Jo-Anne MacDonald embodies the essence of “The world is your oyster.”

From her early years, Jo-Anne was a go-getter with an unshakable determination. After dedicating decades to sales, she went above and beyond to fulfill her dream of becoming a CEO, achieving it earlier than expected.

Beyond her CEO role, Jo-Anne pivoted to business consulting, inspiring thriving entrepreneurs. She also founded Act III Productions, a theater company like no other. Their unique cast, consisting of actors primarily aged 55 and up, delivers performances that consistently sell out due to high demand.

Discover how Jo-Anne, now embarking on the third act of her life, spreads joy through music and storytelling, creating a vibrant narrative that defines her journey.

Gender is Not a Barrier to Achieving Your Dreams

Growing up in a small Canadian community with forward-thinking parents, particularly a pioneering mother, Jo-Anne MacDonald believed that gender was never a barrier to achieving her dreams. From a young age, Jo-Anne imbibed a belief that her gender posed no barrier to her aspirations. Her parents were her pillars, nurturing her with unwavering support, fostering confidence, and instilling a robust work ethic in her.

Despite loving her roots, as an adult Jo-Anne realized that advancing to leadership roles in her field meant leaving her home region due to limited opportunities. The limited scope of opportunities in her local area became evident as she aspired to climb the career ladder. In her experience, leadership positions tended to be occupied for long durations, leaving few openings for others to step in. This realization nudged Jo-Anne to broaden her horizons beyond her beloved community.

Communicate Your Ambitions

Throughout her career, Jo-Anne’s ambition, strong work ethic, and self-advocacy helped her shatter the glass ceiling. In this episode of “Living Ageless and Bold”, Jo-Anne shares a valuable lesson with listeners about proactively expressing career aspirations. Earlier in her career, she decided to approach her leader and express a desire for broader contributions within the company. This proclamation came as a surprise as her manager didn’t know Jo-Anne was open to relocating for career growth despite having a family. This experience taught Jo-Anne to communicate her ambitions clearly, a lesson she passes on to young women. Upon asking for leadership opportunities, she swiftly received an opportunity to lead in British Columbia, kickstarting her journey to leadership roles on her way to eventually becoming a CEO in Toronto.

Christina echoes the importance of asking for what you want, encouraging younger women to learn from their collective experiences spanning over 30 years. Jo-Anne and Christina discuss the misconception that women might not pursue high-ranking careers due to family responsibilities, asserting that with clarity and communication, women can aim for and achieve ambitious career goals.

Jo-Anne stresses the significance of outlining a personal vision, advising individuals to regularly review and share it with leaders to avoid others defining their path. She held onto her ambition to become a CEO from her late twenties, highlighting the importance of setting clear career goals early on.

Developing Skills Over Multiple Industries

On her path to becoming a CEO at 51, Jo-Anne prioritized skill development over industry-specific exclusivity. She switched industries deliberately, moving from banking to pharmaceuticals, title insurance, and more, finding each transition exhilarating and rewarding. She encourages openness to exploring various fields, emphasizing that opportunities expand when minds do.

They discuss the significance of change and adapting to unexpected career trajectories.

Jo-Anne reflects on the freedom to pursue diverse interests at any age. She herself has experienced moments of self-doubt balanced by a sense of limitless possibilities. Debunking the notion of landing a “dream job” right out of school, Jo-Anne emphasizes the value of building experience and knowledge over time. 

CEO StatusAhead of Schedule

Jo-Anne’s accomplishment of breaking the glass ceiling in a male-dominated CEO realm was not a small feat. Jo-Anne shares her organic career journey. She was content as the VP in an insurance brokerage when a recruiting company pitched a CEO role in an unknown industry. Uncertain of applying for CEO positions, Jo-Anne deliberated but ultimately pursued the opportunity, likening it to auditioning for acting roles.

The recruitment process spanned six months, involving remote and in-person interviews. Towards the end of the process, she was flown to Europe to meet with 26 people in a single day. A few weeks later, she was finally offered the position. 

After an extensive process, Jo-Anne accepted the role of CEO and embraced the challenge, setting up operations for a company spanning 19 countries. She vividly describes the multifaceted role—reporting to a board, extensive travel, and being a working CEO deeply involved in various aspects of the business. She was 51 when she became CEO—four years earlier than the goal she set for herself all those years ago.

