecting to work with the public versus private sector? Of course, you have a 50/50 balance so there’s some diversification there but how do you think about those two lines of business?

Transparency is important because it leads to accountability, which then informs your communication strategy. Click To Tweet

In a couple of ways. From the public sector perspective, of course, once those requests are on the street, staff can’t talk to anybody. The relationships have to be built long before that work hits the ground. That may not ever go anywhere but that’s the challenge with business development for any industry, frankly. You learn and some of the stories we talked about already, if you can build those relationships, people are paying attention to what you’re doing and then when you’re able to respond to those documents when they hit the street, it helps you do that.

For me, the public-private relationship building doesn’t change because that’s how I approach all of it and that’s where all of my work to date has come from. I have not had a client that hasn’t been a return client in the history of my firm because of the relationships we build. As I said earlier, we sit alongside and we need to help them become successful so that they achieve what they need to do.

By the way, we’ll probably make it better and that helps them build a legacy moving forward. Every client that I’ve had to date has re-engaged in another project or initiative since the day we opened the door. That’s something I’m proud of. That also makes some of the work and business development even more challenging because now, you’ve got to continue to keep those relationships intact, full and strong while you’re going out to build the others.

What’s the word of mouth? It’s the strategic partnerships. I think that as a consultant, we have a tendency in the industry to say, “We can help you. We’re smart.” We don’t always take that advice for ourselves. I’ve done a couple of things internally to help the firm be better but certainly looking for strategic partners to go get some of that work and maybe tie into the work they’re doing so we can talk about it from an overarching package rather than each of us trying to fight for some piece or some RFP back to the public sector space. Those strategic partnerships and those relationships are, to your point, a fast track on that long runway in public work.

You mentioned that every client that you’ve had since you opened the company has come back at some point for additional work. I think that’s a situation that most consultants and firm owners would love to be in. That’s a very positive thing. You said that’s a result of working closely, caring, being human and investing in the relationship. All that sounds great, but that’s the same thing that anybody might be able to say.

I’d love it if I could push you a little bit more there. What I’m trying to get at is what could somebody maybe learn from what you’re doing? What’s maybe something tactical or something that you’ve done that you think others don’t do or don’t do enough that is paramount and key to that return recurring line business from clients?

Radical Honesty

I think it’s answering the next question and solving the next problem. I talked about candor earlier and there are times when I’m going to say things that they don’t like and I don’t think a lot of people in the industry want to ruffle feathers or upset the client kind of guy. I’m a guy that’s going to say it and we’re going to deal with it. It depends.

Some people don’t even know how to bring that up for the exact reason that you mentioned it. Is there some language or specific words that you use? For example, do you ask, “I’d love to share something with you that X. Is that okay with you,” or do you come out and say it? What’s your approach?

It depends on the setting, frankly. I think there are a couple of different ways you could do it. For example, if you have something that you’re going to say to a client, I’m thinking back to the systems problem, not the people problem client, I knew I needed to give them some challenging feedback. We went to happy hour and dinner and they’re like, “What do you think? How’s it going?” I’m like, “We’ll write the report. We’ll get some actionable items back to you but this is going to hurt.”

You throw the test balloon a little bit. I then pulled the CEO aside in a later meeting before we presented to his leadership team and said, “Here are the things that we’re going to talk about in this report and I need to make sure that you’re okay with it and/or if you want me to tone down the tenor or the delivery, whatever.” I expected copious edits and that request and he said, “No, you’re good. Go ahead.”

Consulting Success Podcast | Jeremiah Shirk | Honesty In Consulting

Now we’re in the full leadership team and that was essentially the support the CEO gave for me to say, “Here’s everything. I promised you when we started this engagement to be completely candid and full transparency on everything we’ve done and you saw that in the report. Now I’m going to give you our thoughts and our tactics to help move you forward If you so choose to do that. We think this is the right way to move forward. Let’s argue about it, let’s discuss it, let’s agree or disagree and then build a priority system coming out of that.”

That’s an example of how to do it. There are multiple ways, but the other way you would do it is on the front end. You would ask challenging questions when you’re looking at this qualitative data to try to understand where their triggers are, where they’re sensitive, where they’re not, and how you might be able to use those to the advantage of not only the work you’re doing but the firm moving forward. Some of that, you’re getting them to think about things a little bit differently. That allows you to deliver some more critical feedback if it’s so required and it’s not always required. To answer your question, in this scenario, it was required and that’s how we went about it.

