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IAM1869 – Law Firm Founding Member Offers High Mission of Service to Clients

Podcast Interview with Jon Vegosen

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of the IAMCEO Podcast, Jon Vegosen, a founding member of the Chicago-based corporate and litigation law firm Funkhouser Vegosen Liebman and Dunn Ltd (FVLD), shares his story and experience in providing a high level of service to clients. Jon has a broad legal background with a focus on labor and employment matters. He has received the highest professional peer review ratings, including being selected as a Super Lawyer in Illinois for employment law for several years.

  • CEO Story: Jon began his career as a law clerk for two years after graduating from Northwestern University's law school. Despite receiving offers from large and well-known firms, he chose a mid-size firm to develop a broad-based background. After two and a half years, he received an opportunity to join a partnership as an associate in the formation of FVLD. His firm recently celebrated its 41st anniversary, demonstrating the strength of their partnership.
  • Business Service: FVLD is a corporate and litigation law firm that serves as outside general counsel, taking care of legal and business matters for their clients. Their offerings include caring for clients' personal and business lives and providing extremely responsive service.
  • Secret Sauce: Trust and care for clients with top-notch services, along with a high mission of service. Jon has served as a Board of Director in various Tennis Associations, further showcasing his commitment to service.
  • CEO Hack: Membership in a CEO Leadership Peer advisory board for 20 years, offering support and advice to fellow
  • members.
  • CEO Nugget: Always be there for your clients, offering service even when it is not related to your work. Make “how can I help?” your mantra.
  • CEO Defined: A wise and effective leader in the organization who adopts and communicates a clear, inspiring vision. Act with integrity, walking the talk, and working collaboratively.
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Jon Vegosen 00:00

I think it's my approach to serving clients and my responsiveness. With what I call a high mission of service, I believe I provide clients with 1st rate service and advice. In addition, I help them with things in their personal and business lives that they have nothing to do with legal issues.

Intro 00:20

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs, without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you are in search of.

This is the IAMCEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:47

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, or what I like to call the CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month, we are focused on leadership management and coaching. When we think of leadership, management, and coaching, we often think of doing all of the other things, but often it's a person that's able to build up their team, that's able to cultivate a creative and innovative culture so that people can excel and actually be their own leaders. So that's why this month we're focusing on those three big topics because they make a huge impact on the organizations that we're part of.

Now you'll hear some of those topics this month. And of course, some really great perspectives on how people are even defining leadership, which I think is extremely exciting. So sit back and enjoy this special episode of the IAMCEO podcast.

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Jon Vogelsen of Funkhauser, Vogelsen, Lieben, Dunn Limited. Jon, super excited to have you on the show.

Jon Vegosen 02:10

I'm thrilled to be here. Thanks for having me, Gresh.

Gresham Harkless 02:13

Yes, super excited to have you on and talk about all the awesome things that you're doing. And of course, before we do that, I want to read a little bit more about John so you can hear about some of those awesome things.

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John is a founding member of Chicago corporate and litigation law firm Funkhauser, the Gosen Liebman and Dunn Limited, where he was co-managing partner for many years. While John has a broad-based legal background, he concentrates in labor and employment matters and also writes and speaks widely about them.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate at Northwestern University and a Cum Laude graduate of its law school, John has received the highest of professional peer review ratings, including being selected as a super lawyer in Illinois and employment law for several years.

John has served on several board of directors, including a chairman of the board, President and CEO of the United States Tennis Association in 2011 and 2012, and has been chairman of the board of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association since 2015.

John, excited to have you on this show again, my friend. Are you ready to speak to the IAMCEO community?

Jon Vegosen 03:14

I am ready. Thanks so much again.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 03:16

I appreciate you. So to kick everything off, I know I touched on it when I read your bio, but I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit more on how you got started. What I call your CEO story.

Jon Vegosen 03:26

After law school. I served as a law clerk to a federal judge for 2 years, and thereafter, I had offers from some large, well-known firms here in Chicago. However, I opted for a mid-size firm because back then it didn't require attorneys to specialize early on in their careers and I was still finding my way. I wanted to at least initially to have a broad-based background. About two and a half years after being at the midsize firm, I received an offer that I simply could not refuse. Two partners in the firm offered another associate and me the chance to join them in the creation of our own law firm.