Her initial plan to retire in 2020 and relish post-career leisure was disrupted by the onset of the pandemic. Despite the unexpected turn of events, Jo-Anne reflected positively on her impactful tenure before the pandemic altered her retirement plans.

“Overnight Success” Take 15 Years

The importance of hard work and strategy cannot be understated in achieving success. There is a misconception that luck overshadows the years of dedication and strategic positioning that paved the way for Jo-Anne’s accomplishments. Christina shares an anecdote with the listeners about a plaque gifted to her by her husband that reminds her that overnight success actually takes years of persistent effort. Jo-Anne’s journey, while sounding serendipitous, was actually a result of deliberate steps towards her goal of becoming a CEO, accomplished earlier than she aimed for. Their conversation emphasizes the value of perseverance and strategic planning in reaching career milestones.

Inspiring Thriving Entrepreneurs

Shifting gears, Christina and Jo-Anne discuss Jo-Anne’s post-CEO life, diving into her passion-driven second chapter. After retiring and moving back home before COVID, Jo-Anne was invited by a coaching firm she had previously engaged during her CEO tenure to consider consulting with them. Despite uncertainty about the role’s specifics, she joined the firm, forming a tight-knit team of four individuals, collaborating remotely but sharing a deep mutual respect and affection.

They humorously contemplate the idea of men expressing affectionate sign-offs like they did, highlighting the refreshing nature of open expressions of care. Jo-Anne details her consulting work, focusing on aiding thriving entrepreneurs seeking guidance on sales and overcoming growth plateaus. She finds fulfillment in illuminating those ‘aha’ moments for clients, relishing the feeling of contributing meaningfully.

Act III Productions

Recounting her past in acting and music during high school, Jo-Anne once considered a different path before opting for a more traditional route post-graduation. From a family and community of musicians and artists, a love of performing arts was a passion for Jo-Anne before her professional pursuits. Jo-Anne revisited this passion when COVID finally allowed for a reunion with her talented musician friends. Hosting a gathering that turned into a spontaneous musical jam session, she was amazed by the collective talent of her friends in their 50s and 60s. This sparked an incredible idea in Jo-Anne. Witnessing her friends’ exceptional abilities, she embraced the joy she felt during that serendipitous gathering and founded Act III Productions, a company focusing on showcasing talented individuals in their third act of life. They recently staged a successful sold-out musical show with performers aged 55 and above. 

Located in New Brunswick, Canada, the company aims to spotlight mature performers in quality productions. Jo-Anne emphasizes their talent, efficiency, and organization, leveraging their skills from other aspects of life to enhance their creative endeavors. Although their recent show wasn’t live streamed, they aim to expand and possibly stream future performances. Certain experiences in life trigger new ventures, much like how Christina’s podcast was inspired by her reaction to a CNN anchor’s derogatory comment about women past their prime.

Progress for Women

Jo-Anne shares stories of the past, reflecting on her mother’s impactful role in their community despite the limitations women faced 75 years ago. Discussing the incredible progress made by their generation, Christina and Jo-Anne marvel at how technological advancements have empowered women to voice their opinions and sustain long-term careers. The conversation shifted to a shocking fact from the ’70s about women needing their husband’s permission to apply for a credit card, something that seems foreign to women in 2023. Jo-Anne recounts a personal experience from 1985 when she faced gender-based discrimination at a golf club, an eye-opening incident that clashed with her upbringing in a household where such discrimination was unimaginable. The discomfort and refusal to conform to such norms were empowering, even at 18 years old, and continued to propel Jo-Anne forward as she worked toward a fulfilling and impressive career.

A Legacy in the Making

As the podcast episode comes to a close, Jo-Anne reflects on her greatest accomplishment since turning 50. Despite achieving her professional goal of becoming a CEO at 51, Jo-Anne shares that her current venture with Act III Productions tops the list, creating joy and emotion through their theater work. She vividly articulates the overwhelming experience of seeing her words come alive on stage and watching the audience’s reactions. 

Looking ahead 10 years, Jo-Anne envisions a future where Act III Productions flourishes and becomes her legacy. She is currently considering buying a property to further expand their theater endeavors, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for this dynamic leader and her production company.

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