Home  »  Susan Odle on Being a ‘Fixer’ in Business and Building Your Self-Belief

Susan Odle on Being a ‘Fixer’ in Business and Building Your Self-Belief

Feb 6, 2024

A text based logo for International Women's Month - written in black over a white background. This featured story is brought to you by the Power of Why Podcast in collaboration with Invest Ottawa, with critical support from BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund, the Title Sponsor of International Women’s Month 2024. We teamed up to produce this special series to celebrate women leading in Ottawa for International Women’s Month and shine the spotlight on our IWW 2024 featured leaders to unpack their passion and purpose.

Five inspirational leaders are selected each year to represent International Women’s Month. They are role models who significantly impact our economy, community and society and embody the spirit, goals and values of IWM.  

Recognized as a “fixer” in the business world, Susan Odle has played a significant role in the lives of leaders grappling with complex problems through hands-on transformational change. How? By adopting the Successful Change Mindset. With a gift of discerning patterns in a business and amplifying what works, Susan’s latest entrepreneurial venture, 8020CS, and book, Successful Change, are examples of her mission in action. 

Leading global channel teams, holding VP of Operations roles, working with PE teams in the U.S., navigating multiple M&A events, founding three advisory agencies, raising her daughter as a solo mom… 

Here’s how she earned the moniker of “fixer” and never lost her self-belief.  

Listen to the episode on Spotify / Apple Podcasts / Google Podcasts 

 Tune in to the podcast or take the time to dive into the article found below.

Regardless of the format, great content is headed your way!

This episode is for you if: 

  • You’re an entrepreneur eager to learn the successful change mindset 
  • You’re seeking a robust framework for problem-solving 
  • You have personal or professional ambitions, but don’t know where to start 
  • You’re learning to build your self-belief even in times of adversity.

Looking for a specific gem? 

[4:59] The daughter of immigrants. 

[7:17] Susan went where opportunity and adventure was. 

[13:20] The best operations people are those who have set in the shoes of those they are leading. 

[15:05] Susan’s track record of trust and evidence that gives people confidence that she can do things she has never done before. 

[16:24] Earning the moniker of “fixer”. 

[17:38] I have the ability to see patterns in a business which helps to amplify the things that are working and fix the things that are broken. 

[19:40] What personal attributes have made me successful? (try this!) 

[27:20] Do you have a personal goal? This blueprint is your game plan for action. 

[35:25] Curiosity is what enables you to scratch beneath the surface. 

[37:05] Susan does not believe in micromanagement. 

[43:20] It hasn’t all been glamorous, I had to sell my house during a downturn. 

[43:50] The best entrepreneurial start: clear vision, value and intention. 

[44:40]: The best investment Susan made in herself (hint: self-belief). 

People and Resources Mentioned in This Episode 

Order “Successful Change” by Susan Odle on Amazon. 

Ottawa Music Industry Coalition 

Connect with Susan 

Website – 8020CS 

LinkedIn – Susan Odle 

Connect with BDC 

LinkedIn – BDC Capital (Canada) 

Twitter – @bdc_capital 

 Naomi Haile: Tell us about your origin story.  

Susan Odle: I was born in England and had a very British upbringing. I’m mixed race. So I have African, Indian and European roots. My parents were born in Guyana, South America and I had quite a conservative upbringing. I was not the compliant child. But that’s just the creative streak in me and not being bound to a defined box. 

Naomi Haile: Were you encouraged to color outside of the lines or stay within them? 

Susan Odle: I was not encouraged to color outside the lines. I’m an immigrant to Canada, my parents leaped three continents and we finally ended up in Canada. When you come from an immigrant experience, you’re under a certain amount of pressure to conform in order to get ahead. You sacrifice a little bit of the freedom in order to open doors. You can judge that or not, but that’s the way it was. 

I was definitely raised to stay within the boundaries. But when I felt the need to color outside the line or break through the line and paint my own mosaic, I’ve done it 100% My whole life. 

Naomi Haile: Describe your journey to Canada. 

Susan Odle: I was about six and a half. When I came to Canada, my life here was good. Growing up in southern Ontario, Pickering. Outside of Toronto, a small town, next to a big city. That big, multicultural experience and opportunity was massive. 

