Strong Suit Podcast

Strong Suit is the playbook for recruiting Rockstars. You'll learn how to hire twice as fast. With half the mistakes. No more bad hires. ... Ready! Aim! Hire!
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Strong Suit Podcast




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Jun 21, 2018

If you’re tired of the hassle with scheduling meetings, this episode is for you.

My guest is Maran Nelson. She’s Co-Founder & CEO of Clara Labs, based in Silicon Valley.

Clara is the human-in-the-loop assistant that schedules your meetings. Using a blend of technology, AI, and humans, Clara coordinates where/when your candidates and employees will meet. 

And it can be applied to scheduling all sorts of meetings.

Maran has raised funding from Sequoia Capital, Upside Ventures, First Round Capital, and other VC’s.

After studying Neuroscience at U of Texas at Austin, she co-founded Clara with a childhood friend to solve one of business’ most frustrating problems.

In this 20-minute conversation, she reveals how she’s recruited & built a team of “people” people.

Jun 19, 2018

It’s one thing to come up with a super-cool new product idea.

It’s entirely another to raise millions in venture capital funding, handpick a bunch of top-performers, build them into a cohesive team, and execute.

And ship!

That’s precisely what David Rabie has done. 

He’s Founder & CEO of Tovala. This early-stage company moved from Silicon Valley to Chicago, to get its hands on great talent.

Tovala is a smart oven that is paired with a meal delivery service. The simplest way to get healthy food into your kitchen and your body. 

After years working at Veggie Grill and Groovy Spoon Frozen Yogurt, David was inspired to reimagine the way that people prepare their dinner.

And his team is doing it.

In this 20-minute episode, he tells us how.

Jun 14, 2018

Unless this is your first time listening to the show, you know that today’s topic is my obsession.

Building an “A” team isn’t a thing. It’s the Only thing that matters in today’s hypercompetitive market.

And I found the perfect guest.

Whitney Johnson has been recognized as one of the 50 leading business thinkers in the world. She’s an expert on disruptive innovation & personal disruption; specifically, a framework which she codifies in the critically acclaimed book “Disrupt Yourself.”

Her new book “Build an ‘A’ Team: Play To Their Strengths & Lead Them Up The Learning Curve” is a fascinating guidebook for how to build your organization, reduce turnover, and make your recruiting far easier.

Whitney developed her proprietary framework & diagnostics after having co-founded the Disruptive Innovation Fund with Harvard Business School’s legendary Clayton Christensen.

In this 20-minute conversation, Whitney reveals how it’s done step-by-step. Have a pen ready to jot notes.

Jun 12, 2018

After spending 10 years working in paid search, Jordan Meyer decided it was time to strike out on his own. 

He had no idea that Granular would become one of Milwaukee’s fastest-growing companies in just 4 years.

Jordan is CEO & Founder of Granular.

You may think that all PPC firms are alike.

What’s fascinating about Granular is their people model. All of its PPC managers are experienced. No junior people. No interns. Clients work with a seasoned paid search pro. 

I wanted to find out how Jordan built it.

Here’s the 20-minute interview.

Jun 7, 2018

If your business has 10 to 100 employees, and you’re on a growth trajectory, some days it feels like you’re jumping one hurdle after another.

But the most successful business leaders do things differently at this stage, particularly when it comes to putting processes in place. This helps push down decision-making to the lowest possible level of the organization.

So, I wanted to find out how to do it properly.

Brad Farris is uniquely qualified. At Chicago-based Anchor Advisors, he’s worked with hundreds of businesses to do just that. 

By putting in the right systems early, he helps small businesses scale big.

So if that’s your aspiration for 2018, this 20-minute episode is for you.

Jun 6, 2018

If you hope to have even a prayer of recruiting Rockstars, you’d better be one yourself.

Because they won’t consider for working for someone they can’t learn from, grow from, and one day replace (once you’re promoted).

So to do that, you need to communicate to candidates that they’ll be working directly for a top-performer.

And that means building your personal brand (not your company’s brand or employer brand. I’m talking about YOUR brand).

So I tracked down an expert to show us how.

Jay Kuhns is VP of HR Strategy at Kinetix, a leading recruitment process and human resources consulting firm. He’s been at it for 20 years, and has built a reputation for teaching executives how to establish their brand as a Rockstar.

As a side benefit: when you build your personal brand, you make it far easier for us headhunters to find you & put you in front of our CEO, VC, and PE clients.

Jay gives it to you straight. No BS. No excuses. So be ready when you listen to this 20-minute episode.

May 24, 2018

It may seem like a silly question: What does a CEO do?

More specifically, what do the Best CEO’s do? How do they spend their days?

It’s so easy to become distracted or reactive. Stop. Should you be leading? Recruiting? Selling? Doing? Partnering?

