Strong Suit Podcast is the playbook for recruiting Rockstars.

New episodes debut each Tuesday & Thursday

Strong Suit 113: How She Created a Remarkable Culture for a Remarkable Startup

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Katy Lynch is a Chicago legend. She’s Co-Founder of Codeverse, the just-launched world’s first fully interactive coding school for kids. Her mission is to teach 1 Billion kids to code.

Before that, she was CEO of Techweek, the nation’s largest traveling tech festival. And CEO of SocialKaty, Chicago’s largest social media marketing agency.

So she’s uniquely-qualified to teach us about building a winning culture. In this 20-minute interview, Katy shares her secrets to recruiting rockstars, even before you’ve got revenue or funding.


Strong Suit 112: How to Beat Google for the Best Software Developers

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Recruiting rockstars software developers may seem like an impossible task. There’s infinite demand.

But you can do it, if you follow Allison’s advice.

Allison DiDominick heads talent acquisition at Civis Analytics, the rocketship company based in Chicago.

She finds & hires the best developers for Civis. And she’s done the same for Groupon, Avant, and Enova.

In this 20-minute interview, Allison reveals her secrets. If you’ll hire at least one software developer this year, you can’t afford to miss this episode.


Strong Suit 111: Candidates visit your Careers site everyday. Are you converting them?

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Derek Nelson is founder and head of Clique Studios, one of the fastest-growing website creation firms in Chicago.

With 400 new websites under his belt, Derek has mastered the science of converting visitors into qualified leads.

In this 20-minute interview, he reveals:

– The first thing to do when designing your next website

– The myths of website conversion

– Why video is so important to driving conversion

– How to avoid groupthink in website design



Strong Suit 110: Leverage Your Top Performers to Attract Even More

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If job postings aren’t working like they used to, and headhunters are too expensive, you can use your existing employees to attract more rockstars.

Erin Wilson is Co-Founder of Hirepool, the online CRM tool for job seeker. Previously, he was Talent Engineer at Yahoo

In this 20-minute interview, Erin reveals how to leverage your existing employees into a vibrant community to attract more top performers.


Strong Suit 109: How She Recruited 100 Rockstars to a Rockin’ Startup

By | Podcast is the super-cool eCommerce platform for buying & selling musical instruments, with a swelling community of musicians & content.

Gina Contella, Director of Talent, has built most of the team. In fact, she’s already recruited over 100 folks to this fast-growing Chicago company.

In this 20-minute interview, she reveals how she built the amazing team, and the mistakes to avoid as you build yours.


Strong Suit 107: How he Built a Company that Acquired

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What’s it like to start a business from scratch & build it to acquisition by

Until recently, John Roa was CEO & Founder of AKTA, a leading digital experience and engagement consultancy based in Chicago.

In 2010, he started AKTA, which led initiatives for top multinational brands to help innovate, design and engineer forward-thinking mobile products

After 6 years of growth, last year AKTA was successfully acquired by

In this 20-minute interview, John reveals the people part of that story ? how he shaped the culture, recruited rockstars, and executed his people playbook.


Strong Suit 106: Why Does Your Business Even Exist?

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The French call it Raison D’être. Every company – raw startup or Fortune 100 – must figure out its ‘reason for being’

This isn’t just mission, vision, values. It’s the whole enchilada – WHY are we doing this?

If you get this wrong – or don’t have one at all – good luck recovering. Because you’ll never be able to build an energized team of Rockstars.

Mert Iseri is CEO & Co-Founder of SwipeSense, a VC-funded company. His company has a HUGE mission: To eradicate medical errors & infections in hospitals. This would save countless lives every year.

In this 20-minute interview, Mert reveals how he & his team crafted this Raison D’être. And how they operationalized it.

Dream big. Mert is.


Strong Suit 105: How to Find Balance in a Rocketship Startup

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Balance is everything when building a company.

My guest today is Divey Gulati, Co-Founder of one of Chicago’s fastest-growing companies, ShipBob.

ShipBob provides a direct-to-consumer fulfillment service for websites that want to ship directly to customers.

In this 20 minute interview, Divey & I discuss 2 topics:

  1. Co-Founders – how do you start a company with someone who’s been a friend for 30 years & still stay that way
  2. How to build & lead a startup that has 2 distinct subcultures (white collar & logistics warehouse)


Strong Suit 104: How to Win the War for Talent when you can’t Pay like Facebook

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Make no mistake. The war for talent is on. You’re competing for talent with Uber, Facebook, and Google. And their pockets are deeper than yours.

So how to do it?

Roger Panetta runs the firm Nimble At Work, which provides executives with tools to attract rockstar talent.

In this 20-minute interview, Roger reveals the secrets to using non-$ rewards to attract rockstars. How to build a culture that keeps them. And the mistakes to avoid along the way.


Strong Suit 103: Shatter the Glass Ceiling at your Company

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My guest today is a legend. Christie Hefner is Chairman of Hatch Beauty, a brand & product innovation company. Previously, she served as Executive Chairman of Canyon Ranch Enterprises.

From 1988 to 2008, Christie led Playboy Enterprises, making her the longest serving female Chairman & CEO of a U.S. public company. For three years she was named to FORTUNE’s list of “Most Powerful Women”

She led Playboy onto the Internet, making it the first national magazine on the web. Christie greatly expanded the leveraging of the Playboy brand via licensing. In 2008, Playboy generated close to $1 billion in global sales.

