Feeding the Fire Within: Rikesh Shah, Director of Finance for the Canadian Olympic Committee Pt. 2

finance team

Read Part I of this story here.

6) How do the expectations at a not for profit, differ from the expectations at a for profit company?
Although we understand how to generate revenue and protect it, we are defined in a different way. We are defined by both our Olympic performance and the ability to financially contribute to the Olympic Movement. Due to our role in the sport system, we are highly visible and our process and programs are under scrutiny, even more so in an Olympic year. I will say that the people here are passionate about athlete performances and we get excited when we have the opportunity to meet them.

I will say that the people here are passionate about athlete performances and we get excited when we have the opportunity to meet them.

7) What are the 3 skills or attributes that someone needs to work for the Canadian Olympic Committee?
We always need talented people at the ‘doer’ level. We need people who can bring their toolkit to the organization, but also expand their toolkit while they are here. Someone who works here must also be able to see how there is a need for constant development and continuous improvement. This place is a performance organization that requires people to do the next thing beyond their immediate reach.

We need people who can bring their toolkit to the organization, but also expand their toolkit while they are here.

If I were to say the 3 specific attributes that we look for, I would highlight the following:

a. An athlete-driven personality will get you the extra mile here. You need to understand that everything you do is for the athletes. They rely on you. If athletes come by the office, their energy and commitment to their sport should generate an excitement in you. Their passion should be a source of inspiration.

b. We look for flexibility. We are a small organization and have no ego. You will be asked to move chairs, hand out items at meetings and run errands. I do it, our executives do it and so do all other levels.

c. You have to be resourceful. You need to perform well, even if you will not always have all of the resources that you need. You still need to be able to get it done.

8 ) What are the key challenges that the COC is facing?
Our current situation is a result of VANOC hosting a successful Winter Olympic Games. With the end of those Games in 2010, the COC then needed to create a marketing team to fuel the organization. That has involved knocking on doors and for the past two years working intensively to renew and build partnerships. What we want is to create a competitive process where everyone wants to be a key sponsor and a part of the Canadian Olympic Team and all it has to offer.

9) Do you see yourself as a pure accounting person, or are you a finance and operations person?
I end up doing a mix of everything and I enjoy it. I do focus on the budgeting process and I have revamped the way that we look at the business from a planning perspective. I am definitely in the middle of some operational problem solving as well.

I end up doing a mix of everything and I enjoy it.

10) What are the 3 key skills that you’ve built to date in your career?
▪ Budgeting

▪ Reporting

▪ Investments

11) Did you have a career plan?
I went with the flow at the beginning, but now make very conscious decisions. For example, I was not involved in some key projects at work, but I knew that I could contribute, so I went forward and tried to add value right away. This is a purposeful decision I made to grow and learn.

12) What was the toughest moment for you in the first 10 years of your career?
I would say that taking accountability for the decisions I’ve made. I should have taken the opportunity when I was younger to get educated on things that interested me and explore the careers that matched those interests. I didn’t do that so I never really understood how I fit in the accounting world, but now I understand and am at a place in my career where I feel a high level of satisfaction with what I am doing.

I should have taken the opportunity when I was younger to get educated on things that interested me and explore the careers that matched those interests.

Rikesh Shah is fully committed to our country’s top amateur athletes and will tell you bluntly that their passion for their sport pushes him to continue to advocate on their behalf. He is proud to be part of their success story and cannot wait for London, England 2012 where he hopes to see many of our athletes grace the podium.