Surrey Business News

Being a Hallmark of Leadership During the Pandemic


I have long known that crisis reveals character, and the COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed this belief. While the crisis has reinforced that some of society’s systems need fixing, it has also demonstrat­ed that there are organizati­ons and leaders who have nimbly and compassion­ately adjusted what they do for the benefit of their staff members, their clients, and their community. I’ve witnessed this with the leadership and staff members of the Surrey Board of Trade (SBOT).

I attended the last in-person event that the SBOT held, a business luncheon featuring Premier John Horgan. Attendees bumped elbows somewhat self-conscienti­ously but still helped themselves to the generous Northview Golf & Country Club’s buffet. The income from these well-run business and networking events are how the non-profit SBOT is able to survive, and even thrive, as the voice of business in Surrey and BC. Two days later, CEO Anita Huberman made the decision to shut down all in-person events including the very popular Surrey Women in Business Awards, featuring guest speaker Erin Brockovich.

This decision, with great financial impacts for the SBOT, was made early, and was the right one. One of the hallmarks of good leadership during a crisis is the ability to make quick decisions based on the informatio­n that is available. One of the frustratio­ns I have had with the social services sector during this crisis is the length of time it has taken to make some significan­t and necessary decisions. During this crisis, decisions that used to take months need to be made in days; decisions that used to take weeks need to be made in hours, and decisions that used to take hours need to be made in seconds. Leaders won’t always make the right decision, but the courage to make swift decisions is the mark of a good leader during a crisis.

The prescient actions of cancelling events and keeping people safe was quickly followed up with the developmen­t of a new series of activities to support Surrey businesses and the community. These included crisis response planning documents that were shared generously and widely throughout BC. I know that many of my colleagues were very grateful to use the SBOT documents as templates for their own COVID-19 response plans. The SBOT also quickly planned and executed a series of free Digital Town Halls that featured experts and political leaders (municipal, provincial, and federal) helping attendees make sense of the pandemic and its impact on business. The SBOT also created a COVID-19 Pandemic Business Centre featuring a curated collection of documents and links to support businesses and the community during the crisis. The SBOT was able to change direction nimbly and lead Surrey’s businesses and community at the beginning and during this crisis.

The job of the Board of the SBOT is to represent our owners (who we have defined as the members of the SBOT) and to ensure that our Ends (mission) are being met. Our overarchin­g Ends are:

The Surrey Board of Trade exists so that its members and

the wider community have a business climate conducive to their success, including the following:

1) Businesses in and associated with Surrey have opportunit­ies and supports to succeed; 2) Government decision-makers have informatio­n on current and emerging issues and how their decisions impact business; and 3) Surrey is attractive to business.

While the COVID-19 crisis has deeply impacted businesses and the community of Surrey, Anita and the SBOT staff team have continued to work diligently and creatively to ensure that the Ends of the SBOT are being met. We are likely still just at the beginning of this crisis, but I am proud to be associated with an organizati­on that will continue to lead and support businesses that are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Doug Tennant is the Board Chair of the Surrey Board of Trade.

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Doug Tennant

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