Build an organization clients want to work with and talent wants to work for


2019 Speaker List Coming Soon



Last Years Badass Line Up  

Gain insights on how to build a business customers want to work with and employees want to work for. Join industry experts and business leaders to learn how to build your People+People™ Plan.


Raman Chadha

Creator and Co-Founder, The Junto Institute

Raman is Founder and Managing Partner of The Junto Institute, whose mission is to help companies and their leaders become infinitely better at who they are and what they do. Through structured educational programs for growth-stage companies, Junto improves the leadership skills, emotional intelligence, and alignment of executives and their teams. That results in better execution, a shorter learning curve, and faster growth...getting them from where they are to where they want to be. With offices in Chicago and Los Angeles, Junto has a powerful community of company founders and leaders (alumni), as well as seasoned entrepreneurs and CEOs (mentors and instructors).

Learn More About The Junto Institute

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Steve Baker

Vice President of The Great Game of Business

Steve Baker is the co-writer of the #1 bestseller The Great Game of Business 20th Anniversary Edition and one of Inc. Magazine’s top-rated speakers. He coaches fast-growing companies on open-book management, strategy & execution, and leadership and employee engagement.

Learn More About The Great Game of Business


Tim Low

Senior Vice President of Marketing, PayScale, Inc.

Tim joined PayScale in 2011 to bring his experience in demand generation, product marketing, branding and go-to-market to the company’s business products. Tim has strong expertise in both enterprise software and cloud-based applications. His past roles include executive positions at Daptiv and Niku, where he was part of the team that led the IPO, and product management roles at Microsoft and Oracle.

Learn More About Payscale


Amber Johnson

Chief Communications Officer, The Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine University

Amber is a weekly contributor at, where she (with colleague Jim Ludema) writes about driving engagement and creating strong cultures through values-driven leadership. Through her writing, public speaking, and consulting, Amber helps companies connect their purpose and values to their core strategies and brands. She is an experienced consultant and is the co-author of several e-books and practitioner resources. Amber’s global leadership experience with World Vision and the US Peace Corps has prompted her interest in creating high-performance virtual teams, which she is researching as part of her Ph.D. in values-driven leadership from Benedictine University.

Learn More About The Center for Values-Driven Leadership


Kevin Walter

Owner, Tasty Catering and Certified Great Game of Business Coach

Kevin as spent more than 28 years in the food and beverage industry as a business owner and operator. A member of the University of Illinois - Chicago Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame, Kevin embraces financial transparency and has founded, and serves as principal, in numerous customer satisfaction-driven companies that pride themselves on exceptional company cultures.

Learn More About Tasty Catering


James D. Ludema, Ph.D.

CVDL Co-founder and Director; Professor, Global Leadership and Core Faculty at Benedictine University

Jim Ludema, Ph.D., is Professor of Global Leadership & Director of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine University. He is a regular contributor and the author of The Appreciative Inquiry Summit. Jim has worked and consulted in organizations around the world.

Learn More About The Center for Values-Driven Leadership


Elena Valentine

CEO of Skill Scout

Workplace storyteller, #HRAgainstLame movement builder, and Design Researcher, Elena spends her days leading the team at Skill Scout to bring jobs and company culture to life on video. Every workplace has a story to tell about the team, skills, environment, and output. Elena helps tell those stories to attract the right candidates for the job and keep existing employees happily where they are. As CEO, Elena wears many hats, but really geeks out on: new media (360, VR, POV videos, silent storytelling), partnerships, and building Skill Scout’s diverse workforce!

Learn More About Skill Scout


Tom Carmazzi

Chief Aliveness Officer (aka CEO), Tuthill Corporation

Tom is Tuthill Corporation’s Chief Aliveness Officer. His role, simply stated, is to bring to life the Corporation’s COMPASS - Tuthill’s version of a vision and mission statement. A well-respected speaker and an authority on creating an impactful company culture, Tom’s efforts have helped create a place where folks want to live up to their full potential not only for the company, but for their families, their community, and the world.

Learn More About Tuthill Corporation


Eric Rieger

President, WEBIT Services, Inc.

