Three years removed from the last big gathering for the Best Ottawa Business Awards, the city’s movers and shakers made up for lost time on Thursday night.
Already an Insider? Log in
- Critical Ottawa business news and analysis updated daily.
- Immediate access to all Insider-only content on our website.
- 4 issues per year of the Ottawa Business Journal magazine.
- Special bonus issues like the Ottawa Book of Lists.
- Discounted registration for OBJ’s in-person events.
Three years removed from the last big gathering for the Best Ottawa Business Awards, the city’s movers and shakers made up for lost time on Thursday night. A packed house of more than 600 attendees filled a ballroom at the Westin Ottawa for the annual celebration of the brightest stars in the local business community – the first time since November 2019, just before the pandemic hit, that participants were able to gather en masse in person to honour the winners. And they did it in style, cheering loudly as recipients were announced and mingling among the tables with joyous smiles. The BOBs, as they are known, recognize recipients in more than two dozen categories as determined by the Ottawa Board of Trade and Ottawa Business Journal. Newly elected mayor Mark Sutcliffe, a previous host of the awards on several occasions, captured the spirit of optimism that permeated the crowd. In his opening remarks, Sutcliffe noted that many businesses in the National Capital Region still face an uphill climb as they recover from the pandemic, but he said he’s confident the city’s brightest days are still ahead. “Ottawa is a great place to do business, and it’s only going to get better,” Sutcliffe told the audience. “Everything we do as a community starts with economic development and a stronger economy. Working together, we will get through those challenges.” Among the headliners on Thursday night was Fullscript chief executive Kyle Braatz, who was honoured as CEO of the Year. The 38-year-old executive, whose online health-care platform supports millions of patients in Canada and the United States, brought the house down with a speech that was by turns touching and humorous. Reflecting on his lifelong tendency to be his own toughest critic, Braatz recalled how he used to agonize over mistakes he made on the ice as a minor hockey player even as his father Al would congratulate him on a great game. “My entire life, I felt like I’m not good enough,” said Braatz, whose firm generated revenues of more than US$600 million this year. “I think that’s a good thing for my ego … although my wife may not agree,” he added as the crowd chuckled. “But it also means that I have to dig deep to have the confidence it takes to build and lead.” Braatz, a graduate of the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management, paid special tribute to his “amazing support system,” including one of his Telfer professors, Barbara Orser, who looked on from the audience, and his colleagues at Fullscript. “This is a group that demands excellence,” he said of his co-workers at the 900-person company. “They are ruthless in their approach when it comes to driving towards our mission. But at the same time, they see kindness as a competitive advantage – they really care about people.” In front of a crowd that included his wife Rachel as well as his father, uncle and brother, Braatz had the room in stitches when he asserted that “at Fullscript, one of the realities is we don’t hire a–holes.” He used similar colourful language to describe past business associates with whom he clashed, saying they gave him the “scar tissue” he needed to help him persevere through adversity. Braatz credited his family members for his ability to see the lighter side of even the toughest situations. “They taught me that there’s no inappropriate time for humour. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a boardroom with the baddest-ass CEO in the world in the most important meeting ever, or you’re in a room full of stuffy businesspeople giving each other awards,” he said to more howls of laughter. Braatz then paid a heartfelt tribute to his wife of nine years and his daughters Brooklyn, 3, and one-year-old Blair. “You’ve been here from the start,” he said, looking at Rachel. “You’ve seen the downs and you’ve seen the ups. When I look at the family I have … that’s actually what motivates me every single day to dig deep and have that confidence. And today, I say because of you, Rachel, I feel good enough because you’re by my side.” Later, Lynn Norton, longtime chief operating officer at Butler Group of Companies, delivered a tribute to his boss and mentor, Pat Butler, 85, the 2022 Lifetime Achievement recipient. He told the audience Butler has worked seven days a week for more than 60 years, building an automotive group that consists of Leisure Days RV Group, five new car dealerships, three Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealerships and Powersports Canada. In total, Butler employs more than 1,200 people, most of those located in the Ottawa area. “Pat invests in people and rewards loyalty and effort. Some of his senior managers are rewarded with equity in the businesses that they have helped build,” said Norton. “Pat believes in senior management on site at every location. He believes and lives everyday by the phrase: ‘You cannot enrich yourself unless you enrich others.’” Other recipients included Ottawa Senators executive Erin Crowe, who was named CFO of the Year. Crowe, who rejoined the Senators as senior vice-president and chief financial officer earlier this year, is the fifth recipient of the annual award, which recognizes CFOs who maximize their company’s financial position and growth during a recent period. Newsmaker of the Year went to Joe Thottungal. In May 2020, the pandemic was already wreaking havoc with Thottungal’s livelihood when fate cruelly threw another obstacle in his path. The east-end restaurant he’d owned for more than 15 years, Coconut Lagoon, was severely damaged by fire, dealing Thottungal a major blow at a time when prospects for his industry were already dim. But instead of throwing up his hands in dismay, the 50-year-old native of India turned what could have been a career-ending setback into a symbol of hope. Thottungal quickly got to work rebuilding the business he affectionately refers to as his “baby,” officially reopening the new-look, expanded Coconut Lagoon on St. Laurent Boulevard in August to a chorus of cheers. The evening also recognized the following companies and organizations: