Introducing GOHBA’s New Executive Director

First, I’d like to thank the Executive for selecting me, and to Pierre Dufresne for encouraging me when I reached out to him about this opportunity.

I also wanted to thank Nicole, Shirley and Heather in the GOHBA office for being so welcoming, for working so hard over the past number of months and for making this transition as seamless as possible.

Finally, I also wanted to acknowledge the good work done by the Board, the Builder Developer Council and the Urban Infill Council to develop our current working relationship with the city.

I’m stepping into this role with the benefit of the fine work that the Association has done up to this point. And, we will be showcasing this work during the OHBA provincial conference held here in Ottawa, in September, when we host a panel on GOHBA’s “Collaborative Approach to Building in Ottawa” – I hope to see you all there.

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 During the interview process I was asked why I wanted to leave CHBA. Two of our most recent successes – on the drywall tariff in Western Canada and the tax changes to private corporations – I had had a significant hand in.

But it wasn’t about leaving CHBA, it was the opportunity to join GOHBA.

It was the opportunity to take my experience in relationship-building and put it in a more intimate setting like the city of Ottawa.

It was the opportunity to use my governance expertise and association management background to not only consult and advise, but to lead.

And it was the opportunity to take on those difficult issues and affect change for members for the better, literally, at the ground level.

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Before I took on government relations at the national association I was assistant to the Chief Operating Officer for nearly ten years – and one of the work habits that I picked up during that time, and have kept with me since then, is to “know and be known”. For me this means three things:

It means knowing who everyone is and ensuring that everyone knows you.

It means knowing the systems, processes and protocols at city hall, and being known as a positive contributor.

And finally, it also means knowing the business environment of members, and being known for constantly improving that knowledge, and constantly striving to make that working environment better.

These are the things I pledge to “know and be known” for as your Executive Director.

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It’s only been two weeks since I came onboard, but due to a very accommodative CEO at the national level, I was able to devote one or two days a week to GOHBA business over the month of May, which allowed me to attend the Board meeting and the meetings of our various councils and committees.

This also gave me the chance to meet the majority of the volunteers, the people in this room, that make this Association work.

I’ve also had the opportunity to attend a couple of planning committees, introduce myself to staff in the planning department, speak with the mayor and a handful of councillors, attend a couple of councillor’s events, speak with my counterparts at BOMA and OREB, and have some very fruitful dialogue with Sheila Perry and the Board of the FCA, a relationship which I expect to enrich both our organizations.

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There are three distinct groups of members in an Association:

  • builders & developers;
  • renovators; and
  • Trade contractors, suppliers & associates.

All three have their own reasons for joining, and while those reasons can overlap, there is a distinct ‘value for membership’ proposition for each of them, and the Association has to fulfill the expectations of all these groups to be well-functioning and prosperous.

Through the next update to the strategic plan, and with the support of the Board, I would like to pursue a separate one-page strategic plan for each of these distinct groups, and an overarching plan that recognizes how these groups work together, and how that interplay results in a strong and vibrant association.

 One of our first moves in this direction will be a new members’ survey – the first in 16 years – to help refine our mix of services and benefits. This will lead to us to our strategic plan review, and include some long-term planning and goals for each of our constituencies.

We are also working on enhancing our communication tools (including retiring the print edition of Impact and moving it to the digital realm) and a new membership database that will be the foundation of improving membership services going forward.

We will also be taking steps to professionalize our operating procedures and how we handle our finances. Now don’t get me wrong – we are in a very healthy position financially. But some additional transparency, and some articulated guidelines, will help fulfill our fiduciary responsibility to members and our obligations as stewards of the Association.

In a similar vein, we will be developing orientation kits for Board, committee and council members so that volunteers, who are so critical to our success, feel well informed about their role, know how things operate, feel confident to contribute right off the bat, and, most importantly, so that our volunteers feel valued and appreciated for their work and the time they are devoting to make the Association, and the industry, better.

I also want to pursue an orientation kit for members themselves. Not just a listing of the benefits of joining – although they are numerous – but more of a “what to expect when you join”. Something that conveys what it actually means to be a member – both in the day-to-day in terms of networking and social events, and also what it means to add your voice to the chorus that is the Association.

Now, I don’t have all the answers today, but I’m dedicated to working with our different constituencies to ensure that the Association delivers on our promise of value for membership.

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 This actually leads into the next item I want to talk about: engagement. Often we talk about “why you need the Association”, but in reality, the Association also needs you.

We need your expertise, your lessons learned, your passion and your vision for the communities that make up Ottawa. Your fellow members need you, so that they can continue improving, continue growing their business, and continue making the industry better.

The old adage about association work is that “you get back more than what you put into it”. And while that’s certainly true, working together in GOHBA also allows us to leverage each other’s work, add a multiplier effect to those efforts, and achieve great things.

I think we all know it instinctively but it can’t be repeated often enough – without you, there is no GOHBA. Without you, there are no accomplishments at city hall. And without you, there is no building a better Ottawa.

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So, I wanted to end with something to illustrate what drives me personally in this position.

As you may know we get editorial space in the Ottawa Citizen, and the most recent column was just before the provincial election, so we dedicated that space to the OHBA’s excellent #HOMEBELIEVER campaign.

Now of course, with any campaign like this there’s pre-written material for you to use. But I wanted to read to you something in particular that I added:

“So, who exactly is a #HOMEBELIEVER? It’s the students at Carleton, U of O, Algonquin, and La Cité who walk around the neighbourhoods near their campus and dream of living in those homes. It’s those renters across the city who are looking for a small patch of green grass to call their own. It’s the young family with a baby on the way thinking they could do with just a little more space.”

Now, I didn’t pull these examples of out of thin air – this was my experience, mine and my wife’s.

At Carleton we used to walk the neighbourhoods around Sunnyside Avenue and dream about life outside of residence.

We then moved into the Prince of Wales apartment buildings at Hog’s Back, and we’d walk around Courtland Park and Carleton Heights, wondering if we’d ever have a home of our own someday.

We then moved into a townhouse in Chapman Mills in Barrhaven to fulfill that dream.

And finally, when we were thinking of having a second child, we found that perfect-for-us single-family home in Fallingbrook out in Orleans, where we live today.

None of that would have been possible without a decent chance to get into homeownership, and the opportunity to live in the best community for you, one that balances work, life and play.

And that’s why I’m here today.

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