We Turn Problems Into Profits

Our Core Team


For thirty years, Creative Partnerships set the standard for using collaboration across disciplines to provide the best possible solutions to our clients.


The individuals below represent the Creative Partnerships’ core team. Each has achieved remarkable success as an individual practitioner. Together, our collection of talents, experience, strategic partnerships, and tools present a formidable foe against your people, process, and operations problems.

Julie Kowalski

Founder, Chief Performance Strategist and Human Performance Improvement Expert
Julie began her career opening restaurants for a brilliant, gold-standard restaurateur. The intense ramp-up conditions, combined with her mentor’s non-negotiable standards, provided her first “Special Ops”work experience.

With many successful restaurant openings under her belt, Julie decided to leave the restaurant business to pursue a broader understanding of the factors that led to business success. She landed a position as a Regional Consultant for Development Dimensions International (DDI), one of the world’s largest performance consulting firms. After two years with DDI, and exposure to a wide array of Fortune 500 companies representing dozens of industries, she was ready to move on once again. Julie’s enterprising spirit and passion for creating “a better mousetrap” convinced her that there was a way she could deliver more nimble, customized solutions that would create better outcomes for her clients. Though just four years out of college, Julie plunged into her solo adventure.

In 1995, Julie took her solo journey to the next level, launching Creative Partnerships, where she set the standard for using collaboration to deliver optimal outcomes. Julie joined forces with a diverse range of clients, from sole proprietors to Fortune 100 businesses. A sampling of clients she has worked with include GE Capital, Ford Motor Company, Xerox, American Axle, BCBSM, Wayne State University, Macy’s/Bullocks, AMA, AlixPartners, Plante Moran and International Paper.

For 30 years, Julie continued to hone her talent for overcoming leadership, operations, and performance barriers to achieve the best possible outcomes. She worked with many thousands of people around the world and participated in numerous business and department start-ups, including 17 restaurant openings. Along the way, she developed countless best practices, innovative blended learning solutions, and high-impact performance improvement tools. Her vast portfolio continues to help her clients stabilize their workforce and achieve higher levels of overall performance. Her project outcomes include measurable improvements in customer experience, employee satisfaction, productivity, quality, engagement, teamwork, and leadership performance. Julie has a BS in Human Resource Development from Oakland University (Rochester, MI). She is master-trained in five DDI programs and certified in numerous performance tools and technologies, including: Learning Paths™ Methodology, Paper Planes, Inc. Simulation, DiSC Behavior Styles, Denison Culture Model, and Adapting Traditional Classroom Design for Virtual Instruction. Julie has collaborated with internationally known experts, such as Dr. Daniel Denison, Dr. Barry Oshry and Dr. Dennis Jaffee, in the areas of self-leadership, service excellence, and systems thinking.

  • Reducing time to proficiency
  • Developing mastery
  • Developing critical conversational skills
  • Overcoming barriers to peak performance
  • Maximizing learning retention
  • Improving the customer experience
  • Improving the onboarding experience
  • Solving complicated or complex problems

Kevin M. Burke

CTP, Corporate Turnaround and Finance Performance Improvement Expert
Kevin M. Burke is a Certified Turnaround Professional who has over 36 years of experience in business management, consulting, finance, real estate and providing professional services. Kevin is a member in good standing of the internationally recognized Turnaround Management Association. The designation of Certified Turnaround Professional (CTP) represents the highest order of professionalism, knowledge and ability in the turnaround industry.

As a CTP, Kevin serves as an interim crisis manager, filling roles such as court appointed Receiver or Chief Restructuring Officer, Financial Advisor to banks and courts, or Professional Consultant to businesses. In these roles, he has stabilized and restructured businesses while increasing their value. On occasion, he has also facilitated the sale of companies after their turnaround.

Prior to devoting himself to a fulltime career in management consulting, Kevin spent over fifteen years in commercial banking/lending. As a member of Senior Management, he has directed special assets groups and construction lending departments at two commercial banks. This is accompanied by expertise in commercial credit, loan review, loan operations, and commercial lending.

Kevin has also managed several privately-owned companies representing a broad range of industries and sectors. His experience includes manufacturing, sales organizations, distribution companies, real estate organizations, construction, multi-generational family businesses, and service concerns. He has bought and sold over 400 individual pieces of real estate and is experienced in land development for hotel, industrial, residential, commercial and multi-family properties.

