Doctor of Laws
Convocation Address to the Faculty of Business and Professional StudiesJune 3, 2013 10 a.m.
Thank you Mr. ChancellorMadam President, distinguished platform party, friends, guests, and of course the reason for our presence here today – members of the Capilano University class of 2013.I too wish to thank the Squamish, Musquem, Tseil-Waututh Lil’wat and Sechelt First Nations.What a glorious day today is….and not just the weather. We are all so blessed to be together for this ceremony to acknowledge and to celebrate the hard work each and every one of you has put in to earn your degree. When I learned of the Doctor of Laws, that Chancellor Ufford just bestowed upon me, my first thought was that it didn’t involve much effort on my part, but when I set about writing these remarks and considered what final knowledge I could pass on to you, as graduands, I looked back over time and came to the realization that there actually was quite a bit involved to arrive here today. I guess you can say that I attended the school of hard knocks. Dr. Bulcroft was far too generous in her introduction but contained therein is the essence of what I would like to cover. First, I want to go back to my beginnings here in North Vancouver when I arrived as President of Grouse Mountain in 1989. 24 years ago our community was a very different place. Not better or worse just different. In my situation I entered a business that wasn’t doing very well. It was a quarter of the size it is today and it was losing money, lots of it. Thankfully that’s all behind us now. I was young, probably 5 or 6 years older than most of you. The management group then were all older than me …. much older. They had been around a while and therefore had lots of experience. The only thing was the world was changing around them and they were standing still. The advantage I had was that I was green and naïve but I also had good training. You see my background is in accounting and audit, not skiing, and I had seen many different businesses. So coming to a new situation I was not particularly fazed. An added advantage was that I was also underestimated. The lesson I can share with you is that a changing world is actually a great opportunity. You will have the element of surprise because you are on the leading edge. Your knowledge is your competitive advantage. But just as my mangers were falling behind don’t let that happen to you. Continue to learn and to stretch your boundaries. Don’t just keep up, keep ahead. You see that is what has made Grouse Mountain the leader it is. From those early days me, and my soon to be new, team were all about change. All about idea generation and implementing the good ones. Sure we had some false starts and failures but we developed a culture that sought out new opportunities. Those early days also taught us resilience. We had little in the way of resources, the financial system was in really tough shape and most of what we had was old, tired and rooted in a different era. It was out of these humble beginnings that our entire ethic of sustainability was born, even though the term SUSTAINABLITY did not yet exist. We just didn’t have a choice. The first pillar we were faced with was financial sustainability. I can’t recall it as a very proud moment but in those early days we had obligations owing to Revenue Canada that could easily have sunk the company. BC Hydro could have turned off our energy at a moment’s notice, and hinted that they might. There were quite a few tough calls with creditors. But we were able to share with them our plan and they believed in us. There is another lesson that stays with me today. No one succeeds on their own. We all have our own set of skills and talents but you must be able to play as a team. We would not have pulled through without dedicated staff members, suppliers, customers and guests. Even our competitors came through on occasion. Make sure you surround yourself with solid people not only like you but different from you. The whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts. As we got our feet beneath us we moved into a different gear. Survival turned to innovation and that drive for change. At first we knew we had to figure out what was essential to us. Very quickly we came to understand that our environment was key. What our visitor wanted first and foremost was to be in nature ….. so close to an amazing city. If we did not look after that then we would have nothing. Our conundrum was that our past had not left us pristine. Mistakes had been made but we faced them and moved toward continual improvement, which we continue today. That is pillar number two.Not too long ago we had the chance to marry our thirst for innovation, our concern for the environment, our early found resilience and our ability to partner. Today this stands as our icon the Eye of the Wind. It was born out of quest to solve our need for additional power that we could not get from BC Hydro. This led us to examine alternative energy, which in turn took us to an Italian wind turbine manufacturer who embraced us as we partnered with companies from nine countries around the world. While there were few who believed we could ever get it done already over 50,000 people have made it to the summit where we are able to convey our message of the power of wind energy and the ability of one business to take on responsibility for its footprint on the earth. So for you I encourage you to assess what is truly special and unique about you. Identify it, evaluate it and figure out how you are going to stay true to that. You will develop your talent over time and it will modify but make sure it does because you decide to, not simply because it happened. Finally, I will leave you with this. Along the journey I was taught that we are only stewards of Grouse Mountain. This came from my parents and from First Nation friends I have made over the years. From this we have recognized the great fortune we have to be custodians of one of the most remarkable mountains in the world. I think it is the most climbed mountains for sure. With this good fortune comes a responsibility to give back to our community. That means North Vancouver of course, but we also look beyond even our national borders to what is occurring around the world. As we have the ability, we also have the responsibility to contribute as we can. Given our own experience of lifting ourselves up we have developed a methodology that ensures we involved others in the community work that we do. We strive to activate others to join in with us in our campaigns and in most instances the beneficiaries are alongside too showing the way. This is the third pillar.As you graduate today you have all been blessed with a wonderful opportunity. You have worked hard to earn it and shown your resilience, I know that it was not easy. You are fortunate to have had inspirational teachers who believed in you. As you go forward believe in yourself, define who you are, decide what you intend to pursue and go for it with gusto. Once you are on your feet don’t forget that by working together we can all succeed a little better. Remember your roots and create your own future. I wish each of you every success.
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Capilano University is named after Chief Joe Capilano, an important leader of the Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) Nation of the Coast Salish people. We respectfully acknowledge that our campuses are located on the territories of the Lil’wat, Musqueam, Sechelt (shíshálh), Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.