Too much information is exactly what concerns Naperville resident Joe McCormack.
His speciality is helping companies keep it simple. Working smarter for him means getting to the point and eliminating excess blather, which by the way, no one listens to anyway.
McCormack, 47, just finished a book appropriately titled, “Brief,” which was sent to a publisher this September for release in February.
McCormack’s ideas are culled from a 20-year career as a corporate communications executive. His experience includes seven years with U.S. Army Special Operations, counseling military leaders “to embrace brevity, precision and clarity in their communication through strategic narratives.”
“I worked with the U.S. military’s Special Operations, which included work with the Army and the Air Force,” McCormack said. “We had a three-year relationship where I worked out of Ft. Bragg. I was also the media trainer for the chief spokesman in Iraq, William Caldwell.”
McCormack said he performed legal services with a one-star general who was stationed at the Pentagon. He even lamented at a lack of training in being concise.
“The general told me he went to West Point, and he said that ‘nowhere in the curriculum were we even taught to be brief,’” McCormack said.
McCormack grew up on Chicago’s southwest side and attended Loyola University where he majored in English literature. Seven years ago, he founded what he refers to as a “boutique agency” named Sheffield in Downers Grove, where he employs about 20 people.
“I named it after the street I live on in Naperville,” McCormack said. “We’ve worked with over 200 clients so far in our history, which includes a lot of companies in downtown Chicago. We’ve had a lot of animators and film producers. Our clients are 100-percent referral-based. We typically get called when there is a new product launch or the company is implementing a new strategy.”
Wendy Serafin, a principal for the Naperville-based marketing firm Nifares Group, said she has known McCormack for more than seven years and that she has seen him lead executives toward a more efficient path.
“Joe knows how to cut through to the core and knows what companies need to tell their customers,” she said. “He uses tried and true examples because he knows there is too much information out there these days and too much is competing for people’s time, and our attention spans are short.”
McCormack said studies show that the average person’s attention span was just 12 seconds in 2008 and that number has shrunk five years later by 33 percent down to 8 seconds. The average person, he said, checks his cell phone 30 to 40 times an hour, which likewise impacts the attention issue.
When dealing with clients, McCormack said, three primary characteristics impede a streamlined communication process.
“People are overly complicated, and they don’t simplify things enough,” he said. “The second issue is that people aren’t concise — they need to shorten things rather than make them long. And the third issue is that people aren’t compelling. They talk to people as if they always have a captive audience, and they’re not very inspiring.”
In addition to the ideas in his forthcoming book, McCormack and his associates are upping their game by offering “brief” training centers that will offer half-day, full-day and two-day workshops providing training in their techniques.
A Sheffield Brief Lab already opened in September in North Carolina and another is scheduled to open by the end of the year in Downers Grove.
Perhaps the only thing lacking conciseness in McCormack’s life is his family, which includes nine children: three boys and six girls. McCormack said he comes from a family of nine kids and his wife has 12, so a large family was always in the works.
The couple loves living and raising their family in Naperville.
“I love everything about this place and enjoy living here,” he said. “The schools and the people here are of a very high quality. I call this ‘the city of overachievers,’ because people work hard here and make a quality life for themselves.
“There is nowhere else I’d rather live.”