June 19, 2019

Dear Members,

"I've got the best job in town."

For almost eight years, at over 400 events, I have shared this sentiment (or something similar) from our podium. I've meant it every time I've said it.

The need for new blood

In August 2011, during my last interview for this role I was asked about how long I might stay if selected to lead the Board of Trade.

I responded quickly.

"A minimum of three years, and no more than six." (...So much for that.)

My answer was not random, grounded as it was in observations made during the interview process, itself.

To explain, in studying this historic, arguably iconic, organization back in 2011, I concluded that it is the type of organization that really requires a new CEO at least once, if not twice, each decade. You need fresh eyes examining new strategies, forging new directions... and revisiting some recent decisions (mine, now!) to ratify they still reflect the fast-changing needs of you, our Members.

Our place in B.C.'s history

For over 132 years we have had a steady, and occasionally profound, impact on B.C.'s landscape. We rightfully lay claim to impacting or driving success on thousands of topics, including things like an undersea cable between here and Australia (about 100 years ago), NEXUS cards, the Canada Line, and the never-ending quest for good old-fashioned "sensible taxation for businesses."

We continue to have such influence with governments, in large part because we accept the ongoing challenge of trying to be thoughtful and measured, even when the temptation is great to be more dramatic and combative.

My task in October 2011 was to get our finances back in order, put a new coat of paint on the place, and basically grow the joint and prepare it for whatever's next. To achieve this, I needed to gather around me committed colleagues who are the very best at what they do, and to help attract to our Board of Directors diverse business leaders willing to lend their time and talents to make our region better.


Ready for tomorrow's challenges

Satisfied as I am with what we have achieved together, and confident as I am in the Board's capacity to fearlessly tackle whatever lies ahead, I am increasingly concerned about the often opaque way governments at every level are infringing on our ability to drive the economy – either by the increase in constricting regulations or the layers of new taxes and fees – often dressed up in name, or mechanics, to lessen the outcry of those of us directly impacted.

Many of the strides made this century in making B.C. one of the most attractive business investment climates in North America have been undermined or dismantled. Yes, we still have much going for us, and British Columbia's nation-leading economic momentum of the past 18 years continues in spite of these changes... for now.

But we know that all cycles come to an end, and the signs are all around us that we best prepare for this. Part of bracing for these rough seas, though, involves keeping a respectful dialogue open with the governments whose decisions of the past few years are now being felt by businesses. They are going to need thoughtful and respectful leaders guiding them forward — that's you, through the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

So, as I gently place my kids' photos in a box and head for the door, I urge you to remain focused, and to remain vigilant. Simply, there is so much white noise surrounding governments' actions, today, that the intent and impact of both regulations and taxation can become increasingly blurry.

And as you come to terms with these challenges being imposed on you — typically by those who have never signed the front of a paycheque — support your new CEO, here, to lead that charge — as wholeheartedly as you have me.

Together you will write the next fascinating chapter of this storied organization, and in doing so help make your contribution to building this great province.

I've had the best job in town. Thank you.

Iain J.S. Black
President and CEO
Greater Vancouver Board of Trade

Note: This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Sounding Board

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