Meet the chamber’s CEO

September 29 , 2016
By: Michelle Ratcliffe
Make business easy — tune in to The Big Idea, a bi-weekly column from the Whistler Chamber of Commerce showcasing a Whistler business innovating in their sector

Since I arrived in Whistler about a week ago, a few folks have asked what made me interested in becoming the CEO of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce.

The reasons are many. However, if I had to choose a single reason it would have to be Whistler’s unique culture. The life-giving spirit of this region originated in the warm hearts and legendary creativity of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations and continues to this day, creating a culture that is invigorating, regenerative and inspiring.

It’s no wonder Whistler gives rise to so many energetic entrepreneurs and successful businesses.

The commercial setting in Whistler is consistent with things that are important to me and compliments my own diverse business background. I sometimes joke that I’m a business version of Forrest Gump — I somehow manage to end up in amazing circumstances meeting incredible people.

Ideas + innovation = improvement

In 2003, my brother and I started an energy efficiency technology company called Blue Line Innovations. With nothing more than an idea to improve the way people use electricity, we set out to introduce the concept of real-time energy feedback as a way of helping residential electricity users manage and reduce their electricity consumption.

Our approach to business and our unique solution saw us quickly doing business with some of the largest utilities companies in North America (BC Hydro was one of our first partners and even back then, my visits to the province had me thinking about living here one day).

Our work also led to a first-of-its-kind manufacturing agreement with Black and Decker and we signed contracts with multinational metering corporations. I was introduced to new commercial activities and represented Canada in an innovation and technology business mission to the UAE.

Our work was recognized nationally and internationally and we eventually began receiving recognition such as the BDC Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Progress Magazine’s 25 People to Watch.

People + planning = progress

My greatest reward in business has been the opportunity to work with teams of experienced, innovative and ambitious people. They taught me valuable lessons about turning ideas into reality.

My first boss and mentor was a fascinating entrepreneur who, in an effort to get me to think bigger, would often say, “Danny, if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly” (who would have known that would be so fitting today!). He also taught me to plan and execute strategies, push boundaries and strive to do things that improve lives.

This type of entrepreneurial spirit is in abundance in Whistler and is a big part of what shapes our community. Every time we see a new business start up or an existing business expand, we are seeing this spirit in action.

Talent + training = transformation

I’ve always worked to learn as much as possible about key Canadian industries, including tourism. Working for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, my job was to help entrepreneurs finance, grow and expand their tourism business. I also had to, both literally and figuratively, roll up my sleeves while general manager of two private tourism businesses.

Having gained deep knowledge of the industry, I’m now convinced that tourism businesses require the highest level of creativity, innovation and commitment to customer service in order to thrive. The value of staff development, while not unique to tourism, is critical, as customers are far more interested in how we make them feel than any other factor of customer satisfaction. Addressing someone’s emotional needs and expectations requires talent, training and practice.

Having conducted business around the globe and in multiple industries, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that great teams create success. Technology enables business functions, but it is people who create plans, provide value and satisfy customers. The best companies in the world are the ones that are elevating employees.  Whistler is already on the leading edge of training innovation and is positioning itself as an internationally recognized centre of excellence for service and professional development.

Manager asks CEO: “What happens if we invest heavily in developing our people and they leave us?”
CEO responds: “What if we don’t and they stay?”

Link to Whistler Question article: http://ow.ly/VJRnm