This month’s EO Chicago Member Spotlight is on EO Chicago President-Elect Deb Venable, Principal and Executive Coach at Defined Acceleration, a company that works alongside small and mid-sized businesses to break the sales frustration cycle and reach their sales goals through strategy, training, accountability, and AI coaching software. Discover the story of her career journey—from her earliest entrepreneurial aspirations to her current role and her plans for the future. Plus, find out Deb’s top Chicago restaurant.
EO Member: Deb Venable
Company: Defined Acceleration
Years in Business: 2 years
How long have you been a member of EO Chicago, and why did you join the organization?
18 years! I joined because I needed help running my business at such a young age. I met with Mike Maddock, who was such an inspiration, and I knew I wanted to be surrounded by people like him.
What was your first job?
My first job ever was as a caretaker for the elderly. I was 15, and it was a humbling experience about aging.
Can you describe your entrepreneurial journey? Where did you start and where do you hope to go in the future?
It all started in 1993 when I was an exhibit designer for a small company in Niles, IL. I answered a blind ad in the newspaper and unknowingly fell into an amazing opportunity. After two years of “working up the ladder,” I saw that the owner was running the company into the ground. I had to make a move. Fortunately, that move came in the form of me being offered to buy the company. I negotiated a sweat equity deal that landed me the keys to a trade show business. Young, naive, and full of passion, I spent 25 years designing and building trade show booths. I sold my shares of the company in 2018 and still thank the higher power for that timing. I now get to do what I love most: sales. I opened a new business where I get to focus on people and sales. I develop sales strategies and then help others execute through coaching and training.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy training and coaching salespeople and teams. Sales is so conversational for me, and I love helping others develop ownership of their process. I love helping people succeed.
What daily challenges do you face at work?
Carving out time to spend prospecting for my own business. I am often so busy helping others that I forget to help myself.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
Learn from your elders. I was fortunate to have an older mentor for most of my career. While I had the heart, courage, and energy, I didn’t know as much as I thought I did and was lucky to have someone there to guide me gently down the right paths.
What are your goals for the future of your business?
I plan to continue to grow Defined Acceleration over the course of the next 10 years and use it as a source of retirement fun later in life. I am hoping to expand the business to the cities where the kids go to college.
What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
Another book! While I’m thrilled how the first one turned out, I have another one up my sleeves—stay tuned!
What brought you to Chicago?
Born and raised here!
Who or what inspires you?
Perpetual learning—I never want to stop learning new things.
If you could go back in time five years and share advice with your past self, what advice would you share?
Slow down and trust in the process; stay the course and have faith.
What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?
Keeping it together for the 18 months my husband was in Iraq. I had a 5-year-old, a 3-
year-old, a newborn, my trade show business, and our rental properties on the side, plus serving on the EO board and as a Girl Scout leader. I learned quickly who my friends were and also how to “let go” of some things.
How do you find work-life balance?
This has taken years of practice. However, I learned very early on that you can always make more money but you can’t make more time. I’ve been pretty religious about spending time with my family and truly focusing on them. My kids can read right through “multi-tasking” and they can feel when I’m not truly with them. I don’t do this anymore. If I am working, I am working. If I am with them, I’m with them.
I’ve also learned to get good help, delegate, and let go of the little things that don’t really matter.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
I thought I was going to be a veterinarian; this probably explains my continued deep love for animals.
What are your favorite things to do outside of work?
Traveling with the family. We’ve always given our kids a trip/vacation as a Christmas present instead of gifts and it has been awesome to travel to so many places.
What’s one thing left on your bucket list?
I really would love to watch the Jimmy Fallon show LIVE. Anyone with any hookups let me know! Happy to fly to NYC someday.
If you could recommend one podcast, what would it be?
WTF with Marc Maron.
What are you currently reading?
Just got a new book from a friend, “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse,” and I can’t wait to read it!
What’s your favorite restaurant in Chicago?
CPOG—Chicago Pizza Oven and Grinder Co. Half-pound pizza pot pie with mushrooms. Gotta get the Mediterranean bread and a cold beer too!
What is your favorite part about working in the Chicagoland area?
Three things: people, food, and the seasons.
What is your top Chicago activity?
Theatre and musicals. I have a deep respect for live entertainment—those are mad skills!
Where’s your favorite place in the world to visit?
Anywhere I can see the look of awe in my kids’ eyes—experiencing the blue grotto of Capri, seeing a shark while scuba diving in Cayman, or simply smiling because we caught the last chair lift up to the highest peak in Breckenridge. Family + Travel = Memories!
Thank you to Deb Venable for sharing her story for our February member spotlight. The Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a global business network of more than 14,000 entrepreneurs in 198 chapters and 61 countries. EO is the catalyst that enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.
If you’re interested in becoming an EO Chicago member, check our membership requirements and submit an application to join today.