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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Jan 24, 2017

There’s perhaps no greater mystery than the world of Private Equity investors, and how they decide to write the check or walk away. 

Much of it comes down to Talent.

My guest today, Shoshana Vernick, is Managing Director of the Education Opportunity Fund at Sterling Partners, with billions under management.

In this 20-minute discussion, Shoshana walks thru how she evaluates Talent before deciding whether to make an investment. And how she works with leadership teams after writing the check.

Jan 19, 2017

How'd you like to go instead the Boardroom of venture capital-funded company? To see how the Board of Directors really works?

Today's guest is Jason Heltzer, Partner at Origin Ventures, a leading Chicago VC fund with $60M under management.

Jason is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at Chicago Booth, where he teaches the venture capital and private equity lab class.

He's worked with dozens of VC portfolio companies & sat in many hundreds of Board meetings. In this 20-minute discussion, Jason reveals:

- what really happens in the Boardroom
- the personalities & dynamics
- the value of independent board members
- how the ideal Board meeting is structured

Jan 10, 2017

My guest Adam Robinson is Chief Hireologist & CEO of Hireology, one of Chicago’s fastest-growing companies. They’ve raised millions in venture capital to crack the recruiting code.

Adam has made a science of the recruiting process, by creating a software product that focuses on the most-predictive elements of the recruiting process.

In this 20-minute interview, Adam reveals the FOUR factors that are most-predictive of candidate success. If you don’t nail these four, you’re wasting your time. Regardless of industry, level, or job, these are the ones that matter most. 

Everything else is just noise.


Jan 9, 2017

What must you do after the interview to ensure that you hire a rockstar every time?

My guest today is Mary Beth Wynn, SVP of People at Jellyvision. They’ve been recognized as having one of the most unique & healthy cultures in the tech industry.

In this 20-minute segment, Mary Beth walks through the 3 key things you must get right even after the interview 

(1) Doing reference checks the right way 

(2) Using a job audition to “test drive” the candidate before extending an offer 

(3) Crafting an offer letter that gets the “Yes” every time


Jan 5, 2017

Building a winning culture is hard... But combining two cultures into one is nearly impossible.

My guest today, Matt Moog, has done it. 

As CEO of PowerReviews, Matt combined his company with a competitor. Merging brands & technologies was simple, compared to the challenge of combining cultures.

In this 20-minute interview, Matt reveals step-by-step how he did it. What to do before, during, and after an acquisition. Everything you must do to ensure the corporate culture is unstoppable after the deal. And the mistakes you must avoid.

If you've ever been curious about how cultures survive a merger, you can't afford to miss this conversation.

Jan 3, 2017

The war for talent is ON. So, how do you compete with the likes of Google, Facebook, and Uber to attract Rockstars to your fledgling company? Especially when you can't pay top dollar.

My guest today is Kevin Willer. He's uniquely-qualified to show us how.

Kevin is Partner at Chicago Ventures, the fund with $100M under management & dozens of upstart portfolio companies.

And before that, Kevin was the very First employee of Google in Chicago. Back in 2000 - when nobody had heard of Google - he built a Rockstar team of hundreds & put them on the map.

In this 20-minute interview, Kevin shows us how to compete for talent with the big names. The mistakes to avoid. And why talent should be your #1 priority in 2017.

Dec 15, 2016

Nicole Dessain is Founder & Chief Strategist of Talent Imperative. She’s also President of Disrupt HR Chicago.

In this 20-minute interview, Nicole reveals why you should create a disruptive H.R. function in your company, the 5 ways to do it, and the major impact that you can expect.

If you want to learn the ways to unleash talent in your organization, you can’t miss this episode.

Dec 13, 2016

You’ve got a great new idea. A prospective customer. Perhaps even some software written. 

And now it’s time to start adding people to your team.

When you’re first starting out, signing new employees takes a huge leap of faith. And choosing your Co-Founder is a game-changing decision.

With 10 years investment experience, Imran Ahmad heads the OCA EDGE seed program at OCA Ventures. He & his team have made 17 investments in early-stage companies. So he’s seen the mistakes that entrepreneurs make, and the best practices to avoid the pitfalls. 