We know what the Chief Marketing Officer does. And the VP Sales? That’s pretty clear too.

But if you’re a CEO, what should you do with your day? 

And if you’re an aspiring CEO, what will your job be like when you earn the title?

I found the perfect guest to answer this question.

Saydeah Howard is Senior Vice President Talent & Services at IVP. With $7 billion of committed capital, IVP is one of the premier later-stage venture capital & growth equity firms in the US.  Founded in 1980, IVP has invested in over 300 companies, 106 of which have gone public.

At IVP, Saydeah works with a ton of CEO’s of their portfolio companies so she has a unique perspective. She’s seen what works & what doesn’t.

Before IVP, she was VP Human Resources at LeapFrog and a recruiter at Russell Reynolds, the international executive search firm.

If you’ve ever wondered what the CEO job is like (or should be like) you’re about to find out in 20 minutes.

May 23, 2018

You know that early-stage companies pivot, in search of that elusive product/market fit. Looking for a business model that works.

But do you know that - equally important - people need to pivot as well?

In search of the career, the specific role, and the home to do the best work of their life. People need to find their strengths & what's working, in order to figure out what comes next.

And as leaders, one of our most vital functions is to help our employees do this.

So, I found an expert on how it's done.

Jenny Blake is the author, career strategist and international speaker who helps people organize their brain, move beyond burnout & build sustainable careers they love. 

She's the author of "Pivot: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One" which won an award for Axiom Best Business Book in the careers category.

After 2 years at a technology start-up, she spent 5 years at Google in Training & Career Development.

So she's helped a ton of people pivot. I'll bet she can help you too.

May 18, 2018

I’ve seen this movie before.

The business ramps from 2 Founders to 10 employees, then to 100, then 1000.

The American dream.

But the talent strategy hasn’t evolved. And that’s when the people problems begin. 

Recruiting, retention, employer brand, compensation design … everything needs to be revisited at each node of growth.

So I sought out an expert to show us how (And I kinda bagged the elephant.)

Kevin Marasco is Chief Marketing Officer of SF-based Zenefits. With 500 employees, they’ve created a super-cool people platform that brings HR, Payroll, & Benefits into a single app. Makes it really easy.

Prior, Kevin was CMO at HireVue and VP Brand at Taleo (acquired by Oracle). He’s been with companies from 2 people to 2,000. So he understands what needs to happen in each phase.

In this 20-minute conversation, Kevin shares the stuff he wishes he knew “back then.” If you hope to scale your business, you can’t afford to miss this episode.



May 16, 2018

Legendary CEO Jack Welch of General Electric said yes.

He simply meant that to get the most out of your team, sometimes you need to praise & compliment; other times, you need to give the tough love.

In my experience, he’s right.

But how to do it? Easier said than done. 

That’s why I was psyched to interview Kim Scott, author of the bestseller Radical Candor. She’s not just writing on theory - she’s lived it.

Kim led AdSense, YouTube, and Doubleclick Online Sales & Operations at Google and then joined Apple to develop & teach a leadership seminar. And she’s been a CEO coach at Dropbox & Twitter.

'Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss without Losing your Humanity' is a bestseller on both New York Times & Wall Street Journal. 

In the book - and in this 20-minute conversation, she gives practical advice for how to care about your people, yet at the same time challenge them directly. 

No more of that backstabbing, passive aggressive, bossy pants stuff. Master this skill & you’ll be amazed by the results.

May 10, 2018

The MeToo movement is barely 12 months old, yet companies finally(!) seem to serious about recruiting more Rockstar women. It’s time to improve the gender balance at your company.

70% of executives are male. How does your company compare?

Laurie Ruettimann can show you how.

She’s an internationally recognized public speaker who gives it to you straight. There’s a reason she’s featured in Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal… the list is endless.

And she’s spoken at Harvard Business School, SXSW, Microsoft, Google.

In this 20-minute conversation, Laurie reveals how you should go about it. And the biggest pitfalls to avoid along the way.


May 8, 2018

After you bust your hump to recruit Rockstars to your company, how do you get the most out of them?

Start by building a relationship with them. 

I know that sounds obvious, but most executives are too eager for results, to invest the time really forging trust with new-hires.

So I found an expert on how to do it.

Doug Sandler’s book Nice Guys Finish First is a #1 ranked Amazon Bestseller. 

He specializes in making connections, building relationships & strengthening bonds both inside and outside organizations. 

But don’t let the “Mr. Nice Guy” tag fool you. Doug has entered into many high-level negotiations and is anything but a pushover. 

Many call him the guru on improving relationships.

His Nice Guys on Business Podcast has over 1.2 million downloads and Inc calls it “Most Binge-Worthy”

May 3, 2018

Not many people are successful at starting & building companies, and also building new initiatives within a larger company (...or in this case, one of the largest).