Kevin began his career at Michigan National Bank (Bank of America) after graduating from the Villanova School of Business, in Philadelphia, PA. Whether representing an entrepreneur, a court, shareholders, a lender, arranging financing, or running a corporation, Kevin’s business career has afforded him the opportunity to gain a wealth of diverse knowledge that has resulted in an extensive skill set.

Kevin’s Wheelhouse

  • Finding solutions to complex problems
  • Restructuring debt
  • Strategic planning
  • Increasing cash-flow and profitability
  • Guiding corporate recovery
  • Improving real corporate value
  • Corporate Renewal
  • Implementing solutions with clients
  • Effecting change paradigms with new or enhanced corporate metrics
  • Managing to plan

Certified Turnaround Professional (CTP)

The designation of Certified Turnaround Professional (CTP) represents the highest order of professionalism in the turnaround industry. Administered by the Turnaround Management Association (TMA), it provides a benchmark for practical experience, knowledge and ethical conduct. CTPs have a proven track record and years of experience in working with companies or large business units that are in financial crisis. CTPs must be or must have held positions such as, but not limited to, turnaround practitioners, consultants, or emergency managers and must demonstrate knowledge in the legal, financial and management aspects of a turnaround. The designation also provides an objective measure of expertise related to workouts, restructurings and corporate renewal. Company managers, executives at troubled businesses, lenders, bankruptcy courts and other professionals rightly demand that turnaround professionals meet an objective standard. Because of this, the CTP designation is increasingly important as a credential for engagement. The CTP designation requires the candidate to pass a rigorous three-part examination on management, accounting and law. Additional requirements include five years of experience plus a bachelor’s degree, or ten years of consulting or senior management experience. Also required are professional recommendations, client engagement write-ups, adherence to the TMA Code of Ethics, and review by the TMA Standards Committee. CTP credentials are maintained by completing a minimum of 30 hours of continuing professional education every two years. The TMA is the premier organization of professionals dedicated to corporate renewal and turnaround management. This independent, nonprofit corporation preserves the integrity and confidentiality of the CTP application, examination and approval process.

Robert "Jake" Jacobs

Organizational and Leadership Performance Improvement Expert
jake Jacobs has been curious about why some organizations work and others don’t since his first real job on the assembly line of a novelty ice cream manufacturing plant. He wondered even more about those questions while tending bar in college. His curiosity launched him on a path of discoveries as a pioneer in the field of large group interventions. Through consulting, writing, and teaching he has continued his discoveries about better ways for people and organizations to change.

Jake invented the Real Time Strategic Change (RTSC) methodology as an answer to what he was learning about organizations that were “stuck” and didn’t know how to achieve their desired outcomes. RTSC is an approach to creating radically accelerated improvements in complex and messy situations. He has successfully implemented his model at some of the largest corporations in the world, including American Express, Corning, Ford, The Home Depot, Marriott, Mobil, and TJ Maxx.

Jake uses writing to get clearer on his work. He has published articles in Strategy and Leadership, Executive Excellence, Leader to Leader, Strategic HR Review, the OD Practitioner, Consulting to Management and has been featured in The Huffington Post and Inc. magazine. In addition, Jake has authored and co-authored seven books.

Jake has taught at Notre Dame and the US Navy’s Postgraduate Institute. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Michigan and received a Master’s of Science in Organization Development from Pepperdine University with honors.

Jake’s Wheelhouse

  • Radically reducing the time from planning to results
  • Immediate and lasting improvements – wherever they are needed in your operations
  • Creating teams tough enough to take on your most intractable problems
  • New, needed skill development with permanent transfer to the business
  • Business-wide goal alignment
  • Energized workforce committed and capable of making needed changes

John Lankford

Certified Business Advisor, Operations and Leadership Performance Improvement Expert
Early in his career at Ford Motor, John Lankford worked as a plant production foreman and quality supervisor on an assembly line overseeing new product launches, including the Ford Mustang. His journey to management status at Ford Motor is rooted in his time on the assembly line where he learned to identify bottlenecks and work cooperatively with plant personnel to solve critical problems. By the end of his time with Ford Motor, John was a member of the Executive Education team, responsible for leadership development of the key stakeholders at the company world-wide.

