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Q&A with Whistler chamber CEO Val Litwin

The author and entrepreneur hits the ground running but saves time for jogging, too



Entrepreneur and author Val Litwin has been leading the Whistler Chamber of Commerce as chief executive officer for just over three weeks. He talks to Pique about a busy fall and his favourite pies.

Pique: So. How are you finding the job?

val: I've been absolutely loving it. I'm really floored at how vibrant and innovative the business community is up here. Businesses have some serious swagger up here. To name one business and entrepreneur I've met and been blown away by, Kerry Jones of Peaked Pies. They've got a brilliant and simple concept; I think it's going to be one of the next big things in food. And a guy cannot survive on pies alone, but I have been. I've probably eaten there half a dozen times since I arrived.

Pique: I get the impression that you've been very busy.

val: Yeah, it's been very busy but everyone is busy. Whenever you step into a new role you get acclimatized, which is probably an appropriate analogy for a high altitude job like this. You have to get acclimatized to who are the people at the table and what are the needs of the community, and how can the chamber serves those partners and those members. The busy part has been that there has been so much learning and observing. It is one of those things that you know at the beginning you have to sit back and learn the lay of the land. It's hard as an entrepreneur to sit on my hands.

Pique: Trying to get enough information so you can make decisions?

val: Clearly, one of the things that we do that is a huge part of the community-wide strategy in terms of maintaining our status as the best alpine resort in the world is our Spirit Program. There is no doubt that we have to execute on that in the next couple of months. It delivers huge value to all our community partners and resort partners and businesses in the community, so we know we have to do that.

I'm also looking at three to six months out as to what will be our focus heading into the next part of the year as the clock ticks over into 2014; where do we need to bring value to our members.

Pique: What have you been doing to get to know the business community?

val: The nice thing about this community is that all you have to do is walk outside and you start bumping into people. I've been going to our own chamber events like Women of Whistler (WOW) just this last Tuesday. It's an incredibly engaged cohort. It was a sell-out, I think we had 80 or 90 women, so meeting some of those women who are entrepreneurs, but also some who are working for some of the big resort partners up here and are doing really interesting things.

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