But here’s one … Micah Baldwin

Micah was early or founded six startups, which have raised more than $350,000,000 collectively, with 4 exits.

He successfully launched companies, and grew a publisher base from 0 to 10,000, and monthly page views from 11 million to 450 million per month in just 1 year.

And now, Micah is with Amazon, where he’s created & launched a senior level program for corporate innovation, working with some of the largest enterprises & hottest startups in the world.

In this 20-minute interview, Micah reviews how (and why) he made the switch from entrepreneur to intrepreneur. There’s a ton to be learned, as he’s exceedingly candid about his path.


May 1, 2018

I’ll be honest. 

I was shaking in my boots for this podcast interview. 

How often do we get to interview our business idol?

Tom Peters’ first book “In Search of Excellence” single-handedly created the business book genre.

And it changed how I look at business. I’ve read every word of all 17 of his bestselling books.

In this 20-minute interview, Tom & I covered a ton of ground, including…

  • How can your business out-Amazon Amazon?
  • What is leadership really about in 2018?
  • And What is “Give-a-Sh*t”ism?

Educated at Stanford. Consulted at McKinsey & Company. Served in US Navy. Worked in the White House. 

They don’t come any bolder than Tom Peters. He’s truly the guru of management gurus.

Apr 26, 2018

The war for talent has gone global.

As if it wasn’t already hard enough to recruit Rockstars, now you’re competing for talent with companies across the world, not just across town.

So in this episode, we’re going global to learn about your competition.

Based in Sydney, Greg Savage is the highest-profile recruiter in Australia. He’s built 4 firms during his 40 years, most notably leading the giant Aquent as its International CEO.

In fact, Greg was voted “most influential person in Australian recruitment in the past 60 years.” Yowza!

In this 20-minute episode, Greg & I discuss your “moments of truth” with a candidate. 

Any moment of contact where emotions are triggered (the first phone call, the interview, extending the offer, etc). You’ve gotta remember that these situations evoke emotion in the candidate… flattery, suspicion, fear of making a bad decision, etc.

We talk about how to prepare for, and address them. And how to nail those moments of truth every time.

Apr 24, 2018

How can Co-Founders start & grow a business without killing each other?

You may know that 66% of early-stage companies fail due to people problems. And the #1 root cause? Co-Founders that just can’t make it together.

And who can blame them? 80 hours a week together - yikes!

But did you know that there’s therapy for those Co-Founders?

Now, there is.

Based in Chicago, Myra Castaneda & Shira Galston are the creators of Amity. It creates a safe space to explore the complex relationships, on both a business level and an interpersonal level, to build trust, communication, and empathy.

They’ve applied their considerable therapy experience to this crucial need. Co-Founders squabble, yes. But more importantly, they avoid talking about the things that they really need to discuss. 

So Myra & Shira facilitate the discussion and help Co-Founders heal. In this 20-minute discussion, they reveal the best practices to develop a healthy relationship. And the biggest mistakes to avoid.


Apr 19, 2018

You should be so lucky to have David Cancel’s problems.

He’s founded 5 companies. His current one, Boston-based Drift, continues to double year after year. Drift gives you a unified view of your customers across e-mail, web, social media, mobile channels, plus the ability to trigger marketing campaigns based on real-time  behavior. Pretty slick.

That’s Hypergrowth mode. 

And it creates unique challenges when it comes to recruiting: Hiring a team of consistent Rockstars, while drinking from a firehose.

Yet he’s done it time after time. Heck, his previous startup Performable was acquired by HubSpot.

So, I had to ask David how he does it. He’s known for building great teams.

He attributes much of his success to an unorthodox way of Interviewing candidates, and Onboarding them once they accept (And they usually accept!)

In this 20-minute conversation, David shares his secrets. And the rookie mistakes to avoid.

Apr 17, 2018

If I had one quarter, and I had to place it on the betting table when it comes to recruiting…

I’d place it on Referrals every single time.

Referrals are cheaper, faster, better. They stay longer. They match your company’s DNA better.

So how to find more referrals?

I asked Nick Cromydas, CEO of Chicago-based Hunt Club, a new type of recruiting firm. They leverage referrals to fill roles faster & better.

Cold calling, spamming on Linkedin, impersonal mass mails, treating candidates like a transaction ... These no longer work in today's war for talent.

If you’re tired of posting & praying on job boards, take a sip from the elixir of Referrals. In this 20-minute episode, Nick reveals the best practices and the mistakes to avoid.

Apr 12, 2018

I’ve read every word written by Josh Steimle. 

He’s an author, speaker, and entrepreneur who has figured out how (and why) to make your company’s CEO an “Influencer”

It’s a gamechanger to make him or her the face of your company & your mission.