If you recently started a company - or you’re thinking about it in 2017 - you can’t afford to miss this 20 minute episode.

Dec 8, 2016

If you’re like most leaders, giving feedback to your staff isn’t your idea of a good time. Who likes running the risk of hurt feelings?

So, in this episode, my guest is Jennifer Marszalek. She’s Chief Talent Officer at Havas Chicago, part of the global marketing agency. Her team has 400 employees. Prior, she was the head of H.R. at GrubHub and SurePayroll.

In this 20-minute interview, Jennifer reveals how to give feedback the right way so your people develop but still love you / So that its not painful for you / How to give feedback to Millennials

Dec 6, 2016

Today’s guest is Jeff Maters, Managing Director of Network Ventures, the fast-growing Chicago-based VC fund. Jeff has been investing in early-stage companies since joining Pritzker Group Venture Capital as employee #3.

Because Jeff has worked with so many early-stage firms, he’s seen the same problems over & over. In this 20-minute interview, Jeff reveals the most common mistakes CEO’s make and how to avoid them / How to choose a Co-Founder / How to decide when to start hiring or when to wait.

Dec 1, 2016

Why is recruiting rockstar salespeople so difficult? Many are such good talkers, so it’s hard to separate the A-Players from the wannabes.

Today’s guest shows you how. Carolyn Betts is the founder & CEO of Betts Recruiting, one of the world’s largest sales recruitment firms. With 100 recruiters, Betts finds talent for tech, media, and Saas companies in the US & Europe.

In this 15-minute interview, Carolyn reveals the biggest mistakes people make when recruiting sales people (& leaders) / how to interview candidates / how to close a rockstar sales rep

Nov 29, 2016

Imagine going behind the scenes at a leading VC firm & being a fly on the wall at the Partner Meeting. 

My guest today is Guy Turner, Managing Director at Hyde Park Venture Partners in Chicago. With a new $65M venture fund, Guy is investing in rocket ship startups like Farmlogs & FourKites.

In this 20-min interview, Guy reveals the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make. He sees the same problems over & over. And he shares the keys to avoiding them.

Nov 17, 2016

With the pace of business accelerating, its more important than ever for your team to test, innovate, iterate, and share their findings with each other.

Brittani Shaw is Director of Talent with Vivid Seats, one of Chicago’s hottest PE-funded companies. She’s an expert at creating learning organizations, which she has repeated at Spring Rewards, Centro, and Echo Global.

In this 20-minute interview, Brittany reveals: recruiting people that really value learning / interviewing to see if they’re legit / developing them / putting systems in place to ensure they share learnings companywide.


Nov 15, 2016

As your growth company scales, you’ve got to take an honest look at your talent pool & decide whether your current folks are the right ones to get you where you want to go. Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. My guest today is Mattie Isaac, who has played an instrumental role in two hypergrowth companies. Currently, she is Director of Human Resources with Trunk Club (acquired recently by Nordstrom), where she has overseen the growth from 300 people to 1,300. Previously, she built the H.R. function from the ground up at Braintree, before it was acquired by PayPal for $800M. In this 15-minute interview, Mattie reveals: How to handle recruiting experts from outside without demotivating the current team / How to know if your current team is ready for the road ahead /  And how to exit folks that can’t make it.

Nov 10, 2016

It’s a high-class problem…your business is booming. So, how do you lead your team to keep up with the growth? My guest today is Chris Campbell, CEO of ReviewTrackers, one of Chicago’s fastest-growing company. They make customer intelligence software to help companies manage their online reviews & improve brand reputation. Chris has learned a ton about building & leading a team in hypergrowth mode. In this 15-minute interview, he shares it with you.

Nov 8, 2016

It took months, but I finally bagged the elephant! My guest is Robert Hatta, Partner at Drive Capital, one of today’s hottest VC firms. They just closed a $300 million fund to invest in Midwestern companies. Robert’s seen the talent movie over & over. In this 20-minute interview, he reveals the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make when it comes to hiring & building a culture. If you’re raising VC capital, or thinking about it, you can’t afford to miss this.

