What’s ahead for Whistler’s business community

Whistler Question
January 4, 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

With the holiday season all wrapped up and the new chamber board of directors set to be sworn in next week, now is the time for a special edition of The Big Idea to reflect on the year that was for the Whistler business community and share where sights are set for the year ahead.

Last year brought fresh air to business. The chamber introduced new programs like “Brand Camp” that build brands into vibrant cultures. Advocacy work stood up to keep BC Family Day where it was, and chamber CEO, Val Litwin, and board chair Grant Cousar attended the Provincial and National Chamber Annual General Meetings championing labour and immigration issues.

A packed calendar of events, the lower Canadian dollar and accolades like No. 1 overall resort by Ski Magazine all had small business members — many in the service sector — buzzing. While business boomed, the community came together to address labour shortages and a newly elected federal MP, Pam Goldsmith Jones, is listening to the resort’s labour crunch concerns.

Finally, the learning partnership with UVIC’s Gustavson School of Business brought world class content to 5,600 people before the crowds descended for one of the most epic starts to winter the resort has felt in years.

Looking ahead to 2016, the chamber’s membership numbers have already surpassed that of last year — nine months ahead of schedule. As the membership base grows so do the resources to elevate business. Here’s a look at what to expect from the chamber in 2016.

Membership on the rise

While Chambers of Commerce across the country face competition from specialized industry associations, budget cuts and an “old school” reputation, the Whistler chamber’s membership is surging. Innovative events, world-class training, and powerhouse partnerships built to elevate businesses are breathing new life into an age-old chamber model.

More member input sessions and surveys will take the pulse of the business community and tell the chamber where to take action. Member feedback will shape tools for businesses, like the Commercial Lease Report, which provided a snapshot of commercial lease rates and operating costs throughout Whistler.

Building a business community of leaders

This year’s annual membership survey revealed the top reason for joining the chamber is to network and learn. The chamber will deepen its educational programs, being responsive to members’ needs.

“The tools and course content are now designed for businesses to build systems of service excellence so every customer interaction lives up to its billing every day.”

With a vision to become the No. 1 resort town in the world for service, chamber CEO Val Litwin insists it’s one thing to know the key ingredients of service excellence, but it’s quite another thing to consistently execute them. As The Whistler Experience Program comes of age, the focus is shifting towards easy implementation of Whistler’s service values: (The 3Rs) reliability, responsiveness and relationships.

“The tools and course content are now designed for businesses to build systems of service excellence so every customer interaction lives up to its billing every day,” said Litwin.

The chamber sees Whistler as a place of brain, not just brawn and 2016 will bring a drive to turn the Whistler Experience into an internationally recognized service excellence program.

Recruiting and retaining the best team

The biggest pain point currently identified by members is finding skilled employees and accommodation for employees. The chamber’s 2015 Labour Survey reported that nearly half of businesses surveyed had over four positions unfilled and 78 per cent of businesses instituted a wage increase.

“(This year) will see the chamber build more community-wide retention strategies, work with the community to build a recruitment strategy and be a supportive partner in finding a solution to the housing issue,” said Litwin.

Public policy is at the core of every chamber and Litwin’s 2016 advocacy efforts will work to make skills, labour and immigration a top priority on the provincial and federal political agendas.

Val Litwin on looking ahead to 2016

“What helps make Whistler unforgettable are its people and teams. We’ll be investing more in training and developing our chamber team in 2016 — and we hope businesses across the resort will keep their people top of mind too. How will we all support our staff? How will we develop them — how will we elevate them?”

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