They said, we'll make you a partner overnight, double your compensation to start, and you'll have a major say in the running of the firm. I seized the opportunity and they were true to their word. And that seems a few minutes ago, but my firm, Funkhauser, the Gosen Liebman and Dunn Limited, we celebrated our 41st anniversary this past February. And by the way, because it's such a mouthful, we call our firm FVLD for short.

Gresham Harkless 04:36

Nice. I appreciate that. So, I imagine, working in a startup firm, that probably helped out tremendously.

Jon Vegosen 04:41

It certainly did. I feel very blessed to have had that background, Gresh.

Gresham Harkless 04:46

Yeah, absolutely. So I wanted to drill down a little bit more and hear more on how you're working with and serving clients. Could you take us through a little bit more on what that looks like?

Jon Vegosen 04:56

Sure, in terms of our practice, FVLD is a corporate and litigation law firm of about 20 attorneys. We don't believe in having our attorneys specialize early on in their careers, but rather encourage them to work on a variety of legal matters. It provides them with an excellent foundation. More over our clients, most of whom are middle market companies and wealthy individuals, appreciate our approach, is we generally serve in the role of outside general counsel. Having said that, as our attorneys develop knowledge, experience and interest in areas of the law, they start to gravitate more towards a few areas.

For example, in my own case, I do a great deal of employment law work in my representation of employers. I take a proactive approach and help them stay out of court and I accomplished this in a number of ways. One critical way is by training managers in interactive plain English sessions about matters, such as how to prevent and investigate sexual and other harassment about the importance of documentation and how to document effectively and about how to interview candidates so that an employer doesn't end up saying that's not the person I hired.

In terms of our services. I think we help people in a number of different ways. Our broad-based background early on in our careers enable us to view and solve problems with a business perspective. Many issues that cross our desks will compliment our experience. We have a saying on our website. That's is, someone here has done it before, and I believe that is quite apt. In addition, because we're a small firm and we run a business, we can put ourselves in our client's shoes when we advise them about legal and business matters. And perhaps most important Gresh, we care about our clients, their well-being and their visions.

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Our clients know this about us, and they put their faith and confidence in us to well advise and represent them. We take the responsibility seriously and that bond of trust enables us more effectively to help our clients.

Gresham Harkless 07:16

Absolutely. So you might have already touched on this, but I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. It could be for yourself personally, the business or a combination of both, but what do you feel sets you apart and makes you unique?

Jon Vegosen 07:27

You're right. I think that the three things I just mentioned make us unique. In addition, in my own case, I think it's my approach to serving clients and my responsiveness. With what I call a high mission of service, I believe I provide clients with 1st rate service and advice. In addition, I help them with things in their personal and business lives that they have nothing to do with legal issues. This includes offering helpful non-legal suggestions, sharing my network of contacts with them, or doing favors that can make a difference for them or their families.

It's my intention to bring great service, but also joy to their life. In addition, I focus on being extremely responsive, especially when they ask for legal advice. This includes returning phone calls promptly, and making their issue the most important thing on my mind, no matter what else I have going on in my life.

Gresham Harkless 08:26

Yeah, and that's so huge. And, again, I go back to that quote that I talked about, but I often say that people forget about the human aspect of business.

I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Jon Vegosen 08:47

Great question. I think there are two things. The first has been my over 20-year membership in Vistage, which is a CEO Leadership peer advisory board. There are 15 other CEOs in my business group and there are from different kinds of companies and perspectives, and we support one another in facing our challenges and sorting out issues that arise having an outside board of directors.

In addition, we have excellent outside speakers and I'm proud to say that I've been a Vistage speaker for 18 years. Vistage has been so valuable for me that I've only missed 2 meetings of my group out of over 250 meetings in over 20 years. Moreover, we have other leaders in our firm who are also Vistage members, and they too, have found Vistage to be a tremendous resource.

I think the second secret sauce is I've had the privilege of serving on several boards of directors including, as you mentioned chairman of the board, president and CEO of the United States Tennis Association. Those experiences and the opportunity to work with and lead such high-quality, peak-quality people and deal with some fascinating and complex business issues have had a profound impact on my decision making the advice I provide to clients and I think my leadership abilities and style.

