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Photography by Kourosh Keshiri

CONNIE CLERICI

President and CEO, Closing the Gap Healthcare Group

WHAT SETS HER APART

Number of employees: 750

Inducted into Canada’s Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame in 2010; Diamond Jubilee winner

Total number of boards: 5, including the Richard Ivey School of Business

HER CHAMPION

Eric Morse, Associate Dean, Programs, Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario

From Eric Morse

As told to Rhea Seymour

In 2008, Connie was in a program I run for entrepreneurs called Quantum Shift at the Richard Ivey School of Business. There was a group of 40 entrepreneurs and we were together from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day for a week, so you get to know each other very well. Connie was different. Mostly because any time we discussed business cases, Connie’s first approach was a value ap­proach, based on her personal values. It was an interesting perspective that stood out. In the beginning, I chalked it up to naiveté about how business works, but the more I’ve gotten to know her over the years, I’ve realized that’s not it. It’s her go-to place and then second is “how do we make business decisions?”.

She started out as a registered nurse in the 1980s and got into business to fill that home-care gap in the system and take care of people. To really live and run your business where you put personal values first may sound trivial, but it’s a tougher proposition than people realize. You’re always being asked to compromise. When you’re consid­ering what’s best for your employees, for example, it may not always be what’s best for the bottom line.

That’s what makes her a good CEO. Closing The Gap has done really well by doing good and building a stellar reputation. Connie has had a handful of business part­ners over the years and they haven’t always worked out. She would tell you that she’s made a lot of mistakes, getting into those partnerships and giving away a stake in the ownership too easily. This was costly in that she had to buy them out when things went off the rails, but in each failed partnership she learned a lot.

Connie gets annoyed when people talk to her about the glass ceiling. She’s pragmatic in her belief that there are people on your journey who want to help you and people who get in your way. If they try to get in Connie’s way, she does a good job of say­ing “it’s their problem. I’m going to work with people who will help me succeed.”

She’s always busy with tremendous demands on her time, but she’ll still be out there mowing her lawn or finding a way to leave the office at 4 p.m. to see her son’s hockey games. When I ask her how she manages it, she says she doesn’t think about it. Otherwise she probably wouldn’t be able to do it all.