Josh has written over 300 articles for Fortune, Time, Forbes, Inc. He’s the author of the book “Chief Marketing Officers at Work” (recognized in Success Magazine as 1 of the 5 best business books in 2016)

He’s also the founder of Influencer Inc., a publishing, training, and events company that turns executives into thought leaders.

In this 20-minute discussion, Josh reveals how to go about making your CEO a visible thought leader, and how it’ll make your recruiting job that much easier.

Apr 10, 2018

What is a talent strategy & when do you need to create one?

If you’re like most business leaders, your firm has a product strategy, a sales strategy, a funding strategy, a marketing strategy. But NO talent strategy.


Why is the most important thing also the most overlooked thing? Let’s find out.

Will Staney is Founder of Proactive Talent Strategies, the talent acquisition company focused on helping organizations optimize their recruiting & employer branding. His clients include GoDaddy, GE Digital,

He’s also the former Head of Global Talent Acquisition at rapidly-growing startups Twilio & Glassdoor. Prior to that, he held recruiting leadership roles at VMware, SuccessFactors, and SAP.

In this 20-minute conversation, Will explains what is (and isn’t) part of a successful talent strategy, how & when to create one, and the rookie mistakes to avoid.

Apr 5, 2018

What can firefighters teach us about teamwork & its impact on the bottom line?

A ton, according to today’s guest Erica Keswin. Erica & I went to school together many years ago.

Since then, she’s worked in organization & leadership development at Hay Group and Booz Allen & Hamilton and worked as an Executive Director at Russell Reynolds Associates. Her book ‘Bring Your Human to Work’ debuts in Fall 2018.

Erica was fascinated by a 2015 Cornell study showing that firemen who eat together are actually better at their jobs … they save more lives!

So she crafted The Spaghetti Project, to examine how relationships at work lead to increased performance. It’s based on the concept of bringing the ‘whole self’ to work, with an emphasis on trust & vulnerability.

In this 20-minute interview, Erica reveals how you can improve the level of connectedness of your team, and thus improve your business results.

Apr 3, 2018

David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done” changed my life. I read it when it debuted in 2001 & multiple times since.

Now published in 28 languages, “GTD” is recognized as the definitive book on personal productivity. And David is the world’s leading authority on the topic (Even Howard Stern is a believer.)

GTD rests on the idea of moving planned tasks out of the mind by recording them externally & then breaking them into actionable work items. 

David was the first to establish that the mind is exceptional at having ideas, but not so great at holding them. After decades of in-the-field research, David wrote the international best-seller.

In this 20-minute episode, David & I tackle one of the biggest stumbling blocks for leaders:

Do I do it or delegate it? (Some do too much; others delegate too freely.) 

It turns out, there IS a way to decide. And you’ll discover it here.

Mar 29, 2018

I’m always on the hunt for untapped sources of great talent. With record-low unemployment, you’ve gotta dig deep.

And I found one.

Allison O’Kelly created Mom Corps out of necessity. In 2003, she was a mom with 2 kids under 2. A talented MBA & CPA, she realized that full-time work wasn’t practical at the moment.

So, she created the perfect job for herself. Then, she made it her mission to help other experienced professionals so the same. 

Today, Mom Corps has grown to a nationwide talent advisory, search, and staffing firm.

Allison’s received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Woman Award, and been featured on The Today Show.

In this 20-minute interview, she reveals what she’s learned along the way. How to tap into this massive talent pool. And the biggest mistakes to avoid.


Mar 27, 2018

Once you’ve worked your tail off to recruit a team of Rockstars, how do you manage them around projects?

Yes, even Rockstars need to be led & held accountable. Our goal is to get the best work from them.

So I sought out an expert on how to do it. And I found him… in Estonia 

With just 1.3M population, it’s the home of Skype and has some fascinating things to teach us about leadership. 

Jüri Kaljundi is Co-Founder of Weekdone, a team management, weekly reporting, and internal communication tool for hassle-free weekly employee status reports. Weekdone makes managers & employees more productive. 

In this 20-minute discussion, Jüri shares what he’s learned about best practices & the biggest mistakes when leading your team.

Mar 22, 2018

After you work so hard to win the war for talent & hire Rockstars, how do you keep them engaged & happy? 

Let’s be honest.

Your employees are overwhelmed. And like most managers, you’re likely stuck in a rut of managing meetings, slipping deadlines, and frustration about the nature of work.

I didn’t want the 50,000 foot hoity-toity strategy. I went looking for practical & actionable tactics.

And I found it in Sacramento, of all places.

Shawn Murphy is the author of “The Optimistic Workplace” and a weekly columnist in Inc. He’s also the Founder & CEO of WorqIQ.

Shawn has identified potential levers that can help you dramatically improve the experience of work. 

In this 20-minute interview, he shares actionable ways to hang on to your most talented folks.

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