So those are the two things.

Gresham Harkless 10:20

Nice. I appreciate you sharing that so much. And so I wanted to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. This might be a little bit more word of wisdom or a piece of advice. I usually say it might be something you would tell your favorite client, or if you hop into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Jon Vegosen 10:35

Love to go in the time machine. My golden nugget is always, always, always be there for your clients. This was brought home for me by a client for whom I've not only provided legal services at time. And that's particularly when he knew I had a lot of my plate, but also one, I introduced him to his employment opportunity that he accepted and did very well at. And two, I assisted his daughter by conducting a mock interview of her and critiquing it, and that helped her get into the law school of her choice. Although the client wound up sending me a wonderful note that illustrates my point about always being there for it for the client.

And if it's okay and relevant part, I thought I would read what he wrote and I have his blessing to do, so I'm just going to read to the short note. He said, he wrote from my perspective, you're a man without pretense. Many thanks for being an extraordinary example of how a person of your sheer brilliance, commitment and humility can embody an individual such as you. Of course, your business catchphrase quote, we return your phone calls promptly and quote is certainly true.

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But it's the boundless energy combined with your unbridled dedication to take care of your clients, which is really your hallmark. I probably don't need to remind you of the times when it appeared. My legal means needs seem to be annually coinciding with your work with the USTA both at Flushing Meadows during the open and when you were traveling abroad. Without fail you've always been there, which is a really nice note to get, I think when you're in the service business.

Like the law, your mantra has to be, how can I help?

Gresham Harkless 12:25

Yeah, absolutely. I want to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on this show.

So, John, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Jon Vegosen 12:37

To me, being a CEO means being a wise and effective leader of your organization, whatever type it may be. But I think to accomplish this, one must possess the following qualities. First, I think you need to adopt and communicate a clear and inspiring vision for your organization and what your organization stands for. At the same time, you need to pay attention to executing that vision. You can have all these lofty goals, but if you can't execute them, what's the point? I think it's extremely important to act with integrity, that's that whole trust thing we were talking about. I think listening particularly to your employees as well as your clients is essential.

I subscribe to Stephen Covey's marvelous advice to first seek to understand and then to be understood. I live by that or at least I try to. I think it's very important to lead by example to walk the talk. I also think it's important to be self-aware. You need to know your and use your strengths and then recognize on working on improving or shoring up your limitations because we all have them and then surround yourself with people who can help you with those limitations. I think it's very important to invest in and mentor the people with whom you work with. Support them and being the best they can be as former Campbell CEO and thought leader Doug has said you want to be tough on standards and tender-hearted with people. That's a great combination that Doug articulates.

The next thing is don't go it alone. Work collaboratively and share the credit. Some of the best decisions I have been involved with have been made by brainstorming with others and obtaining their ideas and suggestions, and then kicking them around and coming to a conclusion that builds in essence, a better mousetrap. I guess the last thing is aspire to have people be better off for having spent time with you. Those are the leadership qualities that I think are important to being an effective leader.

Gresham Harkless 14:48

Absolutely. John, truly appreciate that definition, of course, I appreciate your time even more. So what I wanted to do now is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know.

And of course, how best people can get a view about all the awesome things you and your team are working on.

Jon Vegosen 15:05

First, when you're dealing with a client or a prospect who's reluctant to follow your advice or suggestions, I'd suggest that you consider using what I call a high-value question. What's a high-value question? It can reveal your value or the value of your idea in an indirect, but convincing way that may carry the debt. You let basically the facts and the high-value question carry the day for you.

In terms of the best way to contact me you or your listeners or readers can visit our website, which is My email address is and I'll spell Vegosen it's J. V. E. G. O. S. E. N. My phone number is 312-701-6860.

Gresham Harkless 16:04

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much again, Jon. We will have the links and information as well in the show notes so that everybody can follow up with you and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Jon Vegosen 16:12

Thank you so much. Look forward to reconnecting with you the next time.

Outro 16:17

Thank you for listening to the IAMCEO podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at IAMCEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Want to level up your business even more? Read blogs, listen to podcasts. And watch Also, check out our IAMCEO Facebook group. This has been the IAMCEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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