Turning the Page, Shaping the Future

As delivered by Michelle Kuly, Principal, Blueprint Inc., and MCC Board Chair (2022-23) at the 2022 Manitoba Economic Summit and 91st Annual General Meeting (May 6, 2022)

“This morning we were honoured to hear from Isabelle Hudon, CEO of the Business Development Bank of Canada. Her message was that “entrepreneurs are not all the same.” She spoke of the work BDC is doing to listen to, and better serve, under-represented groups of entrepreneurs – including women, LGBTQ and BIPOC entrepreneurs.

Her message certainly rang true for me.

As I step into the role of Chair of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce today, I want to acknowledge that diversity – and make a commitment to a leadership style that is inclusive, respectful and reconciliatory.

We come together today from lands that have been cared for, for thousands of years, by rights holders who provide us with an incredible example when it comes to business. It is a sustainable approach to business – one that balances the care of our families and our communities today with the well-being of the next seven generations on this land.

Seven generations – that’s a long time! And in the day to day of our own businesses, don’t we often feel overwhelmed enough by what is right in front of us? Especially over these last two years. We’re dealing with rising costs, IT and security, filling vacant positions . . . and more.

So when we come together as the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, when we sit around tables like we have today and consider our priorities, it’s critically important that we think collectively and long term, beyond our individual interests in the present moment. Because together, we have a powerful voice. We’re charged with a vision of making this province the best place to live and work.

Making Manitoba the best place to live and work. That is the vision statement for the Manitoba Chambers – our ideal view of the future.

And that is our collective work: transforming our individual commitments, priorities and visions into a powerful movement – one that shapes a stronger, more sustainable future not only for our individual businesses, but for Manitoba, as well.

Over the past two years, we have learned that there is no straight path between the past and the future. And as we look to the future of our province, we must ask ourselves some difficult questions.

  • What are the tough systemic problems we need to solve together?
  • What does our workforce need from us, and us from them, for mutual success?
  • Who are the future business leaders in this province and what do they need to move forward?

We’ve heard clearly today from many of our guest speakers that we also must look around the room and ask: Who is not here? Who is not sitting with us at the table?

The reality is that the Manitoba Chambers are not yet the voice of all business in Manitoba. And that’s because we are not yet representative of the diversity of business owners in our province.  Our future is diverse – and many of the current and future business leaders here in Manitoba have historically felt excluded from tables like this one.

When people feel excluded, what happens? Often, we disengage and seek out other tables. And understandably, we many criticize or critique the tables we are excluded from.

When we hear that we aren’t serving the interests of all businesses, we could react by feeling defensive. But as the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, we must instead lean in and approach critique with openness, curiosity, and urgency. Those are the ingredients that will allow us to inclusively, legitimately, speak as the voice of business, and in so doing, help create a stronger future for Manitoba.

So, we have work to do. We must make this space inclusive for all members of Manitoba’s business community. We have to ask who isn’t here, and listen to understand why.

The Manitoba Chambers bring north, south, east and west together at our table. It’s essential that we also sit with Black, Indigenous, minority, LGBTQ+ and next-generation entrepreneurs. We need to create time and space to listen and understand everyone’s needs, ideas and perspectives. That’s how we move forward, better, together.

Over the past two difficult years, Chuck and our team have demonstrated how we can find new and responsive ways to serve members, even in the face of disruption. This is the very best of what we can be: an organization that anticipates, shapes and embraces change.

As your chair, I’m committed to working alongside Chuck as we explore opportunities to become stronger and more inclusive than ever before. We will be reviewing our programs, membership, relationships and business model to ensure we are well-positioned to support Manitoba businesses through a future of ongoing change.

This work will not be done in a vacuum. It will be guided by input from members and future members, drawing on the ideas of business owners, partners and organizations who represent the diverse range of current and future entrepreneurs in our province.

If we are the voice of business in Manitoba, we not only have the responsibility, but also the power and the opportunity to shape the future of tomorrow today.

I look forward to working with all of you to build that future together.