You make an important point and I think that’s an area that many consultants, even sometimes those that have been in the business for many years hesitate or feel a little bit uncomfortable around, which is giving real candid feedback and being direct with clients. In my experience over last couple of decades, it’s that’s what good clients want. A good client doesn’t bring on a consultant because they want to hear the same things or have a yes person around them. They’re already surrounded by those kinds of people. They want help. They want change and so they’re looking for a real expert like that.

You’ve mentioned throughout the conversation so far, Jeremiah, we. Explain we. What does the company look like in terms of the structure and because I know you’ve also talked about contractors and bringing people on, so explain to everybody joining us, what your company looks like. The structure and number of people? Lay that out.

It started with me and an email address, as they all do. My first client actually was trying to hire me full time and I said, “What if we think about this differently as we’ve discussed here?” Essentially, I said, “I don’t think I can have the impact you want me to have if I’m inside the organization. Would you consider building a different relationship here?” That’s where the shingle went out and they became my first client and have been a client from day one.

That was fun and exciting and scary as everyone that’s on your show with you talks about. I say we for the firm, I try to think of the firm as separate from me even though I’m driving it here. We’ve done work on everything from small engagement to helping municipalities figure out a new drinking water source to building a stormwater utility as a municipality. It was a negotiation for a consent decree with US EPA for storm overflow etc., all the way up to large-scale events like Super Bowls and national special security events.

Think presidential conventions to presidential inaugurations, like those types of large-scale events. It’s been a contractor model to date in that I bring people along as I need their subject matter expertise and/or assistance in certain ways. Those folks ebb and flow in and out of the organization, depending on the scale of the operation. Anywhere from 25 to 250 folks and budgets from $200,000 to over $100 million related to what the project or the initiative might be.

I was going to ask you what’s been your biggest project to this point. It sounds like maybe managing or being involved in a project that’s $100 million or somewhere along those lines. Of course, that’s not $100 million coming into your pocket, I would imagine. How does that flow? People might be interested. I’m interested.

Let’s say a project that’s $100 million. You are the lead on it or you’re playing a big role but there are a lot of other companies. How do you manage that in terms of bringing in all the different people, all the different contractors, all the different vendors and providers? Is all that coming through your company or are you finding a separate project manager that’s managing it or a separate company? When you have hundreds of people for a one-time event that you’re working towards, managing the communications of that is a full-time job, never mind everything else going on. How do you go about managing a project of that size?

Now I sound like an attorney.

You wouldn’t be a good consultant if you didn’t hire consultants when you needed it. Click To Tweet

Disclaimer. This is not financial advice. This is not legal advice, everyone. Let’s make that very clear. Share what you can. It’s interesting to know how you would go about or how you think about a project of that size.

Collaborating With Other Consultants

It depends on the project and the scope and magnitude. There are going to be folks, vendors, contractors and others that bring an apparatus with them that can be helpful to help you either build up to those numbers. I’m thinking more in line with your question related to the number of people required to pull this off. You may bring them in as a vendor to help build the apparatus around all of the functions related to the people while they’re also bringing some other techs.

Can you give an example of that? When you say apparatus, it feels very technical. What does that actually look like? What kind of company might that be?

For example, political conventions. The transportation team is a contractor that comes in. While my team is overseeing the interaction between the event owner, which is the political party and the operational aspects of that, they are able to bring in their resources for procurement, for motor coaches, etc. For example, you’re moving 20,000 to 25,000 people in and out of a basketball arena four nights in a row as quickly and as safely as possible so that someone can be nominated for president. We’re about to embark on that in Milwaukee for Republicans and in Chicago for the DNC.

Those folks are able to bring that apparatus with them that allows them to go procure 450 motor coaches and the people behind it to manage that overarching puppeteering and what that might look like. We work together operationally with other stakeholders, law enforcement, US Secret Service, the city and so on to help make sure that that works and that we can get those folks in and out of the event campus as quickly, reliably and safely as possible for those four nights. One of our two candidates can be nominated for president and then off to the general election.