Christie is a passionate advocate of equal rights & opportunities for women. She was the first woman elected to the Chicago chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization & has worked hard to increase the number of women serving on corporate boards nationwide.

In this 20-minute interview, Christie shares what it takes for a business to finally balance the gender mix of its executive team & board of directors, and how women can accelerate their careers.


Strong Suit 102: How Google Recruits Rockstars for its Biggest Bets

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Did you know that Google has a series of programs called “Moonshots” ? These are some of its biggest bets … self-driving cars, personalized medicine, and stuff I can’t even mention.

My guest today is Amy Vernetti, Director of Leadership Recruiting for those Moonshots at Google. She hand-picks & recruits CEO’s & their direct staff. These people will literally shape our future lives.

Previously, Amy spent 20 years in executive search with Heidrick & Struggles, Korn/Ferry & True Search.

In this 20-minute interview, Amy reveals how she does it, and the pitfalls to avoid.


Strong Suit #100: VC Brad Feld Reveals his Secrets of Love, Relationships, Entrepreneurship

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He’s back!

Brad Feld was my first guest, and he returns today for an intimate Valentine’s Day episode #100. Brad is Managing Director of Foundry Group, a leading venture capital firm with a storied track record.

Outside of work, Brad enjoys a fruitful long-term marriage with a remarkable woman, Amy Batchelor. They even co-wrote the book “Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur”

In this special 35-minute interview, Brad reveals:

    • How to stay in love
    • Small ways to show your partner that they come ahead of your work
    • Making sure that work travel doesn’t kill the magic
    • How to build a cadence into your relationship
    • Keeping a healthy, vibrant relationship despite the stresses of entrepreneurship


Strong Suit 099: What a top Silicon Valley consumer VC Really Thinks

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I had the amazing opportunity to interview Tom Blaisdell. Tom is one of Silicon Valley’s top Venture Capitalists focused on consumer/small business-facing startups.

It’s hard to believe that I first met Tom 2 decades ago, when he ran the QuickBooks business at Intuit in Palo Alto (now a $B+ business).

He switched to VC about 15 years ago, and is General Partner with DCM Ventures (with $2B under management)

In this 20-minute interview, Tom reveals:

  • What VC’s really look for in an entrepreneur
  • How to know when you’ve made a hiring mistake, and what to do
  • Sole Founder or Co-Founders?
  • How do VC’s & Founders really think about “exit” (sale, IPO, etc)
  • The “must-read” list he gives to each of his portfolio companies


Strong Suit 098: How to Choose the Right Headhunter

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Did you know there are over 300,000 recruiters in the US?

When it’s time to get outside help hiring a candidate, how can you possibly select the right one?

My guest is Henry Miller, Global Life Science Practice Leader at Diversified Search. He began his search career with Heidrick & Struggles in Healthcare.

Henry has successfully led global searches in US, UK, Germany, France, China & a bunch more.

In this 20-minute interview, Henry reveals the things you Must know when selecting a search firm. Including the inside secrets that headhunters don’t want you to know.



Strong Suit 097: The 3 Characteristics of Rockstar Talent

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Jim O’Malley recruited much of the amazing leadership team to Fifth Third Bank. Now he’s Partner at TalentRise, a fast-growing talent firm based in Chicago.

He’s got over 20 years of recruiting executives to companies large & small.

In this revealing interview, Jim shares: The 3 characteristics that define a Rockstar / A real-life example of behavioral interviewing / When & how to sell a Rockstar on the position / How to onboard a new hire, and set them up for success


Strong Suit 096: How this 12-year-old CEO balances Work & Homework

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In nearly 100 podcast episodes, Parker Krex is my youngest guest ever.

Parker is CEO of BrickLoot, the Lego subscription service for brick-lovers. Believe it or not, a huge chunk of his customers are grownups.

In this 20-minute interview, Parker reveals: How he came up with the idea / How he acquired 2,000 paid subscribers / How to be scrappy without outside capital / How to ace your classes while running a business.


Strong Suit 095: Recruiting the elusive rockstar Software Developer

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Dave Mayer is CEO of Technical Integrity, one of the fastest-growing recruiting firms in Denver/Boulder.

When he’s not snowboarding, Dave is finding the best Software Developers. That’s all he does… and It’s not easy.

In this 20-minute interview, Dave reveals:
– How to “test drive” a Developer before extending an offer
– When it’s a good (or bad) idea to hire an existing team of 5 Developers
– Why compensation is often the least important thing to a Developer
– How to find Developers these days (many are pulling their profiles off LinkedIn!)
– Interviewing Developers for culture fit, even when they’re introverts


Strong Suit 094: Go behind-the-scenes with this top headhunter

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Few people are more qualified to teach growth companies the secrets of recruiting than Betsy Tilkemeier.

Following successful careers at the 3 top headhunting firms … Korn/Ferry, Russell Reynolds, Heidrick & Struggles … she ventured on her own to start North Line Partners.

There, she’s successfully filled key roles for high-growth companies: Revolution Foods, Plum Organics, KIND Snacks, Omaha Steaks, See’s Candies, The Pampered Chef.

In this 20-minute interview, Betsy reveals:

– How to figure out what skills you truly need in your next hire
– The biggest mistakes people make when hiring
– How to interview candidates for cultural fit
– Why Rockstar talent won’t move for a lateral position



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