Welcome to the latest installment of Q&A, our regular series of one-to-ones with some of Greater Vancouver's leading business figures.
Our subject this week is Prem Gill, CEO of Creative BC.
What is the biggest challenge facing Greater Vancouver?
The obvious challenges are the cost of living and affordability, and not just the next generation – but for this one too. From housing to commercial spaces, affordability drives everything – it attracts business and culture, so we need to find ways to ensure all of Vancouver's infrastructure welcomes people and makes it easy for companies to be here and make a healthy, vibrant city. This is especially true as we seek to sustain and cultivate talent for our creative sector – motion picture, music, publishing, and interactive media. Vancouver needs to remain a dynamic and livable destination for creatives from all over the world – when cities are culturally, economically, and socially diverse, they are dynamic. These are the kinds of cities where creators, visionaries and thinkers want to be and stay.
What do you like most about doing business in Greater Vancouver?
It's the entrepreneurial spirit of people here, finding unconventional ways to get things done – and the fact that people come together. I've seen that through the variety of industry members – DigiBC, Music BC, the motion picture, book and magazine associations too – parallel and even competing entities come together to see how their collective can thrive.
Where do you see untapped potential in Greater Vancouver?
In the people who haven't been part of the systems, historically. Untapped potential will be unleashed by the unprecedented cross-industry focus on ED&I initiatives and work. Hopefully it will finally give access and support talent and people who otherwise have either been excluded or have not felt a sense of welcome.
What is the most important lesson, business or otherwise, life has taught you?
So far, it's been COVID-19. We thought we'd be gone for two weeks and it's been almost two years. I've learned the incredible importance of finding real adaptability and the creativity born of necessity – across all kinds of different sectors, businesses and individuals. It's incredible how they have continued to adjust, shift and find the stamina to make things continue. Some advances through this time have even sped up innovation and created new opportunity.
What do you think makes a great leader?
A great leader needs to collaborate, listen, and effectively bring the best out of all those around them. Building trust is a two-way street, but a leader also has to have the strength and courage to make the tough decisions that inevitably bring in sometimes unpopular constraints.
Where is your favourite place in Vancouver?
My neighbourhood in Mount Pleasant. I've lived here for almost 15 years and there's diversity, there's Main Street, there's the community garden, and taking walks up to the cemetery – it's walkable, all the amenities are close by and within the neighbourhood there are smaller neighbourhoods. People care about their communities here.
What do you think Greater Vancouver needs more of?
Over COVID-19, the proliferation of outdoor dining from cafes to restaurants and bars, it really changed the energy of the city. Also, in neighbouring municipalities, you felt like life was in the streets – like Rome, Berlin and even Toronto. I hope that stays with us.
Who has helped you most in your career?
Too many individuals to name. Ultimately, it's about people helping you find your confidence or your strengths and encouraging you – whether it's your parents, your co-workers, or your board of directors.
What do you do when you aren't working?
I used to travel! My family all live in Vancouver and while I lived away for some time, I grew up here, I have strong roots so I live a very Vancouver lifestyle – I'm focused on health, my home, my garden, friends and consuming culture and entertainment – whether it's live, in print, on a screen or audio.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I have driven the same car for 15 years. It's in excellent shape and it seems impractical to give it up. I'll definitely make a green choice when I buy next.
Creative BC provides professional expertise and business support to strengthen B.C.'s motion picture, interactive and digital media, music and sound recording, and book and magazine publishing industries.