That’s an example of that transportation vendor has that apparatus around them that helps strengthen what we’re trying to do. Meanwhile, my team is still over here interfacing with all the stakeholders we need to, but there are also other pieces that don’t touch that party even if we’re focused on the transportation aspect, like how people are moving around campus from it.

I’ve always thought of transportation not being wheels but also feet, wheelchairs and mobility assistance. How are pedestrians moving through campus to get where they need to go? What things do we need to be thinking about related to what our operations team is doing so that that guest experience, from the moment they arrive in the respective city to the time they go home, we’ve thought about guests throughout and transportation being a huge part of that.

I’ll play devil’s advocate for a moment because some people may be wondering this, so I hope this serves some of our audience. Why would a political party or a large organization select your company? You’re small. We’re talking about a big event, something that it can’t go wrong. It needs to go right. Call it tens or hundreds of millions of dollars or whatever it might be, thousands or tens of thousands of people. Why would that organization select a small company like yours as opposed to going and saying, “Let’s get one of these “larger, proven, bigger names” to help us?

Sometimes, there’s that belief in the marketplace and inside lots of organizations that there’s more risk in selecting a smaller company or smaller firm. Even if something goes wrong, it’s better for something to go wrong with a well-known name as opposed to picking a smaller consultant or firm where it’s not as established.

Most people know that’s doesn’t always make sense. In many cases, a smaller company has significant advantages. I’m wondering, for you in that situation, why do you think that played out? Where were you selected? Anything else that stands out to you in terms of how you position your company? It sounds like you’re probably winning business from other firms that might be, in many cases, much larger than your firm is. Any thoughts? Anything you can share on that?

Consulting Success Podcast | Jeremiah Shirk | Honesty In Consulting

Number one, we’re good. Number two, I start backwards. I’ll give a story to this here in a moment, but most people say, “We need to have this many people this way this is how we want it to work.” I start the other way and say, “How do we make this work from the end goal,” and work backwards finding as many failure points as possible and then trying to mitigate against them. Whether it’s official or not, some risk matrix that gets us to decide, “We’re willing to take X risk but not Y,” and that changes the scenario and then we’ll start scenario planning against those things.

Do you bring that, what you’re talking about, into the early conversation? It’s very powerful well thought out and would be very valuable for a client. How do prospective clients even know that that’s something that you’re going to do? Where are you communicating that differentiation or that valuable approach that you have?

I would say by experience and explaining some of those stories. One example of this, I’m going to shift to a different event. This is where we made a mistake. That’s why this is fun. The Super Bowl Boulevard is essentially an Olympic village around the Super Bowl each year. It had happened in Las Vegas in February 2024 and I was fortunate enough to serve on the local host committee in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI where our leadership team created what we called the Super Bowl village.

We spent two years planning against that because we have two stages, a zip line in the middle of Indianapolis going 800 feet down a city street, eight stories tall, 90 concerts in a 10-day period of time, all in support of the NFL’s event, which was the NFL experience that took over roughly 1 million square feet of the convention center for that fan interactive space.

We were like, “Cool. The NFL can have that. We’re going to throw a party for everybody in Indianapolis that can’t go to the game on Super Bowl Sunday,” because most local folks aren’t going to that game. We spent two years planning what that looks like, what’s the guest experience look like? We got to close all these streets. How are people going to get to work and move around downtown?” We spent an inordinate amount of time building vehicular traffic patterns and what that would look like, communicating that, building the security apparatus around it and so on.

Where we made a mistake was we always undersold what this village might look like from an attendance perspective? We always thought somewhere between maybe 10,000 or 50,000 people over the course of a day would roll through here, have a beer, watch the chainsaw ice sculptor guy build something cool, jump on the zip line and go home.

What happened was, Michael, you and your friends came down on Wednesday, had a hell of a time and you told all your relatives to come with you and you all came back on Thursday and then you came back with more people on Friday. By the time we got to the Friday night before Super Bowl, we had 250,000 people in a three-block area in a downtown environment with nowhere for those folks to go.

The failure point was we were more successful than we thought we were going to be. This is in 2012. We didn’t adequately at the time think about pedestrian access and pedestrian blowout for an event of that size because we never thought it was going to be that large. One caveat is February in Indianapolis isn’t always the warmest place in the world, but we had an average of like 48 to 53 degrees all week long for the Super Bowl to happen in Indianapolis and that’s part of the reason why the NFL and others have considered that to be the best one ever.

