The Executives' Club Of Chicago

Member Spotlight: Kim Svoboda

Kim Svoboda

Kim is the Founder and CEO of Aspiration Catalyst® and a long-time fan and member of The Executives’ Club. Back when she was working for a major technology company, she was invited to attend a luncheon session on Customer and Employee Loyalty. Frederick Reichheld and several other luminaries in the field of engagement presented and in reflecting on her experience, she shared that how energized she felt by their work. It impacted the trajectory of her career and led her to learn as much as possible about leadership and engagement, which ties directly to the work she does today. Kim enjoys Signature Series Programs, Forums, and the great opportunities to learn from the best and network with top leaders across Chicagoland. Today, we are thankful for Kim’s active participation in The Club as Co-Sponsor of the Talent Development Forum, a coach in the LEAD program, and co-mentor with Laura Luckman-Kelber of a group of fantastic up and coming leaders. Kim shared that she is impressed with all the club has to offer, the caliber of the programs, speakers, and members and is grateful to play an active role in all that we do!

What about your work, company or role makes you most proud?

Our vision is to empower leaders to be Bold, Excuse-Proof and Goal-Crushing. We’ve worked with thousands of leaders to date, effectively impacting their leadership to be a positive, engaging, and inspiring force. I am so proud of these leaders, who have worked so hard to improve their leadership skills and have built highly engaged teams that consistently produce great results.

What is your favorite binge-worthy show or podcast?

I don’t watch much TV, but when I do it’s HGTV. My favorites are The Property Brothers, Love It or List It, Fixer Upper, and anything Tiffany Brooks is in. My favorite podcast is Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. I’ve currently re-listening to the series with Oprah and Eckhart Tolle and his book, A New Earth. It’s mind-blowing and paradigm shifting, and I highly recommend it!

What was your first job? What lesson did you learn that you will carry with you?

I’ve had jobs since I was 12 yrs. old. I started off babysitting, as a volunteer candy striper at the hospital, working at ‘The Jewel’, mall retail stores, several restaurants bartending, serving, and managing, and in the Admissions Office at my college. My first corporate job was at CDW. It was a little company back then and I was one of about 25 salespeople. I learned so much from being there for almost 18 years. Some of the most valuable lessons I learned were: consistent effort pays off, automation and standardization are the best way to scale, people and culture matter a lot, and when you keep the best interest of the customer at the center of all you do, you will make the right decisions and achieve lasting success.

Who was the best boss you ever had and why?

I’ve been fortunate to work for many highly talented leaders and each taught me something different. Doug Eckrote at CDW taught me to hire high performers, empower the team and to let people create and innovate. Aletha Noonan, also at CDW, taught me how to grow and expand a strategy to take it from good to great and execute on it successfully. JeffChilds, (now at Ulta) I worked with at U.S. Cellular. Jeff is a mentor to me, and I learn so much from him. He’s a very inspirational leader who believes deeply investing in talent and people. The leadership development programs I went through under his guidance were transformational. These experiences played a role in creating Aspiration Catalyst®.

Can you share a time when you had to reinvent yourself, your product/service or your brand?

Prior to starting Aspiration Catalyst® there were a few re-inventions.

Brand: Sales Executive and Leader

For 25 years I worked for several Fortune 500 Technology companies where I was an ‘intrapreneur’ and pioneered many businesses units and ran large business teams in sales and operations. I was known as someone who was strategic, built high performing teams, good at start-ups and turn-arounds, and could get things done.

Brand: World Traveler & Adventurer

I left Corporate America in 2014 and took off a year to circumnavigate the globe with my husband and two young daughters. This endeavor required a lot of strategy, patience, openness, and flexibility. It was awesome! Now, running my own business has been very rewarding and challenging and I’ve learned a lot. We had many great experiences and wonderful stories: Ask me about the time my girls had a baby bush pig as a ‘pet’ while we stayed on a private game reserve in South Africa.

Brand: Founder/CEO/Entrepreneur

Starting Aspiration Catalyst® in 2015 has been another great adventure. The lessons I’ve learned help me provide even more value to our clients because I have first-hand experience with the failures and successes of starting up, turning around, and scaling a business. My goal is to help leaders avoid some of the many mistakes I made in my career and achieve success faster through our engaging and impactful leadership development programs and coaching.

What’s your best “work from home” life hack?

Scheduling in planned breaks. I love my work and could do it 24/7. I also love my family and my sanity—so I need breaks. I put breaks into my calendar and work hard at sticking to them. This helps me achieve better balance and time with the ones I love. I also like to do ‘walking calls’ when it’s nice outside. I get to enjoy the person I am speaking with as well as nature at the same time.

What drew you to Chicago as a business or personal home?

Job opportunities were limited in Iowa after I graduated from St. Ambrose University. I had a lot of friends living in the Chicago area, so I was in the process of moving up to the big city but needed a job first. I went on many interviews and was hired by CDW. We love Chicago—the energy of the city, the wonderful people, the schools and people in the suburb we live in, and the opportunities that abound here. I love being involved in our community through serving on the board and executive committee of the BBB of Chicago and Northern IL, volunteering and supporting various charities like the YWCA, and food banks. Since we love to travel, it’s nice that O’Hare is a short drive away.

Among the people you work with, who inspires you and why?

There are too many people to name. I work with really amazing leaders from around the world and they inspire me every day. Their determination, grit, openness, willingness to self-reflect, and courage to push themselves to learn and grow actually make me into a better leader and coach. I have to continually up my game to keep up with them. I am continually inspired!

Kim’s story reminds us to embrace mistakes, reinvent yourself throughout your career and share all that you learn along the way to empower others. We would love to hear from you and highlight your achievements and tips in our member spotlight. To be featured or to recommend another member of The Executives’ Club to share a spotlight, please contact our team at