I recently had a discussion over coffee with one of Calgary’s new members of city council, who will remain unnamed for now. The insights as to how some intend to govern themselves are admirable, and I hope for the sake of Calgarians (and in particular their pocketbooks), they’re able to follow through on these lofty goals. Yes, cue the zealots!
When politicians want to get closer to understanding what is happening in industries, they occasionally consult those who are in it. It’s not completely abnormal and not an indication of weakness. It’s smart to consult!
In return, I was asked, “What are your three major concerns that we should be addressing?” This was refreshing since the last municipal politician who asked this of me was a former mayor.
You might ask, what are those three things? OK, I’ll tell you.
First on the list is red tape reduction! Ah, I hear the naysayers already. Blah, blah, blah. I’m serious. When you’re not engulfed in working in it every day, you may not realize the amount of ‘policy creep’ that’s taken place at every level of government over the years. Take, for example, bringing a subdivision to market for sale. Layers of policies, procedures, overlays, and more contribute to years being added to approvals that didn’t exist 10 years ago. In the end, the costs could be in the millions due to these added delays. That’s converted back into the costs, and in the end, the purchaser ultimately pays. So yes, the red tape needs to be reduced. Significantly!
The second is working cooperatively again. My observation has been the culture at city hall has been more adversarial toward business owners over the past 10 years. The doors that used to be open were closed, and conversations could now take numerous phone calls of back-and-forth messages, or numerous e-mails to complete. It’s disappointing and counterproductive in a city that was built on cooperation between the business community and the municipality. How else do we succeed if not together?
The third: We didn’t get around to discussing that one, because I had to leave. But it would have been “Stop reacting to Twitter polls and small special interest groups.” The majority of Calgarians want their city to be safe, affordable, vibrant, and evolving! So, no occupations of city property, no unreasonable tax increases, and no more $1million public art projects that look like they were leftover construction waste. Respect the past but move forward into the future. And do make this city entertaining and attractive to do business in. Do you see the evolving theme here?
As with any other business, I don’t succeed unless I keep the layers of internal policies and procedures to a bare minimum. I can’t complete my sales and provide a great customer experience without cooperation between all the departments. And I will definitely fail if I don’t listen to my customers’ needs and wants. Think of business as your partners.
These stumbling blocks are precisely why businesses such as Uber, Skip the Dishes, Amazon and even Airbnb came into being. Entrepreneurs identified a market need from consumers and, to become successful, proceeded to find a way to eliminate or reduce prohibitive barriers. Most of us love these ‘start-ups’ because they provide us with the convenience we were looking for.
I almost forgot the most important ‘fourth’ thing that should be on my list. It’s so obvious — the lack of accountability to the taxpayers for their decisions. There have to be consequences for stupid. As a man much smarter than me once said: “It’s hard to imagine a more dangerous or stupid way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” —Thomas Sowell
Shane Wenzel is the president and namesake of the Shane Homes Group of Companies.
Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, and Youtube: @shanewenzel