DUNCAN – Greater Vancouver Board of Trade President and CEO Iain Black shared details of the organization’s transformation with the Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce May 24 at the Duncan-Cowichan Golf & Country Club, which also provided useable tips and guidelines for other business groups.
Although careful not to lay the blame for inheriting a very sizeable debt load at the GVBOT on his predecessor, Darcy Rezac, who suffered from a lengthy illness in the latter stages of his 23 year tenure at the helm, Black did outline the steps the group undertook starting with his arrival in 2011 to turn it around.
They’ve achieved the goals of a five year financial plan in just two years, and the GVBOT is now firmly back on a solid financial footing.
“Renovations” to the organization’s structure included going painstakingly through each department, and identifying why their membership had dropped 24 per cent.
New programs implanted included the formation of a Company of Young Professionals certification program, a Leaders of Tomorrow mentorship program, and the creation of two new councils, for Small Business and Women’s Leadership.
Black says the biggest change came through the Board of Governance, which instilled a new attitude that “focused on what is right, as opposed to who is right,” adding that if a staff member did something incorrect, they were constructively corrected.
He cited one example of an employee misfiring on a task, who then came to him and announced: “Ian, we have a teachable moment to celebrate.”
Membership has grown by 33 per cent since Black came aboard, and the GVBOT is one of only three Chambers in the province with numerical gains, he notes.
With 5,200 members, the GVBOT is a powerful advocate for business interests not just in Greater Vancouver, but in the province. It’s come a long ways since its formation in 1887 following the Great Vancouver Fire, when 31 people joined together to form the first Board of Trade.
In terms of advocacy, Black notes the GVBOT focuses on building longer-term relationships, adding “you need to establish relationships when you don’t need them”, in order to have an ear when you do need to be heard.
That includes having a business organization walk the political tight-rope of non-partisanship, including being “friendly, without being friends” with groups non sympathetic to the free enterprise cause.