Following Ford Motor, John took his success to Holnam Manufacturing, the world’s largest cement manufacturing company. There he refined his company-wide systems to develop the current, and next generation, manufacturing leaders.

Since leaving the corporate environment, John has become a Master Certified Business Advisor and a Certified Executive Advisor. John is nationally recognized as a leading consultant in improving productivity and quality in privately owned manufacturing companies. As an advisor, John has partnered with impressive organizations like GE, the University of Michigan Business School, and the Center for Creative Leadership.

John has been tapped as an expert business source for The New York Times, CBS, and dBusiness Magazine, in addition to having been a syndicated business columnist, and recognized as the 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 North American Associate Business Advisor of the Year.

John earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in Business and Marketing from Eastern Michigan University and a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University. He has partially completed his Doctorate program in Instructional System Design at Wayne State University.

John’s Wheelhouse

  • Developing existing leadership team
  • Succession planning
  • Developing emerging leaders
  • Driving revenue growth
  • Sales training
  • Identifying effective Executives to improve leadership
  • Improving quality, productivity, and processes
  • Improving employee engagement
  • Improving leadership and hourly accountability

Joseph-Shannon O'Hannigan

Operations and Lean Manufacturing Performance Improvement Expert
Joe O’Hannigan started his career at a small medical supply company, quickly working his way up to Vice President. As leader of 25 associates, and working closely with the CEO, Joe learned to evaluate and appreciate all aspects of business oversight. In his time, he helped position the company for acquisition to a national competitor.

Following the acquisition, Joe traded in his small business hat to work at Ford Motor Company, getting his first experience in big business. Joe learned that his experiences early on allowed him to navigate between opposing concepts that drive the success of a business, including strategic and tactical, people and processes, current state and future state, and traditional and innovative. His insight and his ability to manage complex projects brought him to his passion for global consulting.

Joe founded 4:11 Business Associates to help organizations improve operations, develop effective strategy, and create and innovate while maintaining a practical approach. He has over 20 years of experience developing and driving strategy, managing and improving operations, assessing and training personnel, achieving and measuring impact, and providing data-driven project management. Joe has worked extensively with large corporations in Latin America and North America, but has also carved-out time over the last five years to help small business owners through the national network of US Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

Joe is a public speaker and workshop facilitator who teaches business leaders how to: assess and improve both individuals and organization, develop better problem-solving skills, identify and achieve process improvements, introduce creativity and innovation into the workplace, enhance team dynamics, define strategic, scalable, and sustainable growth opportunities, and expand their business with global and cultural sensitivity. He is certified in Emotional Intelligence (EQi) Multi-Health Systems, Value Stream Mapping, Six Sigma Green Belt Training, and Polarity Approach to Continuity & Transformation.

Joe holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University, and a Master’s in Business Administration, International Business, and Communications from University of Notre Dame.

Joe’s Wheelhouse

  • Managing and improving businesses and teams
  • Complex project management
  • Developing, implementing, analyzing, and reporting Key Performance Indicators
  • Business Process Improvement
  • Identifying growth opportunities
  • Implementing data-driven improvement plans
  • Driving robust, sustainable change
  • Implementing Lean Manufacturing

Diane Ring

Team and Leadership Performance Improvement Expert
Early in her career, Diane Ring worked in a variety of sales, marketing, and human resources roles in both major corporations like Westin and Omni Hotels and in smaller, entrepreneurial enterprises. She quickly learned that she had a passion for people, refocusing her career to the human potential field to better understand what makes humans “tick”. Initially, she coached downsized executives to reconstruct their career paths and lives. By 1996, Diane found her way to executive coaching and has never looked back.

Diane now has over 20 years of executive coaching and team development experience. She works with top executives, managers, technical professionals and high potential talent from small, private businesses to publicly-traded Fortune 1000 companies. She has an established reputation of helping leaders and their teams operate at their optimal level so they can solve complex problems, make great products, delight their customers, and grow thriving businesses. Diane’s client list includes C-level leaders at Chrysler, Dropbox, Kellogg’s, BSAF, and Domino’s, among others.

