- Jun 23, 2022
If Connie Clerici knew just how much she didn’t know about business when she quit her nursing job in 1992 to launch Closing the Gap Healthcare, the award-winning home health-care firm wouldn’t exist today.
But Clerici, now Executive Chair of the firm's board, says her ignorance was her strength, especially when breaking into the sector at a time when most companies were owned by men.
Clerici shared this sentiment while speaking at Western University’s 319th Convocation on June 21 where she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws for her accomplishments as a leader. At the ceremony, she highlighted lessons from that journey in her address to Western and Ivey HBA graduates.
“Don't be intimidated by leaders or your peers who will tell you, ‘That's the way it's always been done,’ or, ‘Stop trying to change things that cannot be changed.’ Let what they call your ignorance be your strength,” said Clerici. “I have learned that if you do not speak, you will not be heard when you see something that is being done incorrectly, or even just something that could be done in a better way.”
Let values guide you
Clerici discussed how leading with humility, embracing the knowledge of others, and putting her personal values first were key to her success.
“You must always let your values be your guide … I will never compromise my integrity for anyone or anything,” she said. “I am, quite simply, an individual who has dedicated my career and my personal life to helping others succeed on their personal journeys … I wake up every day, loving my work and my life path, but only because I know I'm meant to exist to help others.”
Growing up with nine siblings, Clerici said she always cared about others and their feelings. She also recalls always yearning to do something big with her life. At age 12, her first job was to clean a courthouse every Saturday for 25 cents. And each time she sat at the front of that courtroom, Clerici said she dreamed of being the judge.
Don’t be afraid to aim high
“That job became the foundation for me to manage my life and my behaviour,” she said.
That’s why later while working as a nurse and being frustrated with the lack of competent, trained health-care professionals in private medical settings, Clerici had the passion and determination to bridge the gap in home health care by creating her own company.
“When I started my own business at the age of 30, I didn't fully understand what the word ‘entrepreneur’ meant. I simply wanted to help others during a vulnerable life event,” she said. “Believe me, I made mistakes along the way, but it is with pride that I tell you my commitment to my values has guided me through many difficult situations.”
Prioritizing compassionate, patient-focused care helped the company to flourish, but Clerici also took steps to learn sound business practices. That goal brought her to Ivey in 2008 for the rigorous QuantumShift™ entrepreneurship program where she said she found mentorship and confidence.
She encouraged the graduates to strive for continuous improvement, commit to lifelong learning, and focus on finding and pursuing their purpose in life.
“As you begin your new journeys, be sure to do things differently when you see that it is needed. Learn how to lead your life; don't allow it to lead you. Take control of your story while remaining open to all the learnings along the way,” she said.
May you be blessed with many life lessons that help you grow and build your character.”
– Connie Clerici
New graduates welcomed to Ivey Alumni Network
After convocation, the HBA graduates participated in the Ivey Pledge Ceremony at the Richard Ivey Building where they received the Ivey Ring and were welcomed into the Ivey Alumni Network of more than 31,000 members.
On June 22, Ivey’s MBA, MSc, and PhD graduates also participated in both a convocation and pledge ceremony. Including these latest groups, more than 14,700 Ivey graduates have taken the pledge and worn the ring since the ceremony's inception in 2004.