For more than 25 years Eric has been a driving force in the technology industry. He is a respected authority on the topic of IT security and is a regular speaker about the benefits of open-book management for service based organizations. His company, WEBIT Services, has been practicing open-book management since 2016 and was recently a Great Game of Business All-Star award recipient at the 2017 Gathering of Games.

Learn More About Webit Services

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Tonya Hubbartt

HR Director, FONA International Inc.

With more than 20 years of human resources experience, Tonya leads all people excellence programs at FONA International, which is ranked as the #3 best workplace in the nation for Manufacturing and Production by Fortune magazine and Great Place to Work. Building strong talent plans that foster sustainable employee development and retention are key elements to Tonya’s approach. She has a personal passion for fostering an inclusive company culture, a culture where employees are empowered to bring their whole selves to work and to thrive in all they do. Tonya serves as an advisory board member for the National Association of Business Resources and actively volunteers in her local community serving as Board Secretary and Treasurer for a non-profit elementary school and a voluntary HR Advisory Council member for her church.

Learn More About Fona International


Ben Cirrus

Territory Manager, Microsoft

Ben believes that enthusiasm moves the world forward, technology should adapt to its users and business should be conducted at the convenience of the customer. Ben works with organizations across Illinois to securely modernize and gain a competitive advantage by generating new value while reducing costs. He helps leaders envision their businesses as they would if they were to start them today. He leverages his startup experience to bring a customer centric approach to transformation.

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Pete Desjardins

Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Execullence

Pete’s story is the tale of two careers; initially developing skills, experience, relationships and insight with companies such as Procter & Gamble, Mobil Plastics, and Pactiv Corporation. A serial entrepreneur and “king-maker” at heart, he also co-founded Execullence, a strategic growth firm who helps emerging healthcare and technology companies reach their revenue growth goals while focusing on spending wisdom in their sales and marketing mix.

Learn More About Execullence

Chris Considine

Founder and President, Onward Advising

The name ‘Onward Advising’ tells the story. To Chris it symbolizes a unified, team-oriented, forward-looking and positive approach to business and to life in general. He believes that in business, as in life, 10% is what happens and 90% is how you react to it. Chris established Onward Advising to help people bring clarity and focus to their business. His broad-based experience and ability to communicate enables him to add tangible value to many aspects of a business. Chris started his career at Wilson Sporting Good where he held numerous positions including General Manager of the Team Sports Division for over 10 years and President/CEO of Wilson for nine years.

Learn More About Onward Advising


Joseph Flanagan

Chairman and CEO, Acquirent

Joe is a successful entrepreneur who used his ability to sell and his understanding of building relationships into several multi-million dollar businesses. After five years of working at a large, international insurance brokerage, Joe struck out on his own at the age of 27. He built JP Flanagan Corporation, his own insurance agency, into one of Chicago’s largest, with offices throughout the country. In 2001 he sold his company to Hub International, where he sat on their Executive Committee for three years and was on the floor of the NYSE when Hub went public. In 2002, he was named one of the “rising stars” in the industry by Business Insurance Magazine.

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Mike Krtizman

Founder and CEO, SkillNet Software

Mike saw how companies struggle to manage and develop their people, and founded SkillNet Software to leverage tech to coach and develop staff. An accomplished software entrepreneur, Mike also founded and venture funded Compliance 11, which was sold to Charles Schwab. He has held management positions at Oracle, Ernst and Young, and several other high growth technology firms. He is a thought leader on transformation, coaching, talent inventory, measuring and fixing skill gaps.

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Brandon Popma

Account Executive, Salesforce

Leveraging the correct technology can help create an experience that allows employees to move faster and be more productive. Brandon works with a community of people, partners, and developers to create solutions for scaling businesses. He determines the mission critical objectives of executive leadership to help build a journey that increases efficiency and ROI in the way products are brought to market.

Learn More About Salesforce

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Josh Leatherman

Chief Marketing Officer, Service Express

Josh leads the strategic direction of the marketing, sales development, revenue operations and inside sales teams at Service Express. Since joining the company in 2011, he has grown the three-person marketing department to a thriving team of 14 and expanded digital proficiencies through social media, paid ads and SEO strategies. Under his leadership, the marketing team successfully completed both a new website and a corporate rebrand in-house. Josh likes to think big and has helped envision and launch the sales development, revenue operations and inside sales teams and grown those teams to over 40 people. These teams now contribute 75% of the company’s qualified pipeline. Since 2011, Service Express’ yearly revenue has grown from $36 million to over $95 million. He has served as an adjunct professor of business and marketing in the Professional and Graduate Studies program at Cornerstone University, where he earned his MBA in 2007.

