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Female Founders: Rhonda Bray of Rhythm Management Group On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

I think anyone can be a founder, but I believe the most successful founders live a really strict life. I’ve had to be very deliberate and strict with myself because I’ve found that chaos impacts my personal life and the business. For example, I follow a strict routine regarding when I wake up, exercise, answer emails, and what I eat. I think that to be a focused founder and a deliberate creator, you must remove a lot of the noise and chaos from your life, which can be hard for some people.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rhonda Bray, Founder and CEO of Rhythm Management Group (RMG).

With a clinical background, device management expertise, and vast experience with major device manufacturers, Rhonda has led RMG since its launch in 2011. RMG was founded to revolutionize remote patient monitoring, and has become one of the fastest-growing technology companies in North America and recently received $34 million in capital investment from Aldrich Capital Partners. An important aspect of Rhythm’s origin and success — and one that Rhonda is extremely proud of — is that Rhythm was founded by a Black woman and continues to be led by a diverse team of strong, female leaders.

What is your backstory and what led you to the particular career path that you’ve achieved so far?

I started my career as a bedside nurse in ICU cardiac surgical clinics, which is where I first saw how external pacemakers can actually save the lives of patients recovering from open heart surgery. Initially, this terrified me, because of how important it was ensure the pacemakers had the right settings for each patient. As I became more comfortable in this environment, I also began talking more with the medical device representatives who were checking on our patients with implantable pacemakers and cardiac devices. Ultimately, I became so interested in cardiac medical devices that I transitioned to the role of managing a pacemaker clinic in Washington, D.C.

I spent 12 years there, and over that time, I realized there were several problems with the clinical flow associated with patients with implantable devices. At that time, most patients had to come into the clinic regularly to have their devices checks. I knew there had to be a better way for patients and practices, and for several years I couldn’t shake that feeling. In 2011, I finally built up the courage to take the leap and create Rhythm Management Group.

Can you share one of the most interesting stories that has happened to you since you began leading your company?

One thing that is interesting is how much my leadership approach and confidence has changed since I began Rhythm. When I started the company, I didn’t know the specific steps to take to achieve our goals, and I wasn’t sure how to lead. I decided to take it one step at a time, and as I did that, I became much more confident in myself and in my leadership abilities.

Whenever I’m asked for advice from people who are interesting in starting their own new business, I tell them not to try to figure it all out in the beginning. Instead, I recommend that they figure out what they need to do in each moment, and then take the appropriate steps. It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you don’t take it a day at a time.

Can you share a big lesson that you’ve learned while leading your company?

A few years ago, I was listening to a podcast featuring Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” in which she discussed being called a “fearless leader.” She said leadership isn’t about being fearless, it’s about being brave in the face of fear. This is something I discovered while leading as well.

It’s easy to be hard on yourself and let your thoughts and fears overwhelm your actions. However, in those moments, you must make the brave decision instead of the fear-based one. Accepting the fear and leading in a brave way has helped me make really difficult decisions that others wouldn’t make, whether it be because they didn’t like the choice or because it wasn’t the popular one. Choosing to be brave has become my “True North.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people I am grateful for! One is my mentor, Dr. Steve Singh, a cardiologist at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center, who served as one of Rhythm Management Group’s medical directors. In Rhythm’s first couple of years, he was instrumental in rallying me up and providing support when I felt defeated.

My entire family is also extremely supportive, and they all have joined Rhythm in various capacities. My older sister, Rachelle Brown, was the first to join, and she serves as our HR manager. My parents are also involved, as well as my other sister, Andrea Clark, a former nurse who is our National Sales Manager. She transformed the sales team and expanded our sales footprint across the United States.

My family’s support and constant encouragement over the years has always helped me take a breath whenever things feel too heavy.

According to this Ernst and Young report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

One thing that delayed me from starting Rhythm was motherhood. I actually thought about starting the company in 2005, but I had a newborn and I wasn’t ready to leave him and throw all of my energy into work.

Being a mother and starting a business is hard. I think it’s easier for men to sometimes check out and focus solely on work. I’m not able or willing to do that.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

I think a lot of it requires a cultural shift. Women need to feel that it’s OK to really pursue what they want to pursue, and men need to step up and help more at home.

It’s also important for women to know that prioritizing work does not make them a bad mom or less of a woman. It’s OK if they can’t make every doctor’s appointment, every teacher conference, or every basketball game. Women can prioritize both their career and family — we don’t have to choose.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Women bring power and insight to the industry that men just can’t bring. Women are powerful. We can juggle multiple priorities at once, and make quick decisions, and we are extremely creative. We are also more tolerant and empathetic.

With the right balance, we can run a successful business and have everything else that we want in our personal lives.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

I often have people tell me, “It must be really great to be your own boss.” But when you found and run a business, you’re never really your own buss. I consider all of our customers, patients, and employees as bosses. I have many people to answer to.

Another thing people don’t understand is that founding and leading a business can be lonely. There are very few people who understand what you’re going through and what you’ve been through. I’m so grateful for what I’ve had the chance to experience, but it can be isolating at times.

Having so many family members involved in Rhythm provides a huge benefit to me in this regard. Andrea, for example, knows exactly what I’m going through on a daily basis without me having to explain. Sometimes all I have to do is look at her and she gives me that understanding that I need.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

I think anyone can be a founder, but I believe the most successful founders live a really strict life. I’ve had to be very deliberate and strict with myself because I’ve found that chaos impacts my personal life and the business. For example, I follow a strict routine regarding when I wake up, exercise, answer emails, and what I eat. I think that to be a focused founder and a deliberate creator, you must remove a lot of the noise and chaos from your life, which can be hard for some people.

Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?”

The first is having a support system and cheerleaders. For me, this is my family and friends, who regularly encourage and support me.

Second is integrity. People can see authenticity and integrity, so even if you make mistakes, those impacted know your intention was good. Integrity is one of our core values at Rhythm.

The third is being brave, and trusting yourself enough to make decisions without worrying about the fallout. You can’t be crippled by fear.

The fourth is ability to maintain balance. I often have to assess if I’m feeling imbalanced — about work, family, or my health. It is important for me to check in with myself.

Lastly, is the ability to listen well. Over the last 10 years, I’ve learned how crucial listening is when managing others, building strong partnerships, and steering your business in the right direction.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

We are changing, impacting, and saving lives every day through the work that we do. Right now we’re improving the delivery of healthcare from a cardiology perspective, but we’re developing another product that will help change the way that healthcare is consumed and delivered to patients outside of cardiology. Our focus is always patient first, so whatever we do, we think about how it will impact the patient.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would like my legacy beyond Rhythm to be inspiring people to reach their greatest potential. I feel like we are creating a platform and a work environment where people can come in and see opportunities that they didn’t even dream possible. I would like every person I work with to know that Rhythm is here to support them in realizing their highest potential.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

It would be Oprah, for many reasons. As a kid, I would watch Oprah with my mom and feel inspired since she was a black woman navigating a white world. I grew up in a really rural part of Ohio where no one looked like us. When I saw Oprah on that stage, interacting with people and touching their lives, I felt like if she can do it, I can do it too.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

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Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.