Diane is recognized for coaching leaders to optimize their natural leadership style so they can accelerate the achievement of measurable outcomes. Her methodology involves a rigorous process of asking probing questions, generating self-reflection, building trust and rapport, and using innovative and motivational learning techniques customized to participants needs. Her clients walk away equipped to achieve clear, consistent, measurable results.

Diane earned Bachelor’s Degrees from Michigan State University in Employment Relations and Psychology. A believer in lifelong learning, she has achieved numerous certifications and advanced education credentials, including a certificate in the foundations of Neuroleadership from the Neuroleadership Institute, Leadership Maturity Framework Coaching Certification, and the Enneagram Personality System.

Diane’s Wheelhouse

  • Facilitating successful, high-stakes leadership transitions
  • Solving complex problems
  • Developing high potentials
  • Preparing executive successors
  • Executive presence
  • Accelerating business progress
  • Aligning teams around a new direction
  • Global team effectiveness
  • Building bench strength
  • Increasing sales

Jim Steinmiller

Industrial Crisis Management Expert
Jim Steinmiller’s 30-plus years’ experience in the manufacturing world has equipped him with the skills and knowledge needed to build a factory from the ground up, and then, successfully run it. Quite an accomplishment, considering Jim hated manufacturing as a production worker in his first position at Doehler Jarvis. But somewhere on his way out the door, Jim learned about opportunities in the skilled trades, and his career path took a dramatic turn.

After being awarded an apprenticeship as a Die Maker, Jim quickly established a proven track record of tenacious, innovative, “get ‘er done” performance. At Doehler Jarvis, his reputation for fearlessly facing new challenges helped him fast-track his career, where he progressed from his position as “summer help” to Production Manager. As Production Manager, Jim was responsible for managing production, process control, quality, and all maintenance functions of a three-shift operation. By being thrown into situations where he had little or no experience, Jim learned the importance of addressing problems quickly and directly, leading by example, and taking initiative when something needed to be done. Ultimately, these early life-lessons became habits that shaped his approach to problem solving and leading others.

Jim left Doehler Jarvis to further the depth and breadth of his manufacturing experience. He worked for seven years as a Plant Manager for Maumee Valley Fabricators, a large-scale steel fabrication and machine shop. Expanding his horizons even further, Jim landed a position with Procon Services, an industrial contracting company where he provided contracted services to companies in the industry. This new venture required him to develop an entirely different set of skills, including business development, contract negotiation and management, and supervising complex teams that represented numerous disciplines and companies. He managed large projects that involved moving heavy equipment, installing compressor rooms, industrial piping, cooling towers, and large scale steel erections.

Jim made his transition into supporting critical supply chain initiatives in 2015. In a short time, he has supported numerous “Special Ops” crisis projects, providing short-term support to get troubled suppliers off their customer’s “hot sheet”. He immediately developed a reputation as a top performer, impressing his customers with his swift and precise situation assessments, innovative problem solving, and strong leadership skills.

Jim’s ability to realign personnel to achieve major breakthroughs without spending large sums of money, combined with his talent for helping his automotive customers and their suppliers work more constructively together, is highly valued. In less than two years, Jim became a provider of choice for a number of industrial crisis clients. He was selected as Lead Advisor on multiple high-profile engagements. In this role, he focused the efforts of company management and a variety of performance improvement experts on the precise steps required to urgently change the plant’s performance.

Jim has completed numerous technical and certification programs in Industrial Ventilation System Design and Industrial Ventilation Troubleshooting, Safety Risk Analysis, Safety Systems Integration, Safety Compliance, Industrial Hydraulics, Motion Control, Industrial Fluid Power Mechanics, Human Resource Management, and Statistical Process Control.

Jim’s Wheelhouse

  • Diagnosing root causes with laser precision
  • Managing multiple projects to goal
  • Innovative and resourceful problem solving
  • Facilities and maintenance management
  • Refocusing resistant constituents on performance
  • Executing Failure Mode Analysis and Process Control methodologies
  • Accelerating operational and production performance improvements
Optimized people, processes and operations are only a click away…
Creative Partnerships, Inc.
5036 Dixie Highway
Waterford, MI 48329
Let’s get the conversation started!