I’ve seen different experiences within Canada. But Ottawa is an amazing city. It is this happy medium of everything Canada has to offer. I’ve called it home for the last 18 years. And this is where I will be home for the rest of my life. I’ve experienced a lot and just going where opportunity and adventure has taken me. 

Naomi Haile: What was your entry into technology? You read about it in a newspaper and knew you had to enter this space. 

Susan Odle: I’ve always been around tech and I will thank my father for this forever. He has passed away. He was always into the latest gadget. He lined up at RadioShack to buy the first VIC-20 computer, which was the first home computer accessible to working class families.  

When I was reading the Toronto Star, there was an article about this new, booming industry. I was the top sales rep and high-end furniture store in Toronto. It was the premier kind of job, but boring as all hell. And that wasn’t enough for me. I started applying for jobs with no credentials in order to get a job in tech. I didn’t give up. And I finally got a call from a company called CentriFax and they offered me a straight commission job. I walked away from my salary job because I knew I wanted to be in tech. 

I kept my nose down, worked hard to build trust, took on new challenges, produced results, which inspires leadership to give you more challenges. When I think about my first software job — 24 years ago. 

You better be passionate about what you’re doing. If you’re going to sustain that level of performance and curiosity and drive over that many years. It’s got to be something you really enjoy doing.

Naomi H: How did you develop your craft and expertise? 

Susan Odle: I am a generalist. I’m a senior generalist. My career started off carrying in sales. Then, distributed sales – channels. I’ve also been an entrepreneur. This is actually venture number four. When you operate your own business, you are finance, marketing, sales, delivery. And my last role was VP operations. Operations from a technology point of view are holistic. If you haven’t performed in multiple functions, how can you possibly know what’s going on to a certain degree in a particular function? You can’t. 

My success as an operations lead has been because I’ve performed in sales, professional services, channels, and in being a hack in marketing as an entrepreneur, I run my own business. 

The best operations people are those who have sat in the shoes of people they are leading and giving guidance to. You can’t speak the same language if you haven’t lived it. Being a generalist is huge. If you have an ambition to advance your career or if you have an ambition to start your own business, that broad experience is critical. It’s important. 

Naomi H: Did you did you know that when you first started or how did you know 

Susan Odle: Absolutely not. I can’t say enough about the people that have given me opportunities over my career. Based on the potential that they saw in me backed up by my results. I’m not happy to just take a paycheck to do the same thing over and over again. When Mark, our VP of Sales at Omnimark Technologies at that time, decided they needed a channel strategy. He asked if I wanted to take that on. I took a number of courses in channel management from respected organizations. We started the channel and drove revenue through it. 

Hard work produces evidence of progress. Then that produces results. That trail of evidence is critical. And when you do that, people will notice. Then they will trust you to take on new opportunities that you may not be qualified on paper to take on. 

I am not qualified on paper to do much of what I’ve done. But I’ve got a track record of trust and evidence that gives people confidence that I can do things that I may not have done before. That’s been my narrative my entire career.

Naomi H: You earned this moniker fixer. What has been critical for you to lean into your gifts? 

Susan Odle: Great question. I didn’t know the fixer thing was a thing until three years ago, when someone mentioned it to me. When I looked back, I realized its truth. In 1999, I was pulled in to take over a channel team that was just driving trickling revenue, we needed it to be a lot better. We reorganized everything we were doing and we produced amazing results in 18 months. That was my first real fixer accomplishment. I kept working. C-suite members and, on a few occasions, board members would call me and ask to help companies. And I would do it. I would fix the problem. And then I would be bored. And it was time to move on to the next problem. 

It might be my music background. I have the ability to see patterns in a business and hone into those variances in the melody. Amplify the things that are working and fix the things that are broken.

I don’t I don’t see hierarchy. People are people at every level. The combination of being able to have an open mind, see trends, and then bring people together to take action efficiently. That’s my secret weapon. I enjoy the work. I enjoy the challenge. 

Naomi Haile: Why did you start your latest venture 8020CS and what is the concept behind the name?  

Susan Odle: 8020CS is six letters and numbers that mean a lot. I remember sitting in my office and asking myself: “what is it that has made me successful in my career? What are the personal attributes that have really aided my career? 

