CEO Kimberly Miller is now leading the company, helping it meet the needs of Chicago’s growing tech scene. We talked with her about her focus for success, her three-pronged approach to building teams and who inspires her most.
How do you define success for your company?
Total world domination of course, but for now we will be focusing on growth, impact and happiness. Growth, not in client acquisition only, but growth in new markets, new employees and new products. We are impacting an industry that has had little change, so perfecting a solution for our clients’ biggest problems and creating a happy and productive workplace for my employees and clients alike.
What’s a major challenge you’ve faced as a leader, and what did you learn from it?
Overcoming the challenge of career change, not only for myself but for my employees, who can be new to their role and always new to our company. I now give the advice you should change no more than two of the following: change companies, change industries or change your position. Changing all three will be a major challenge; it can be done, but not without sacrifice. When you move into that new role, it is key to understand that what you invest in the beginning will pay off year over year. That investment should make your position 20 percent easier and 20 percent more lucrative the next year. Be learning agile in that new role — do not wait for someone to give you the answers but go out and find them. Change can and will be exciting and invigorating. When you are prepared for what comes along with it, you will prosper from the experience.
How do you build and sustain great teams?
I focus on education, environment and earned opportunity. Education comes first. Everyone has an area they can improve upon, and everyone is a subject matter expert in something. I hire people who are open to learning and willing to teach. I find that when we partner with our teammates to learn and teach, we all become better.
Environment is next: the best teams are built with solution-based thinkers. We can all easily identify the problems in an organization, but can we find the solutions and execute on them? I also don’t believe leaders can directly motivate people, but I do believe they can build a motivating environment. You do that through helping each employee build personal and professional goals. We post our goal sheets and we hold each other accountable. We celebrate the achievement of these goals as a team.
Lastly, earned opportunity. I believe there are no limits for my employees. They can and will accomplish more than they could ever imagine. Often times people are limited by a career path that was outlined in the past. If you are interested in accounting, but are currently in sales, do not let that stop you. Hit your objectives in your current position, while preparing for your next opportunity. If you are committed to your future and willing to work hard, you can take on just about any role in any company.
Who inspires you?
My father, a retired firefighter, who worked every day to support our family. When he wasn’t at the firehouse, he was working construction during the day and cleaning offices at night. He set the bar for work ethic. He coached our softball team when I was five and his pep talk was simple “Winning is everything and losing sucks.” We still laugh about that one, but his competitive nature taught us the importance of driving towards our goals.
What are your big plans and expectations for 2017?
We have built the most talented product and tech team in Chicago, and the tools we are launching in 2017 are game changing. We are solution obsessed. We eat, drink and breath our clients’ greatest problems and are excited to introduce new technology to create a happier and more productive workplace.
What’s your favorite part of the Chicago tech community?
The willingness to embrace new startups and their leaders is outstanding. The Chicago tech and startup community has fueled our growth, we are so appreciative of their excitement for what we offer today and what we are launching in 2017.
Image via neighborhoods.com. Some answers have been edited for length and or clarity.
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