“I’ve been a performer my whole life,” says Erin Diehl, the owner and founder of improve it! team-building workshops. “I wanted to be a talk show host, and that is a real fact.”
After years of working a day job at a recruiting company and taking comedy and improv classes at Chicago’s The Second City at night, Diehl began to realize that everything she was doing in comedy was spilling over into her professional life.
“I thought, ‘There must be a way to bring this experience to companies…to provide outside-of-the-box experiential training.”
In 2015, Diehl left her day job to found improve it!, a professional development company that uses improv techniques to train on soft skills.
“I’ll admit, I put up a website and part of me thought that the phone would be ringing off the hook,” she says. “But when that security blanket isn’t there, that’s when you’ll work extra hard to make it work.”
Winning The RedEye Chicago Big Idea Awards in her category gave Diehl the boost of confidence to know she was on the right track with her plan for improve it!
“I knew it was going to happen,” she says. “I worked at it for two years before quitting my job. You give yourself two or three small things a day to help accomplish your goal. Success doesn’t happen overnight.”
A year and a half later, improve it! offers 10 different workshops that train on skills such as collaboration, communication, and sales.
“We’re making people comfortable with the uncomfortable. It’s high-energy, and we’re on our feet, learning communication, presentation, and leadership through improv comedy,” she says.
Everyone from interns to CEOs is encouraged to participate.
“Improv puts everyone on the same playing field,” she says.
After each exercise, the workshop leader leads a debrief for the participants to process what they’ve learned.
In addition to Diehl, improve it! works with two dozen improv professionals to lead workshops nationwide.
“I feel really lucky and blessed to have a team of people that I trust,” she says.
The company started with a coworking space membership at Novel Coworking’s 73 W. Monroe location, but has since grown its internal operations to a private office for 3-4 staff members, including Diehl, a Director of Operations, a Director of Talent, and two interns.
“Our internal team treats ImproveIt! like it’s their own,” Diehl says. “I wouldn’t be here without them.”
In addition to the workshops, improve it! offers corporate performances, one-on-one coaching, and keynote speaking.
The company also incorporates charitable giving as part of its mission.
Partnering with Bear Necessities, improve it! contributes to bringing experiences of laughter and joy to families fighting pediatric cancer nationwide.
The company hopes to use improv as a means to bring laughter and positivity into the lives of people who need it most.
“We want to feel good about our mission,” Diehl says. “I will always give back that support because it was given to me.”
To learn more about improve it!’s corporate team building and soft skill training workshops, visit their website or call them at 312-561-5543.