The CS in 8020CS stands for “Core Strength”. CORE is an acronym that stands for Confidence. I’m a very confident person. I have a lot of confidence in myself to take on challenges, take on new things, and see things through. I’m very Open to new opportunities and new adventures and challenges. I am absolutely Resilient. It’s in my blood from generations way back. And I work hard. I’ve been working since I was 13 years old. So C stands for pretty important things in my experience of being successful. And then the S is a measure of CORE. 

In the book, there’s a scoring model. And 80-20 is the Pareto Principle. The 80-20 rule. It is about focus. What are the 20% of things that you should be amplifying? And what are the 20% of things that you should be mitigating and those things that have a multiplier impact on your activities. 

The blueprint and model is applicable to your personal life and to your business life. It’s a mindset model. It’s about alignment and buy-in. 

Naomi Haile: I haven’t finished the book yet. I believe it’s a guide to consistently reference. Can you walk us through the framework for a hypothetical challenge? 

Susan Odle: I’m happy to share a personal story about how it would have been helpful to give me guidance at a challenging time in my life. The 8020CS blueprint is a tool. And it is something that you can go back to and refer to. But if people apply it enough, it will become a part of their mindset. It’s about adopting this successful change mindset. 

It gives people a repeatable way to work through how they’re going to approach capturing an opportunity that’s important to them. And when you have an opportunity, or want to go after a problem you want to solve, you need other people to participate in those things. Then alignment and buy in is important. It helps people feel validated that they’re on the right path through this buy-in model. 

In sales we talk about an elevator pitch. If you’re trying to accomplish something, you need to be able to communicate based on the homework you’ve done. In preparation for presenting an ask, you really need to be able to nail that. 

Gate number two, if you were to succeed at that ask, what’s the payoff? What’s the ROI that you’re going for? That needs to be something that you can measure. 

Gate number three is all about the strategy. What are the things that you’re going to do? It’s not tactical, but what’s your approach? When are you going to do it? Where are you going to do it? How are you going to do it? 

Gate four gets into the tactics. What are the time bounds and milestones I’m going to commit to? What am I going to get done this week, this month that’s going to support the strategy and deliver the ROI. 

Gate five is your sustainability plan. How will you ensure that you don’t fall back to the old habits that got you into the problem in the first place? Or if you’re doing something new, how you’re going to protect that thing and nurture it along? It’s all about buy-in. 

Through all of the gates, there is a scoring model that lets you scratch beneath the surface. 

If you are an individual who has a personal goal. You want to release an album. Do you know how to play an instrument? Okay, even if you don’t, maybe you’re a lyricist. And then you team up with a musician that can co-write with you. The gates. What’s the ask? What’s your goal? What’s your strategy? What’s your timeframe? It’s universally applicable, but obviously, from a monetization point of view, my career is really focused on the business front. 

Naomi Haile: How do you decide whether to say yes or no to a particular opportunity? Additionally, what are some of the fascinating problems you’ve navigated in your work? 

Susan Odle: Every time I walked away from one of my advisory firms, it’s because there’s been an executive or board member that has asked me to come back full-time to become a strong member of the team. I’ll say yes if the problem is interesting enough and that I would not be bored. 

It’s hard to say no to people that have been your advocates and your trusted allies in business for a long time. The reason for the jumps in and out of self-employment are related to being pulled in to address specific problems on a full-time basis. 

In terms of one of the most interesting and complex opportunities that I’ve been through, I would say it was 100% the EBITDA turnaround that I had to deliver within a year. We had a very short window of time to significantly improve the bottom line. I was brought in specifically to do that, dropping into a large organization cold. I have to build relationships and establish trust. And then we reorganized how the organization functions in order to turn the bottom line around. That was daunting. And we succeeded to the benefit of many, many families. And I’m very proud of that. 

Naomi Haile: How do you build trust? 

Susan Odle: I’ve seen a lot of wealth over my career. As you go up the management ladder, you get exposed to different levels of wealth. And at the end of the day, people are people. Treat people like people. Imagine your organization is flat, and take an interest in people. For people coming up in their career, don’t pose. Be yourself. And be open to learning, be open to failure, and learn from failure. And treat people with respect. 

