Leading the RA Centre’s turnaround: Ottawa businesswoman of the year nominee Tosha Rhodenizer

CEO of local recreation and fitness facility nominated in organization category
Tosha Rhodenizer
RA Centre CEO Tosha Rhodenizer (Photo by Lindsey Gibeau)

On April 20, the Women’s Business Network will honour 12 of Ottawa’s leading women entrepreneurs at its Businesswoman of the Year gala. The nominees are divided into four categories: Emerging entrepreneur; established entrepreneur; organization; and professional. OBJ will profile each nominee leading up to the event.

What is your proudest business accomplishment?

My proudest accomplishment was also the most challenging in my career.  I joined the RA in the fall of 2014. I was attracted to the fact that this 75-year-old not-for-profit was in a precarious financial state.  The RA offers such a diverse complement of services, yet in each of these markets the competitive landscape had significantly changed while the organization had remained somewhat static. The imperative to improve the situation was not uniformly understood across the organization. Through transparent education of staff and volunteers while engaging our passionate and talented team, we paved a road to a $1-million turnaround – the largest year-over-year improvement in the history of the organization.

Who is your greatest inspiration?

My greatest inspiration comes from involvement with an initiative called Peace Camp Canada, where a young, inspirational Ashbury student, Michelle Divon, defied every barrier in raising funds and bringing to life a project that many did not think possible. She invited me as a key content matter expert on leadership to work with 30 youth from Israel and Palestine who travelled to Ottawa for a 10-day transformational initiative focused on the pursuit of peace. The lens through which I see the world was forever changed by working with these extraordinary young leaders, where I learned far more than I was able to impart.

What is the biggest professional obstacle you've had to overcome?

The biggest professional obstacle has been, and continues to be, individuals who are vested in maintaining the status quo when to do so is detrimental to the organization. While “status quo stabilizers” exist in many organizations, more often than not they simply require rational persuasion and management support to nudge them in a new direction. Those who do not respond to these change management strategies are the real obstacle.

What is the best business advice you've ever received?

Julian Barling, a professor at Queen’s University, once said the key to business success was to “pay people fairly and treat them superbly.” That is something that still strongly resonates with me today.  That simple adage has made me aware of surrounding myself with wildly talented and passionate people. Throughout my career, I have consistently watched the collective achieve great things which no one individual could on their own. This leads to an organizational culture that supports sincere curiosity, effort and commitment, and requires continual watering and nurturing.