We still believe that, those of us that held be a part of it. Those are the things that you can learn from and then be able to communicate to potential clients that there are failure points that have happened and, these are the kinds of things we’re thinking about to help you make sure that you’re successful through that risk management program.

Jeremy, I would say from hearing that, clearly you have very deep and even wide expertise. You’ve done a lot, you’ve seen a lot and you’ve been through a lot. I can understand that you bring that to the conversations with prospective clients or people that you know right in a face-to-face or a Zoom or whatever it might be. Outside of that, is there anything that you do or your company does to communicate to share that knowledge, to cast a bit of a of wider net that might help from a marketing perspective or even an education perspective so that when you’re having conversations, people already know the extent of what you can do or your experiences?

It’s a disservice to the universe if we’re not sharing our talent and skill with folks. Click To Tweet

I think I mentioned it earlier, but I wouldn’t be a good consultant if I didn’t hire consultants when I needed it and I was struggling with trying to find that voice and that narrative. We have been working with a firm out of North Carolina. They’re phenomenal. One, to craft that narrative and to find that voice and then to be able to build upon that. We’ve done a full web rewrite with a content strategy and started building on case studies and blog posts and so on. We’ve increased activity on LinkedIn, which seems to be a place that is getting a little more engagement to help broaden that space and I’ve leaned on them to help get my word vomit into something that is digestible for people to read or hear and understand and keep it simple.

These stories on a podcast are great because you can tell the whole story when you’re trying to get someone’s attention and explain, “Here’s the problem, here’s the solution and here’s why we’re different.” That requires some good brains to make that concise and digestible for folks. They have been great in helping me think about that, but also pulling out some of these nuggets so they can build content around it and I let them run free.

Of course, I have edit power, but there are a few things that they help create that I have very strong opinions on an edit because they know how to talk about those things and write and talk about those things in the right way. As of this episode, we’ve been focusing on building more content to tell this story and to tell how it’s different because it is different. That’s the unique proposition we can bring to people.

We’re still relatively early in that relationship, but we’ve seen strong numbers in the right direction and we’ll see where it takes us and we’ll keep evolving. Everything will be a little bit of an experiment and I’m okay with that because one, I don’t know how to do it anyway, but two, I’m willing if they have an idea to say, “Let’s give it a try. Let’s see what the numbers tell us.” If I’m coming into an organization saying, “Let’s be data-informed and systems driven and so on and people-powered and all those kinds of things,” if I’m not doing the same thing with my own business with experts that can help me, then that’s a disingenuous message. I don’t want to be a part of that.

Creating A Legacy

What was the tipping point or what made you decide to do this? You’ve been in business for a period of time and you’ve built it. It sounds like on doing great work and relationships, but from what I’m hearing, there was a tipping point where you decided, “I do need to start getting the word out there more. I need to share a bit more of this through case studies or blog posts or LinkedIn.” What was it? What made you decide to make that investment and actually do it?

Two reasons. One, I wanted to create a legacy moving forward that we could do good work and help people and help them do great work, which is a disservice to the universe if we’re not sharing our talent and skill with folks. It’s also a disservice if I’m not helping other people share their talent and skill with the universe.

What made you decide that, though? Where did the decision about the legacy come from?

The legacy has always been important, but I think it’s important in a different way. For example, I could have named Jeremiah’s The Smartest Person In The World Consulting Firm and I didn’t, because I didn’t want it to be tied to me. I wanted it tied to if I can build this correctly, then this moves on after I’m involved in a positive way to continue to impact people in the right way. That was a deliberate decision on my part and not put my name in the title of the company and so on.

Here in the early years it has been largely driven by my personality and my experience, absolutely. Over time, I want to step away from that and build it so that it’s its own entity. The second simple answer to your question is you got to have cashflow to do it. I needed to be in a place where I could afford to pay these folks the dollar amount that they require to do the work, a high-quality deep work that I want people to hire me for. I wanted them to do the same and be able to have the appropriate investment to do that. Otherwise, I could have hired someone to go out there and be tweeting all day for me but that doesn’t tell the story. It’s too broad, it’s not deep enough and I wanted to get deep into it to make sure we did it right.