As you move into senior management, forget that you’re in senior management. Just do your job, do the work. And be curious about all of it. That’s what leadership is. On a human level, everybody is just who they are. Treat them like that. And you’ll be amazed at what you’ll get back in return in terms of the level of motivation of teams and people to move as one unit towards a common goal. 

Naomi Haile: A critical part of building trust is being curious about people and being genuine about who you are. 

Susan Odle: I think curiosity and being genuine is just fundamental to being successful in life. Period. It’s a bit lazy not to be curious. And if you’re not naturally curious, then you need to work on those skills, because curiosity is what enables you to scratch below the surface of something and understand what lies underneath it. 

As you know, statistically 70% of all transformation initiatives fail. And even though they’ve only captured that, from a business point of view, I think the same is true on a personal level. A lot of that is because people kind of go on the surface of what something is. It’s all the gray stuff underneath the surface that will trip you up at the time when you least expect it. And then, it’s really hard to recover from that. So do the work early, instead of waiting for it to break and then doing a lot of work to scramble and fix it later on. Just do the work. 

Naomi Haile: Scratching beneath the surface is something that needs to be embedded through your process. 

Susan Odle: That’s what the scoring model is all about at every gate. You’re using that scoring model at an individual stakeholder level. You’re not just doing it once and thinking that you’re fine. You’re holding yourself to account. 

Naomi Haile: Where do you start to understand what drives your team, and how we can motivate very different people to get on one accord? 

Susan Odle: I do not believe in micromanagement at all. The only thing that matters is measurable progress, which drives results. As a leadership team, if you are focused on providing clear guidance on the North Star, and how that trickles down to functional units, then let people work how they want. But hold them to account by measuring their progress towards whatever it is they’re responsible for delivering. 

If companies could take that approach, then you have a more flexible way of supporting people in their 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s, and 20s. 

Why does everybody have to operate under the same behavior when they’re very different people? We have to recognize the difference in how people are adapting and being raised into this world. I think leaders need to focus on measuring progress and producing results and give people the flexibility to do whatever they need to do to get there. Obviously, it can’t be completely boundless. But you can’t put everyone in the same bucket and behavior because they’re not the same. 

In tech businesses, we have customer advisory boards (CABs). Software companies will go out and pick a representation of customers from around the world to advise product development and go-to market strategy. Companies would be well advised to have a generational board within their businesses and learn and make some adaptations based on that. 

You don’t have to sacrifice results for understanding. You can have both. I think that’s the challenge of leadership is being open to doing something new. 

Rigidity in processes, matrix, and organizational design is not going to stand anymore. Things are changing way too fast. So take care of your people without sacrificing performance. You can do both.

Naomi Haile: In your book you mention that short-term thinking is expensive, through a layoffs example. 

Susan Odle: That’s right. I have to give credit to The People’s Court (television series), Judge Milian. She’s the one that used to say it. It’s an expression well-known in Latin culture. It’s brilliant. The quick slash and burn to improve the bottom line demotivates the people that are left behind. Yes, sometimes that has to be done. But if you are more proactive in managing your business, you can affect change before it comes to that. That won’t happen successfully in every business because there are factors that can be out of one’s control. But in many cases, businesses can avoid those types of situations, if they just are more proactive about facing a problem head on. 

What if you don’t have the people within your team that know how to resolve it? Then bring somebody in who can accelerate that with your team. Ego serves no place and benefits no one when you fail. So drop it and do what you need to do to help. 

Naomi Haile: What have you learned about people and leadership? And when you think about where you are today, on this new venture and coming out with your book, what do you appreciate most about where you are today? 

Susan Odle: I have experienced a lot. Nobody’s done everything, but I’ve experienced a lot broadly and deeply. I feel very well positioned to help a lot of people in a lot of different circumstances. That is exciting for me to be at this point in my career, where I have done enough to be a credible and valuable advisor and partner to leaders that want to do something new. 

