In our latest series, we ask several local entrepreneurs 3 questions – What Advice Would They Give Themselves on the Eve of Starting their Company, What’s the Most Important Hire They’ve Made, and How Do You Maximize Your Board?

The seven entrepreneurs below are each members of the Chicago Leadership Alliance, a social enterprise for Chicagoland entrepreneurs.

What Advice Would You Give Yourself on the Eve of Starting Your Company?

Michael Sallander, Chicago Digital – President

I would tell myself that you cannot make everyone happy. Define the type of people you want to surround yourself with (clients, employees, network) and concentrate on serving those people. Understand that time spent trying to attract or serve others detracts from your ability to reach your potential of serving your target audience. Doing less can equal more. I doubt I would have listened to this advice being that I was 21, naive, very ambitious, stubborn and a people-pleaser. I would have still believed that I could be everything to everyone.

Amanda Boleyn – She Did It Her Way, Founder/Host

Admiral William McRaven gave a commencement speech at the University of Texas in 2014. During his speech he said the following, “Finally, in SEAL training there is a bell. A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see. All you have to do to quit is ring the bell.

“Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT — and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training. Just ring the bell.

“If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.” That has been my driving motto as I continue to swim in the waters of entrepreneurship.

Matthew Green, Techweek, Vice President

Under no circumstances should you add someone to your team that is “good enough.” This is especially true early on when your margin for error is practically non-existent. Ensure that you are surrounding yourself with nothing less than top talent, and make it a point to always hire somebody that’s smarter than you.

What Advice Do You Have for Maximizing Your Board and Advisors?

Kristi Zuhlke, KnowledgeHound, CEO & Founder

Whenever I am planning a business trip to a city, I send out my travel plans with the companies I’d like to visit to my Board and Advisors. They then make introductions to people I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to meet. It’s a great way to leverage your network for sales and new connections.

Jeff Rosset – SalesCo – CEO

Ask them to help by doing what they do best. Your board will be made up of very busy people, meaning they’ll be most inclined to spend their limited time if the thing you’re asking them to do is a) something they enjoy doing and b) something they’re an expert at.

Kevin P. Davenport, The Ideal Candidate NFP – Founder & President

Diversify: When building our board, we strategically picked leaders in various fields that had synergy with our mission. This really helped us scale quickly, gain more exposure, and assisted in organically attracting more opportunities for our organization.

What’s the Most Important Hire You’ve Made Recently and Why?

Daniela Bolzmann – Breather, Senior Business Development Manager

The most important hires we made recently were operations lead and an awesome tribe of interns. After doing some self assessment of daily activities, my weakness in delegation was identified as an obvious roadblock to our growth efforts. Realizing this, I created processes for the areas of the business in marketing and operations that didn’t need me specifically. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the needs of a high growth startup but continually checking your limitations and bandwidth allows you to make adjustments for the betterment of the business and more importantly for your personal wellness which is equally important to your employer.

Kevin P. Davenport, The Ideal Candidate NFP – Founder & President

Our grant writer was the best hire by far this year. We interviewed many grant writers before making a decision and during the vetting process, we were looking to gage who showed the most passion for what our organization stands for. Essentially, we weren’t just looking for a new employee, we wanted someone that would fit our culture and go the extra mile. We are so glad we were patient. Our new hire has certainly gone the extra mile, and in addition to writing grants has opened up more opportunities for the organization through her personal network.

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