Whistler’s business community catches the spirit 

Annual spirit luncheon drives home service imperative

By Vivian Moreau

Care about your staff and they will care about your customers and guests was keynote speaker John Izzo’s message to over 300 Whistler business owners and hoteliers at the annual spirit luncheon held at the Westin on Wednesday.

Organized by the Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Telus, Izzo sprinkled anecdotes inspired by his years as a motivational speaker to corporations like Disney and businesses like American-based restaurant chain Applebees. Izzo encouraged business and hospitality leaders to inspire by example.

“Every young person you hire has potential for greatness,” he said, “and if it’s not coming out look to yourself.”

For those in hospitality, Whistler provides an optimum opportunity to make people’s lives better, of both those who come to work for just a season or those guests who only stay for a few days.

Izzo noted that those entering today’s workforce have different values from those hired 10 years ago; they want to be included in decision making.

“They want to be involved, not just told what to do,” Izzo said, suggesting that employers remember to give credit where credit was due by asking for and listening to suggestions from staff.

Izzo, an American, recently moved to Lions Bay, noted the top two reasons why people quit their jobs in Canada is because they don’t feel appreciated and because employers don’t care about their ideas.

He noted that Whistler’s strongest criticisms often come from within, relating how one resident remarked to him that Whistler’s best days have passed.

“Whether Whistler’s best days are behind or ahead is in the hands of people right in this room,” he said.

The luncheon, a kick-off to the winter season, was hosted by Louise Lundy, Chamber of Commerce president, who outlined initiatives the chamber has been taking in recruitment strategies, in bolstering marketing efforts through hiring a specialist, in training and education programs, and strengthening rewards and recognition efforts.

Lundy had relayed the same message in a monthly Women of Whistler meeting the evening previous, placing an emphasis on bolstering service in anticipation of 2010. Saying that Whistler-Blackcomb and Tourism Whistler were taking care of marketing Whistler, it was up to business leaders “to deliver on that message.”

John Rae, the municipality’s corporate strategist, reiterated Lundy’s catch motivation phrase at the luncheon saying that Whistler has an opportunity for three billion first dates with the coming Olympics and said a lesson to be carried from Torino is that “you don’t invite the world and not get dressed up,” noting how Torino adjusted its normal sleepy evenings to all night social events during this year’s Games.

Westin general manager Trevor Graham heard the service strategy call but the recent Ontario transplant thought it should be de rigeur in Whistler and not just an Olympic initiative.

“Not to take away from what the message was, but we need to fast track this program,” Graham said. “Whistler is an international resort and shouldn’t need 2010 as a goal to establish excellent service. We should have everything wired and in place on an ongoing basis.”

Graham said he’d like to see a dry run for service initiatives up and running the winter season before the Games and emphasized the importance of every business being on board. Graham said he’d witnessed service programs in Ontario that failed because as soon as one business opted out a neighbouring business would follow suit.

“The problem is not with employees, but with employers. Those businesses that wait until the ninth hour to buy in are going to be out of luck.”

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