Whether that’s changing a problem or capturing an opportunity. It feels like a milestone where I have enough experience to document it in a book. I wrote the book intentionally as a conversation, versus an academic, dry piece of reading. I feel very grounded in my experience — positive and negative. My journey hasn’t all been glamorous. I had to sell a house because of a downturn in my career at one point. I’ve learned a lot and I want to help people. 

With 8020CS, it marks the best entrepreneurial start for me, in terms of clear vision, value and intent. My intention is to help as many people as possible in achieving success. 

Naomi Haile: I often say purpose is not attached to any job or opportunity and the way that you’ve been able to, to help people in so many different facets of your life is truly remarkable. 

What is the best investment that you’ve made in yourself? 

Susan Odle: Hands down, it is belief in myself. 

And you can quantify that. From age 13, I tried to get a job at Burger King and I couldn’t because legally you have to be 14. So I worked for my dad for a summer. But I’ve always had a belief in myself. 

I’ve always ignored my credentials and just gone after what I’m passionate about. I’ve always shot higher than my rank.

People feel confidence. Confidence is not arrogance, by the way. Confidence is substantiated in some evidence and some experience. So when you’re in your early 20s, you can have confidence and belief in yourself with no experience and people will support you because of that energy. 

When you keep on practicing that investment of belief in yourself. It’s fair to call it an investment because when you hit hard times, your belief gets pummeled. You have to work hard to bring yourself back up to the point where your belief in yourself is where it was, before you got pummeled. 

I’ve been in tech and I’ve been a songwriter. Why the heck do I think I can write a book? Well, I did it. So that’s belief. 

When you go after your dreams, it’s a lonely journey. Even if you have supporters, which I have tremendous support. But your supporters don’t do the work for you. You have to do the work. That certainly takes a tremendous amount of commitment, and the commitment is fed by belief. 

Naomi Haile: Thank you, Susan. What is the best way for people to support you and connect with you online? 

Susan Odle: Number one, Naomi, thank you this is your questions were just wonderful. The conversation was broad and thanks for the opportunity. The best way for people to share the good news is to definitely buy the book, it’s on Amazon. If you just type in “Successful Change”. 

If you know of any leaders, I mentor people one-on-one, my whole business model is extremely flexible. You can literally book me for an hour once in your life. I want to help as many people as I can. I help leadership teams think through problems. I am also a keynote speaker. Visit 8020CS.com. I am happy to chat with anyone. 

Naomi Haile: Thank you for listening to another episode of the Power Why podcast. We will catch you in the next episode. 


A profile picture of smiling Naomi Haile, Talent Strategy Consultant & Podcast Host - who's standing in front of a light blue background.

Naomi Haile, Talent Strategy Consultant & Podcast Host

A human capital professional and inclusion strategy expert, Naomi Haile understands people. With 7+ years of experience spanning international tax compliance at the Canadian federal government and consulting at specialized boutique firms, Naomi leverages data about how people interact with systems and filters them through her unique lens to build responsible organizations. Using innovative design thinking strategies, she works with executives and their high-performing teams to co-create sustainable solutions for even the most complex of human capital challenges.

Currently, she is a Senior Talent Strategist, Office of the CEO, at WritersBlok, a white-glove ghostwriting agency that helps business leaders, celebrities, executives, politicians, and athletes turn their personal stories into brand assets. In addition to her consulting work, Naomi is the producer and host of the rising Power of Why Podcast (which boasts over 30K downloads and 200 active monthly listeners), where she interviews top global and local industry leaders. Most notably, her recent interview with Netflix’s Chief of Human Resources Officer was featured on Business Insider.

An avid traveler, Naomi has explored over 25 cities and 11 countries, and loves to connect with new cultures through her passion for food. When she’s not monitoring her investment watchlists, she is boxing or enjoying a broadway show.

Invest Ottawa
Invest Ottawa, is Ottawa’s leading economic development agency for fostering the advancement of the region's globally competitive knowledge-based institutions and industries. Invest Ottawa delivers its economic development services through a unique partnership with the City of Ottawa, where the City and Invest Ottawa, through its members set the strategy and manage the programs that move Ottawa’s economy forward. Invest Ottawa is a non-profit, partnership organization that operates on an annual budget that comes from a variety of sources including: municipal, federal and provincial government; membership fees; professional development programs; and private sector contributions.

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