A Life of Service


John is a veteran of the United States Air Force, a graduate of The University of Baltimore, a business advisor, leadership and life coach, professional facilitator & speaker, corporate trainer, youth advocate, author, and music artist. 


For more than two decades, he's been the secret weapon of good people who want to take their ideas and organizations to the next level, and who understand that the growth journey begins with themselves.



Strategic Planning & Development

In Business

In 1998 he formed the first of three management consulting firms through which he's advised over 350 companies, and countless individuals on issues of top-line revenue growth strategy and implementation, executive coaching,  leadership development, life coaching, and human performance.

Macdonald-Starling (1998) focused on solving growth challenges for small to mid-sized businesses through strategic planning, revenue growth strategy, and strategic marketing. 

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Smith Content, Inc. (2001) was the first b2b content development company in the United States, serving hundreds of organizations across myriad industries, and multiple continents. From start-ups to Fortune 50 companies, "Smith" advised organizations on issues of corporate value proposition development and content strategy, as a key driver of revenue growth. 

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Smith Growth Partners (2007) advised, trained, and coached CEOs and their management teams on finding competitive advantage in the nexus of strategic planning and growth, human performance, interpersonal communication, and team dynamics - and the relationship between these factors, as it relates to individual and group achievement. 

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In 2018 John became the Chief Strategy Officer of Business Valuation Center, as well as Managing Partner, Asia.  BVC is a global leader in valuation, and enterprise value growth, empowering business owners and their management teams to understand, and improve their valuation - and achieve maximum acquisition value when the time comes to sell.  


John maintains a strong relationship with Business Valuation Center, as a strategic partner in support of his clients' growth, funding, M&A goals, and IPO goals.


In 2016 he launched launched Starling Growth Advisory, in order to support his clients personal, professional, organizational and enterprise value  growth initiatives and for a one-year period simultaneously served as Chief Strategy Officer at his longtime mentor's (Bill Clark) company, Clark Leadership.

In the Community

John has lived a life of service to the communities in which he has lived and worked; from to being a teacher and writer in residence at schools in his home city of Baltimore, Maryland - to serving on and advising nonprofit boards of advisors, including The Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics, Health Care for the Homeless, The University of Baltimore Alumni Board of Governors, The University of Maryland Incentive Scholar Foundation, and more.   

Over the last decade, John has founded two youth development programs.

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The School of the Way, is a free MMA (Mentoring & Martial Arts) school in Baltimore, Maryland.  John founded it in 2000, in order to give low income young people access to the important life and leadership lessons of the martial arts.

The program offers an integrated martial arts curriculum, and  centers around a monthly life coaching session where students are professionally mentored and coached in goal setting and achievement - and being unstoppable in the face of adversity.  The school is now run by Sensei Bryan Gately.

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In 2016 while living in Songdo, South Korea, John founded Pride Girls Soccer.  Pride Girls Soccer is a first of its kind girls soccer club and youth leadership program in Korea.  It serves girls from 4-16 years old, most of whom would never have had the chance to play organized sports otherwise, because of Korea's patriarchal attitude towards girls athletics.  

In Print, Digital and on Stage

​​John is the author of a popular series on business growth strategy (and its parallels in the martial arts) that appeared in SmartCEO magazine, and a veteran professional speaker for businesses and associations. He also guest-lectures at universities on growth strategy, success, personal, business, and community leadership - and leading a life from meaning.

His work as a business leader, youth mentor and community leader has been featured in The Baltimore Business Journal, The Daily Record, Fox News, The Korea Times, Baltimore Magazine, The BBC, and other publications, and he has been a featured speaker for Peecha Kucha, The PSA Seminar Series, AIGA, SMEI, The Business Exit Forum, and other business associations.


A creative to his core, John is the author of a picture book for young children (and adults) on failure, over achievement,  and self-acceptance as the genesis of true "success" (The Flight of the Platypus - a story of self-discovery).


In his free time, John is a singer/songwriter and bandleader under his full name (John Patrick Starling),  previously signed to Ruby Records, with 2 albums out, which you can find on iTunes and Spotify.

Grow Your Life™