Josh Coleman

Partner at Treacy & Company

Josh Coleman is a Partner with Treacy & Company. He has over 15 years of experience advising senior executives on issues related to growth and innovation. Based out of the firm’s Chicago office, Coleman has helped companies with corporate strategy, marketing strategy, organizational design, and innovation program development. Coleman joined the firm in 2014 after working with Monitor Group and Monitor Deloitte.

Where did the idea for Treacy & Company come from?

We wanted to create a top-tier growth and innovation consulting firm that could regularly win against the MBBs of the world while retaining a boutique size and feel. Many of the partners had worked at BIG firms and wanted something more collegial with more emphasis on exceptional client work. So we built it.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

In COVID times, my day may be at home or the office and revolves around various virtual meetings with clients. We have all begun to learn how much more productive it can be to avoid unnecessary travel, which has been a real quality of life boost for me. Now I get to cook for my wife, 6-year-old and 3-year-old every night, and it has been life-changing for a career consultant. We travel for big meetings and workshops, and it’s nice to connect in person with clients on a more intentional basis.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Great stories! Ideas are boring until they exist as narratives.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I think advances in personalized medicine and cancer treatments like CAR T-cell therapy are approaching the frontier of being “cures” in our lifetime. Imagine a future in which a significant share of cancer and cellular aging effects can be better addressed through medicine. The key is that these advances are democratized as quickly as possible. I’d like to see the Ford Model T of personalized medicine, but it doesn’t exist yet.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I surround myself with people who are talented in different ways than me, and then I encourage the hell out of them.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Enjoy every stage of your career and get as much out of it as you can—and don’t rush it! I tell my new analysts that they have the most exciting and privileged role of being the one person closest to the actual data. You only get to do that for a few years in consulting. If you stay in this career, you spend 8-10 years growing up to be a partner and 10-20 years as a partner, so extract everything you can from those early years.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Real alignment within 180 degrees of the right answer is more powerful than the correct answer.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I constantly reach out to senior partners at other firms (even competitors!) and senior clients for advice. Never allow yourself to rely on just one mentor, one context, or one set of experiences for advice. It is amazing how willing people are to help you wrestle through a challenge or to help you see a challenge that you didn’t have in your sights.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Hire smart, driven people for leadership roles and give them all the support and guidance they need to grow the business. There is no way that one person can do it all, and if they did, it wouldn’t be a very good nor sustainable business.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I used to let perfection be the enemy of the good. Now I try to constantly prioritize where I need things to be near perfect and where 80% is a perfectly suitable answer.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Sustainability and the younger generations’ focus on environmental impact will take over the demand and shareholder value discussion faster than you think. Break down every element of the supply chain, energy usage, waste, and carbon generation in a company, and create a solution for one sticky problem. This could be energy optimization or smart controls, waste cycle improvements, smart energy use controls, flight protocols, transport incentives, etc.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I bought a piece of art for my 6-year-old son from a local artist who sells in front of the grocery store. By doing so, I hope to pass down the importance of appreciating art and supporting local businesses.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Productivity is less about the next fancy app and more about setting appropriate boundaries for the ones I use. The best thing we do as an organization is to have open calendars. (Of course, you can make anything “private,” and that is always respected.) I encourage folks to block time for thinking, working, and taking a walk. Culturally, I want to see more of that in our firm.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Read books you love, not books that you “should.” Life is too short, and there are too many good books out there.

What is your favorite quote?

I have been enjoying many things from Adam Grant recently, including his ideas on confident humility: “The most effective leaders score high in both confidence AND humility.”

Key Learnings:

  • Enjoy every stage of your career and get as much out of it as you can.
  • Never allow yourself to rely on just one mentor, one context, or one set of experiences for advice.
  • Hire smart, driven people for leadership roles and give them all the support and guidance they need to grow the business.
  • Read books you love, not books that you “should.”