Nov 3, 2016

The times are changing. We’re officially in the Gig Economy. Keith Ryu is Founder of OnboardIQ, the hiring automation solution for temporary hourly workers. His clients include Grubhub, Groupon, and Square. Even if you don’t recruit hourly workers, don’t miss this episode because you soon will. People are changing jobs more often & more people are opting to become hourly contract workers. Keith reveals how to find, assess, and recruit hourly workers in the Gig Economy.

Nov 1, 2016

In this super-tight labor market, you can’t take the candidate experience for granted. It doesn’t take much to mess it up & turn them off. And on Glassdoor & LinkedIn, they’ll tell thousands of your misdeeds.

My guest today is Michelle Joseph, the Founder & CEO of PeopleFoundry. She’s an expert with 10 years experience in perfecting how to communicate with candidates.

Michelle reveals the secrets to engaging candidates… even when they’re not actively seeking a new role.

Oct 27, 2016

Maria Brewer is a Rockstar VC. At RRE Ventures, she’s Director of Platform & works with their portfolio companies to accelerate growth. Maria recently took it upon herself to interview a large group of experts on best practices. Her goal was to uncover the secrets to sourcing, hiring, and retaining Rockstars. She just published the results, and in this 20-minute interview she reveals the highlights of what she found out. You can’t afford to miss this.

Oct 25, 2016

Katie Hughes is uniquely-qualified to talk about building your company’s organization because she is Talent Partner at DFJ, the global V.C. firm with $4 billion under management. Katie joined in 2012 and works with the firm’s portfolio companies on their human capital strategies. Prior, she was Managing Director with Betts Recruiting, doing search work for V.C.-backed, high-growth tech companies. In this 20-minute interview, Katie reveals: How to recruit for values / How to recruit for diversity / How to recruit in partnership with your investors / And More.

Oct 20, 2016

Adam Thacher has nailed over 200 retained executive searches. After graduating from Kellogg School, he created Thacher Executive Search & conducts searches in PE, VC, consumer products, and software. In this 20-min interview, Adam reveals: The characteristics of a Rockstar / How many candidates to interview / How to assess culture fit / How & when to bring up compensation.

Oct 18, 2016

Rebecca Foreman Janjic has been conducting retained executive searches for 20 years and now she gives us the inside scoop on how its done. She’s a Partner at Heidrick & Struggles, the preeminent firm. Rebecca is Co-Leader of Heidrick’s Big Data & Analytics Practice and Practice Leader for Venture Capital. Previously, she was in search at Polachi. In this 20-min interview, Rebecca reveals: The definition of a Rockstar / Most common mistakes people make when recruiting / Finding the candidate that’s right for your company’s stage / What interview questions are most predictive of success.

Oct 13, 2016

If you hire - or you’re going to hire - sales reps, you can’t afford to miss this interview. Dr. Christopher Croner is author of the best-selling book “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again.” He’s also creator of the assessment test SalesDrive. He’s advised over 600 sales organizations and tested tens of thousands of salespeople. Along the way, he’s identified the 3 essential criteria that every successful sales rep must possess. They can’t be trained or coached — a rep has them or doesn’t. Find out the 3 all-important characteristics.

Oct 11, 2016

20 years ago, Ted Martin founded Martin Partners in Chicago. Since then, he’s become one of the nation’s leading executive recruiters. Ted specializes in searches for CEO candidates & the “top table” of an organization. In fact, he’s become a “go-to” guy for VC & PE firms nationally. In this 20-minute interview, Ted reveals: How to reduce the risk that a new hire won’t succeed / #1 variable to find in Rockstar leaders / Risks of big-company candidates moving to smaller-companies / How & when to do references the right way.

Oct 6, 2016

Dayton Ogden is of Head of Talent for Summit Partners, the legendary $16B VC & PE investment fund. He’s responsible for scouring the world in search of rockstars, who build successful companies. In this 20-minute interview, Dayton reveals: The #1 killer interview question to ask / What to look for in a Rockstar / Why recruiting millennials is a totally different animal / How long to wait before terminating a non-performer / How to recruit board members & advisors.

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