Naperville chamber moving 'Business Forward' with a new leader
The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce has chosen its next leader to move the organization "Business Forward" after five years under the helm of a homegrown president and CEO.
Naperville native and resident Kaylin Risvold is set to take the reins of the business organization of 1,200 members starting Oct. 24. She succeeds Nicki Anderson, who announced in June her plans to step down this fall.
The chamber chose Risvold for her poise, humility and values-driven philosophy, as well as her experience in advocacy during the past five years of her career at the Alzheimer's Association's Illinois chapter.
"Kaylin is someone who has a dynamic personality," said Ian Holzhauer, a Naperville attorney and chairman-elect of the chamber board. "She has lifelong ties to this community and she has a bold vision for the chamber."
Risvold, 32, has a background in journalism, working as a broadcast reporter, anchor and producer in Missouri, South Carolina and Oregon. She has a master's degree in leadership studies from North Central College in Naperville and told chamber leaders she aims to stand up for businesses and set the standard of how to "future-proof" a traditional organization such as the chamber, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013.
"I intend to use my training as a journalist to ask the hard questions and my skills in leadership to guide us as we deliberate the answers," Risvold said in a news release and an introductory email to chamber members.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Risvold said she is excited to come back to her hometown, where she graduated from Naperville Central High School in 2005.
"I am always looking for a challenge," she said. "I believe if you're not moving forward, you're moving backward."
Risvold said she already has benefited from the mentorship of Anderson, a "beloved" figure in the community with whom she'll work to transition into the new role.
Anderson, 57, had a career in writing, consulting and the fitness industry in Naperville before taking the helm as the chamber's president and CEO in February 2014. She helped grow the Young Professionals Network, while raising $250,000 to fund new technology and rebranding the chamber with a new "Business Forward" slogan, even during a challenging time for traditional business groups nationwide.
"Peer organizations are quite literally only beginning to comprehend the problems today that Nicki was solving five years ago," Holzhauer wrote in a letter this May to a search task force assembled to find the next CEO. "She is a visionary and will be missed."
Holzhauer, who becomes chairman in January for a two-year term, said the chamber had nearly two years' notice of Anderson's intent to move on. He said leaders used that time to develop a detailed candidate profile. Members of an eight-person task force helped choose, from 15 candidates, someone in Risvold who doesn't simply "check the boxes" but rises above, Holzhauer said.
The task force found the right candidate using behavior-based questions such as Holzhauer's favorite: "When was the last time you 'broke the rules?' What was the situation and what did you do?"
For part of Risvold's answer, she said she told a story of breaking her Oregon newsroom's "no cellphones on set" rule and using Twitter during commercial breaks to make sure the station was on top of the latest news.
Holzhauer said he also was impressed by Risvold's desire to ask questions of the search task force, such as, "What doubts do you still have about me?" The move "spoke to her character," Holzhauer said.
As she adjusts to the role, Risvold said, she plans to host monthly Coffee and Conversation events to get to know members, starting at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 29 at the chamber office, 55 S. Main St., suite 351. She also will be preparing for a new strategic plan, aiming to have it in place by July 2020, Holzhauer said. And she'll oversee technology upgrades and a new website funded by the campaign Anderson ran.
"We all want Naperville to do well," Risvold said. "And now I get to spend my days making sure that's true."