Learn More About Service Express


Nikki Lewallen

Head of Partnerships, Emplify

Nikki is an accomplished business development professional, speaker and philanthropist. As CEO of Rainmakers, Nikki supports the Indiana business community by providing a platform for authentic business growth. A natural connector of people, Nikki's expertise in business development enables her to find and nurture strategic relationships that result in meaningful business outcomes. As reflected in her leadership style, Nikki is an avid proponent of robust company culture. She believes that for people to succeed in business and life, it is necessary for them to love what they do. It is this passion for employee engagement that led Nikki to join Emplify in 2017, a company devoted to helping millions of people find meaning in their work. Nikki holds a variety of board positions around Indianapolis including the Indianapolis Rotary and Purposeful Living INC. She believes that the work we do on earth to produce abundance fuels the causes nearest and dearest to our hearts.

Learn More About Emplify

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Mary Kay Slowikowski

Internationally-known Speaker and Consultant, Slowikowski & Associates

Mary Kay  is an internationally-known speaker, marketing strategist, and the first female speaker to appear nationally in her own Emmy-nominated PBS special. She is a master storyteller and veteran of business who uses personal stories and proven techniques to teach and inspire. A former victim of crippling panic attacks and agoraphobia, Mary Kay was once unable to leave her home – now she speaks in front of thousands. Her ability to touch and teach audiences in a unique way is nothing short of remarkable.

Learn More About Slowikowski & Associates


Patrick Tannous

Co-founder and President, Tiesta Tea

There’s no second gear for Patrick when it comes to his passion, energy and the standards he holds himself and his business to. Everyday, Patrick puts 150% into everything he does and it shows through by him being listed on Inc.’s 30 Under 30 Rising Stars list of 2018. His high standards and care for people are not only reflected in the success of Tiesta Tea, but in the culture of the company and the comradery of his entire team. He followed his passion for entrepreneurship and his confidence in Tiesta Tea and dropped out of college to dedicate all his time and effort to Tiesta. In its early stages, Tiesta struggled to gain traction. He and his co-founder, Dan, packed their bags and traveled door-to-door visiting over 500 doors in New York, Philadelphia, Seattle and Vancouver in a span of 20 days, trying to sell Tiesta Tea. That trip earned them enough customers to keep Tiesta alive and taught Patrick and Dan the best ways to sell their teas, which has helped them place their teas into over 8000 grocery stores nationwide amassing over $20MM in sales since the company started.

Learn More About Tiesta Tea


Candice Gouge

Director of Talent Engagement, Pegasus Logistics Group

Candice is the Director of Talent Engagement, a coach and the leader of company culture. Her development and coaching are focused on the company’ leaders and high potential employees. She also leads a team of culture ambassadors who ensure the company’s core culture stays alive throughout all locations; world-wide. Candice joined Pegasus Logistics Group in 1999 and has served in multiple leadership roles. She created and leads Pegasus’s 10-month Next Level Leadership Program and Level 1 “Emerging” Leadership Development, an on-boarding and orientation experience for new employees. Candice completed the 10-month CTI Leadership program in 2015, is trained and certified as a certified professional co-active coach and completed the one-year Integral Leadership Program (ILP) at the Stagen Leadership Academy in Dallas.

Learn More About Pegasus Logistics Group

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Steven Handmaker

Chief Marketing Officer, Assurance

Steven is the Chief Marketing Officer of Assurance, one of the largest, independent insurance brokerages in the U.S. He serves as a member of Assurance’s executive management team and is responsible for the company’s marketing, communications, branding and digital media efforts. As Assurance’s top creative professional, Steven provides counsel on all strategic initiatives and acts as the primary writer and editor of key company messages. Over the past 10 years, he’s leveraged the power of employee engagement and marketplace differentiation into more than 100 national and local recognitions for Assurance as a top workplace.

