Air Date

September 29, 2022

Featured Guests

Cristen Kogl
Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary, Zebra Technologies Corporation

Thru Shivakumar
CEO and Co-Founder, Cohesion


Neil Bradley
Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer, and Head of Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


Despite ongoing economic challenges and recovery from a global pandemic, the state of American business remains strong. The Chicago business community offers a prime example of this strength, as local companies invest in their communities and build up local, state, and national economies. However, this progress does not come without challenges — ones that require support from both the private and public sectors.

During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's State of American Business: Chicago event, local business leaders came together to share insights on the challenges today’s businesses face, how policymakers in Washington can help, and how private sector companies can thrive amid the current landscape.

Standardization and Interoperability Are Necessary for Growth

Zebra Technologies Corporation is a Chicago-based company that specializes in supporting businesses and workers through real-time technology. Operating across multiple countries with several offices in the United States, one of the most significant challenges the company faces is operating under inconsistent, state-by-state data privacy rules.

“We’re [working] in the absence of support and the absence of standardization, [and] we’re going to do what we have to do to get it done right,” said Cristen Kogl, chief legal officer and corporate secretary at Zebra. “But having government and a framework, a set of rules and standardization [is something] we should be able to do with IoT technology.”

Cohesion, a smart building technology business also based in Chicago, has found similar challenges in standardization and interoperability in IoT tech.

“There’s an opportunity for businesses to work together, share data, [and] have open APIs ... but right now, buildings and owners don’t know that can happen,” explained Thru Shivakumar, CEO and co-founder of Cohesion. “Interoperability is a big opportunity ... not just [in] commercial real estate, but across a lot of industries.”

The Return to Office Requires a Focus on Communication and Culture

Another challenge many business owners face is the return to the office, particularly amid an ongoing worker shortage.

“Ambiguity for return to office and [company culture] is not our friend,” stressed Shivakumar. “We have to commit to actually telling people what we have as a policy.”

Part of that company culture is developing mentorship and training opportunities for employees, which can help attract and retain talent.

“We as a community have to look at how we can educate [the workforce]. We are training folks in different aspects of our business into where their passions are,” Kogl shared. “It’s not a solution yet, but it is a step in the right direction.”

The Business Community's Voices Are Stronger Together

When it comes to tackling the challenges of the business community, Kogl reminds us that we are stronger together.

“For our ability and budget and voice, it’s [all about] banding together,” said Kogl. “It’s been [valuable to] get with other businesses and talk about our needs ... [and] say, ‘Here’s an issue, do you see it?’”

She also noted how local Chambers of Commerce can help amplify the voices of the local business community — something that was particularly helpful amid the negative impacts Zebra faced from the 301 Tariffs.

“[While] it’s not solved by any means ... having the Chamber’s support and the ability to testify allowed some action to be taken,” Kogl added.