It sounds like it’s a sizable, solid investment that you’re making. Any model that you used to assess as you made this decision? What did you want to see or how did you think about the investment? Was it based on ROI of like, “If I land one client out of this, it’s X amount, it’s going to be a positive ROI?” Is it I need to have a certain amount of money in the bank or we need to get to this level of revenue? Was there any model or way that you thought about making that decision to invest in this way in the business?

Consulting Success Podcast | Jeremiah Shirk | Honesty In Consulting

The first answer is I was selfish and I wanted them to invest in me in the manner I invest in others. I needed to feel comfortable with them seeing the warts, the mistakes I’d made and here’s the story I’m trying to tell. Can you help me craft it in the right way? I wanted a customized approach, which is essentially what I get with people. I was being selfish for me in the firm. We could all have software systems that drive our numbers all day long because of the ability that those things do, SEO and AI and other things that can get you in front of people, but those aren’t the people that are going to hire my firm anyway because we have to get past that first like, “We need a consultant.” “What do we want them to do?”

The same is true here from a content, marketing and perspective in that I needed someone who could dive in there and help me understand how we get there and how we talk about that work. If that doesn’t work, if you’re just blasting Instagram and Twitter with like, “We’re out here. We do cool stuff. We call ourselves the UnConsultant,” people were like, “Okay,” and scroll on through. That’s how I thought about it.

Related to the revenue, I had a number I wanted to get to feel comfortable to make the investment outside of the other things that were already going on. I didn’t want that to be like, “I can only do so much,” and then have to stop. I wanted to be able to keep investing and moving forward again to build that relationship so as clients come in and leave, we can start telling the story over time chronologically and it builds us a bank of resources that we can use forever to keep moving forward.

Before I wrap up, I’ll ask you one more question and that is, how do you define success?

In what way?

What does it mean to you?

There are all kinds of ways to answer that. There’s personally, professionally, from a business perspective and there’s an impact on the world. I think I’ll stick with the legacy. One of the things I learned working, one, on the host committee of the Super Bowl in Indianapolis and then two, working for city government, you can have a large impact on people. That actually started an area of my life we didn’t talk about.

A hundred years ago, in a past life. I was a college basketball coach and what I loved about that was one, I was good at it, obviously, but two, I kept my hair much shorter, much like yours, back then. What I loved about that work was the relationship you created with the players and the impact you had on their lives for the rest of their lives. You were always their coach and they were always your player. You were invested in their life all the way through.

There’s nothing stronger except maybe a parent relationship to a student-athlete and a coach in a formative space in their life to help them build their life, a foundation for their life going forward. I thought that was the greatest thrill in the world and it was cool, but it was only for fifteen people at a time. What I saw when we built the Super Bowl in Indianapolis was the impact that an event could have on a community and the way you could change the event but also change how a city thinks and operates and so on to make it better.

I had the opportunity, again political, to go work in city government and now you’re touching the life of every single person in the city. If you’re doing it right and for the right reasons, and we can agree and disagree like you should have done this or that could have been better, wouldn’t it have been great? At least we were moving the ball forward and I believe the team we had there together, including the mayor and his senior leadership team. I was trying to make the city better every single day and trying to help improve the lives of everyone who lived there. That is powerful and that’s what I think success is. Every time you can touch people and create a lasting legacy moving forward, we’ve done something right. That snowballs into large impacts for people. To me, that would be a success.

Every time you can touch people and create a lasting legacy moving forward, you’ve done something right. Click To Tweet

Jeremiah, I want to thank you so much for coming on and sharing a little bit of your story and journey. I want to make sure that people can learn more about you, more about your firm and see more of that content and good stuff that you’re going to be putting out, where’s the best place for them to go?

People can find me, Jeremiah Shirk, on LinkedIn, and then the company website is

Thanks so much for coming on.

I appreciate it, Michael. It was a pleasure.

There you have it for this episode between Michael and Jeremiah. If you enjoy this episode, then be sure to hit that subscribe button. If you want to help support the show, I’d encourage you to share this episode out with a friend or colleague. As a quick reminder, if you want to book your free complimentary growth session call, head over to That’s the end of the line for us. We’re going to be back next time with another episode.

Important Links

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Skip to content