In Conversation With Bruce Williams, the Victoria Chamber’s Incoming CEO

The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce has announced that Bruce Williams will become the organization’s next CEO. Williams had been serving as interim CEO of the South Island Prosperity Partnership. He is co-owner of the Spark Strategic Group and has served as a business executive with Bell Media and as a broadcast producer, on-air host and television anchor with CTV.

“Bruce has proven himself as a highly capable leader in Greater Victoria,” says John Wilson, chair of The Chamber’s Board of Directors. “We’re delighted he’s agreed to take the helm at The Chamber as we work to restart our economy after a very challenging time.”

Williams will replace the outgoing CEO Catherine Holt, who has served in the position since May of 2016 and resigned in late January of this year.

“I want to recognize the exemplary and inspired leadership created by Catherine Holt over the past four years,” Williams says. “Catherine crafted an efficient, effective and extremely influential organization. She along with current and past Chamber board members and staff should be proud of the organization they have formed.

“The Chamber will continue to be in constant regular contact with members and stakeholders to manage the best path forward into your new economy.”

Douglas talked to Williams about his plans for his role with the Chamber.

What will be your priorities as you take over as CEO of the Chamber?

The priorities for me include:

  • ongoing outreach to Chamber members to ensure they are fully engaged with every opportunity for financial relief available to them
  • encourage members to access expert advice, business training and mentorship through The Chamber to help them establish balance and find success in the new economy
  • collaborate with our community partners in Greater Victoria to assess our business model, how well the current structure works and what opportunities exists for innovation, collaboration, engagement and progress
  • keeping governments apprised of all the above work and needs of our members
  • engage First Nations in assessing what resources they need to succeed with their unique family, life and business practice. We have an opportunity to learn from our First Nation neighbours who have lived and flourished in our region in a healthy and sustainable way for thousands of years.

How do you describe your leadership style?

I prioritize collaboration. I believe in giving staff every opportunity to succeed at their highest capacity. I believe in engaging members in ongoing dialogue about their perspective on business and the economy, their requirements to succeed, how businesses and industry can work with each other to keep the economy on the road to recovery and beyond.
I think I lead by example. I believe in respectful leadership, clarity and transparent leadership. I value all input, and I try to be as accessible and available as possible.

What new demands will be placed on the Chamber CEO in light of the COVID pandemic?

From a purely operational perspective — to be honest — the coming weeks and months present an opportunity for creativity and innovation in how we fund our organization! We are solely funded by our membership in order to allow us to advocate freely for our membership.
Public events, social gatherings and networking are fundamental to The Chamber DNA, and its ability to raise operating budget. The demands include an ongoing opportunity to create dialogue around what steps in our economic recovery need to be creative and engaging. There must also be attention to issues of human and public safety for those most at risk in our communities and their ability to participate in our economic recovery.

How will the Chamber participate in the economic recovery of the region?

As mentioned above, collaboration really is a priority for me. I don’t think any of us individually really know what the best next steps will be. That is also one of the strengths of The Chamber.
We have nearly 1,400 members who drive the local economy, that means we have a very active role in the economic recovery of our region. We’ll work with our regional strategic partners, our members who are always innovative in finding business opportunities and solutions and, as we have done throughout the COVID crisis, we’ll work with all levels of government to make sure our members have what they need to succeed.

What are some of the other systemic issues that still need to be addressed?

I think there will be endless opportunities for collaboration on both recovery and subsequent resilience in the business world. Supply chains will be changed and consumer demand will be different. A strong orientation to using exceptionally local supplies, services and products is both necessary and effective.