Learn More About Assurance

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Shad Kunkle

Trainer, Facilitator, Host, and Performer, Second City Works

Shad Kunkle is an actor, improv comedian, and communications professional with more than a decade of experience on stage and screen. He has performed with Chicago’s famed theater, The Second City, for more than six years, appearing in productions including South Side of Heaven, What the Tour Guide Didn’t Tell You: A Chicago Revue, and Sex in the Second City: iLove. He also toured the country with The Second City’s Blue Company. With The Second City Works, which works with more than 400 companies each year, he is a top Trainer, Facilitator, Host, and Performer. Shad honed his craft at ComedySportz and iO Chicago, where he currently performs with long-running improv shows Carl and The Passions and the Armando Diaz Experience. He also does voice over and commercial work, appearing in spots for Walmart and Long John Silver’s, among others.

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Second City Works

Second City Works uses the improv methods pioneered on their stages to to inspire better performance by driving personal growth and organizational improvement. Their Professional Development programs combine interactive exercises, facilitated debriefs, and practical application to get people excited about learning. This firsthand experiences helps participants internalize better ways to communicate, collaborate, and innovate. As your scale grows and the pace quickens, Second CIty Works helps keep your lines of communication open, makes people feel connected and valued, and stops performance from plateauing. Their improv-based skill-building and customized content helps organizations navigate the challenges of size, speed, and distance.

Learn More About Second City Works


Scott Kitun

CEO, Technori

Scott is an award winning entrepreneur, Technori CEO and host of The Startup Showcase on WGN Radio. He’s passionate about building the most inclusive and diverse tech community in the world - something Technori has been focused on since 2011, by helping founders showcase in front of thousands of would-be investors on-stage and in-studio, where Scott’s the host of Chicago’s top tech show. .

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Chad Gabriel

Sherpa of Purpose, Tuthill Corporation

Chad is Tuthill's Sherpa of Purpose. He has been with the company for almost 18 years, and, after starting his career in IT, transitioned into branding and social impact as he developed into one of the company's leaders. He oversees developing partnerships with organizations to help further Tuthill's purpose to Wake the World. He describes Tuthill as a corporation looking to make a difference, not just with their employees, but with the world as a whole. Chad is a firm believer in lifelong learning and describes Aliveness as living on purpose and realizing fulfillment in life.

Learn More About Tuthill Corporation


Julie Poulos

Vice President, Red Caffeine

Julie plays a key role in the sales and marketing foundation of Red Caffeine, including brand communications, service structure, sales strategy, marketing plan, and implementation tools. A proud client advocate and primary business development expert, her true passion is developing relationships, connecting people, and finding solutions to address business challenges. She identifies with the demands of business owners and pulls from her background to consult clients in assessing needs and recommending strategies that make an impact. Julie is also known as the Mistress of Marketing and our Culture AmBADASSador.

Learn More About Red Caffeine


Kathy Steele

Owner and CEO, Red Caffeine

Kathy Steele is passionate about people, serious about business growth, and loves to help the underdog cause in her community. She is fortunate to "do it all" in her role as CEO of Red Caffeine Marketing + Technology. She is the company visionary overseeing growth, strategic partnerships, and employee engagement.

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Shannon Callarman

Content Director, Red Caffeine

Shannon holds over 10 years of experience in business storytelling. She helps companies tell better business stories by identifying their true and unique value propositions. She believes a good story has the power to entangle, connect, and help us understand our world a little bit better.

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Jimmy Merritello

Strategy and Digital Lead, Red Caffeine

Jimmy is the true renaissance man of Red Caffeine as he plays the role of Strategy & Digital Lead. Jimmy connects strategic business and marketing with modern and efficient digital execution to support all aspects of business growth. He has led and executed more than 30 Red Caffeine client growth strategies in his career while also putting his home-grown technology chops to work for dozens of corporate website and e-commerce builds, as well as modernizing infrastructure for marketing automation, CRM, and data tracking and analytics.

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Dan Mantilla

Online Strategist, Red Caffeine

Dan is a Visual Analyst with a passion for marketing technology. As a Digital Strategist and Consultant at Red Caffeine, Dan’s mastery of all things digital, including ad tech and data platforms, has enabled him to provide clients with greater brand awareness and quality web traffic, insights, and data to fuel meaningful growth.

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