5 Minutes with Catherine Holt

After running her own management consulting business for 17 years, during which time she delved into some of the province’s hottest issues at a long list of government entities, including Metro Vancouver’s beleaguered TransLink system, Catherine Holt has taken the CEO reins of Greater Victoria’s largest business organization.

Photograph by Jeffrey Bosdet.

On the home page of Holt’s firm Sage Group Management Consultants, she wrote: “As my parting gift, I’d like to share a quote from Albert Einstein that has been my constant guide as a consultant, but that applies to any aspect of life: No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Douglas talked to Holt, a relatively new face on the Chamber scene, about her plans.

What kind of leadership style will you bring to the Chamber?
I talked to the [Chamber] hiring community extensively. We had a great meeting of minds and they were very interested in, shall I say, the emerging collaborative style in the region — so from my perspective that is my style. Over the 17 years I’ve been a management consultant, the way you get business done … is by working collaboratively with your clients and their staff in order for them to understand what you are proposing and help you figure out a viable way to deliver change, and to work together to get the change to happen … [My new role at the Chamber] is taking it to a new level, working with the other organizations that are key to business and economic development in the region.

You mentioned you’ve been meeting with leaders of community organizations, including the South Island Prosperity Project and Tourism Victoria.
Everyone has their perspective and their own part, but we all share the objective of making Victoria a great place to live and work and do business.

Are you sensing a new energy when it comes to Victoria?
Oh yeah, everyone’s talking about it. First of all, the year is good. You know, when tourism does well, we’re all doing well. Over the last number of years, there’s been a very lively conversation happening in the organizations I mentioned and in the business community at large about how Victoria is rocking it. We have a burgeoning tech sector, growing tourism, lots of hipster-type businesses, craft breweries and very cool restaurants. The whole tone of the town is changing.

So what do you see as key issues affecting Chamber members?
The main thing I’m focused on is getting to know the answer to that … I’m going to be listening and trying to answer that question, the main message being that the Chamber has to work for its members.

How have your first days at the Chamber been? Any surprises?
The Chamber has been an extremely pleasant surprise to me. It’s not like I was involved in it over a long period of time … so I’m very, very impressed with the level of energy, engagement, support and participation by the members. One of the things that has been an eye-opener for me — and I don’t think it’s talked about enough — is the amount of support members provide to members. Yes, it’s the Chamber helping its members, but one way to think about it is that the Chamber is its members.