A Call to Action

By Kristin Stefek Brashares
In Culture, Interviews

Regional Business Council Executive Director Kathy Osborn advocates a power-in-numbers approach to strengthening the St. Louis region.

Regional Business Council Executive Director Kathy Osborn has
a passion and vision for St. Louis. Ten years ago, she spearheaded
the formation of the RBC, almost single-handedly calling on the
St. Louis region’s top business brass to come on board. Since then,
Osborn has become a critical connection between presidents and
CEOs of 100 of the area’s largest companies. By creating collaborations and partnerships through big businesses, Osborn and the RBC work tirelessly to put plans into action that greatly impact
the region’s civic and philanthropic development and enhance
the vitality of St. Louis. Here, she talks about community involvement,her commitment to St. Louis and staying ahead of the game in the business world.

ALIVE: Growing up, had you always envisioned yourself as a businesswoman?
KO: When I was younger, I was quite intrigued by science and aspired to be a scientist. Along the way, my passion for the community overrode that desire. I worked from the time I was 14. In high school and college, I got involved in community work. At that time, in the early 1970s, there was a real focus on getting involved in the community. For me, the challenge was balancing work, school and community activities. Most of my community work was inner-city work, which has really helped in my job today. Some
of the things the RBC does center on city issues, so the fact that I have experience in it is an asset.

ALIVE: How did your interest in community work lead to a career in business?
KO: I’ve had three distinct careers in my life. I didn’t plan it; it just evolved this way. My first was in nonprofit management, then educational administration and now business. What linked them all together is that I realized early on that to get things done, you have to know how to work with and support others to take action, and I’ve been able to do that throughout my career. I’ve always had a keen interest in business. My background in nonprofit and educational management is a real asset as the RBC takes on initiatives in these areas.

ALIVE: Is there an RBC cause that you’re particularly passionate about?
KO: I am most passionate about helping to make the region grow and prosper. We are a 16-county region with two rivers, and rivers can divide people. By bringing large employers together from different parts of the region, we can develop a mutual understanding. We have to work together as a region. When I look at any one part of the region, I think about how it affects the entire region. The more we work together collectively, the greater chance we’ll have at being successful on the world stage.

ALIVE: Since day one, you’ve helped double membership and increase the amount of contributions (last year, the RBC raised $10.4 million for United Way). You’ve clearly dedicated much of your life to making the St. Louis region a better place. What appeals to you about the area?
KO: St. Louis is a city that’s large enough that there’s all the culture and sports and richness that you could have in any city. It’s also a size that you can really make a difference. Here, if you stand up and say, “Let’s get something done,” you can make that happen, and your contributions will make a difference. One thing that I very distinctly remember at a young age is that I always wanted to make a difference. That desire has been a huge part of my career development. We often arrive at places we don’t necessarily plan, but when we get there, we know it’s right. Now that I’m here developing the RBC, it makes all the other things in my life make
sense.

ALIVE: What’s the key to staying ahead in the professional world?
KO: Being able to get things done. Too often, we plan to plan and forget to act. I have a bias toward action, and there’s absolutely no doubt that the RBC does. It’s important to be flexible and to look beyond today and see what’s ahead. You’re more likely to be successful and less likely to be mired in the present or past.

 

 

Carmen Troesser

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