Looking ahead

Looking ahead

< Back to Articles | Topics: Cover story | Contributors: Sara Ericsson | Published: May 4, 2021

Teamwork and community are a huge part of what has seen the people and businesses in Nova Scotia through this past year, as people have together faced the COVID-19 pandemic while using different approaches to find a way through it. Our province has seen people navigate these tricky times by using their unique abilities, mindset, background, knowledge, culture or beliefs. Embracing this diversity of approaches is also how Nova Scotia businesses have together, as a business community, crafted great strategies that have helped them succeed, even in the pandemic’s darkest days.

Focusing even further on this approach of diversity and inclusion is exactly what newly named Halifax Chamber of Commerce Chair Mark Sidebottom and Vice Chair Faten Alshazly have in mind as they head into their first year on the job. They are looking to foster collaboration and connection between businesses of all shapes and sizes, helping them come together and celebrate their unique offerings that each contribute to the magic this city and province are known and loved for.

“There’s so much potential and incredible talent in all Nova Scotians. If you create the right conditions, you can see that flourish here. I’ve seen that time and again, when you get the right person set up with the right energy and conditions. When you facilitate that, amazing things happen,” says Sidebottom.

Unique perspectives

The appointment as Chair is new for Mark Sidebottom, but Chamber work is not, as he served as Vice Chair last year and has been involved in countless Chamber committees. This involvement has given Sidebottom a firsthand look at the Chamber’s impact on Halifax-area business, something he expects will only grow after the Chamber adopted new measures to help support its members through pandemic pivots.

“This new role is an opportunity for me to give back and to pass this experience on, to contribute to the business community at large and to help businesses and members. It’s also an opportunity for us to help each other navigate our future together as a team,” says Sidebottom.

In addition to his time at the Chamber, Sidebottom brings a unique combination of big business and entrepreneurship experience to his new role. He is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Nova Scotia Power and the owner of a daycare chain in Nova Scotia and across Canada. Sidebottom also knows what it’s like to be a newcomer to Canada, having immigrated to Nova Scotia from the United Kingdom in 1977. This combination of perspectives is what he’ll use to connect with the Chamber’s diverse network of members.

“These perspectives give me an understanding of what supports are important to a wide range of members — what their needs are and how we can create value for them based on those. This, together, helps me connect how the Chamber can best help each of its members,” says Sidebottom.

New Vice Chair Faten Alshazly is the Principal and Chief Creative Officer of the WeUsThem ad agency. She is a business owner with a combination of experience in health care, academia, government and now in the private sector, from which she has gleaned a unique combination of skills.

Mark Sidebottom, Board Chair and Faten Alshazly, Vice-Chair at Nova Scotia Power

These experiences have given Faten tenacity, creativity and an innovative outlook which help her problem solve and work towards future successes. They are also what she says will help her identify how to support all Chamber members, their businesses and engage with them on how the Chamber can help them on their path to success.

“We need to be thinking of all our constituents. As a woman executive and leader who also happens to represent a visible minority, I also bring this lens to the role — the lens that we aren’t all on an equal playing field. We need to be mindful of that,” says Alshazly. “We need to build resilience in our business community to ensure a sustainable future for all, from the single-owner businesses to the multinationals,” she says.

Alshalzy is also someone who believes in the value of personal connections. Although her schedule can make it difficult, she always tells everyone she meets, including members at the Chamber, to send her a note or drop her a line to schedule a meeting over coffee so she can better get to know them. Conversation is, after all, the quintessential Nova Scotian way of getting to know anyone, personally or professionally.

“I am very approachable, so please do reach out if you would like to sit down and chat. We might need to fight through each of our schedules to find a time that works, but I am right downtown when I am in the office, so please feel free to drop me a note and hop on over so we can get to know each other,” she says.

Diversity focus key

Halifax Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Patrick Sullivan says he and the Chamber are excited as they look ahead to what’s in store during the next year, with Sidebottom and Alshazly at the Board’s helm.

“I am so pleased to welcome our new Board leadership. With strong backgrounds in leadership, strategy and diversity and inclusion, Mark and Faten will lead us through a year of economic recovery and planning,” he says.

Continuing to support businesses through their COVID-19 recovery will remain a focus in 2021, as Sidebottom says the Chamber will keep on as an advocate for business supports and solutions as it builds upon its 2020 successes in these areas. Another priority for both Sidebottom and Alshazly is to hone in even further on diversity and inclusion within the Chamber’s support programs and membership.

“We will be looking at continuing to create relevant and timely information for our members that can help them flourish and recover this year,” says Sidebottom. “We’ll also be working to expand our membership, as well as a diverse and inclusive approach to how we do business. Bringing different perspectives to the table is a win for everybody.”

New Chair and Vice Chair leading the way with their different yet cohesive perspectives. Ryan Williams Photography: ryanwilliamsphotography.ca - Instagram: @iamryanwilliams

Alshazly says diversity, equity and inclusivity will remain at the heart of the work that happens at the Chamber. She says the work that has brought these elements to the forefront will continue and even broaden in scope, as the Chamber continues listening to its Halifax business community and the organizations of all sizes that have helped build it up.

“I want the work we do at the Chamber to reflect the incredible cultural richness and diversity of attributes of our members,” says Alshazly.

On top of ensuring a laser-sharp focus on diversity and inclusion, Alshazly says she’d like to see the Chamber advocate and advise for looking at how to optimize the capacity of Halifax’s port. This can facilitate national and international travel and bring it back to pre-COVID-19 levels, as well as help in bringing events and conventions back to Halifax––once vaccines are widespread and restrictions loosen.

“We need to help our beautiful city get back to some level of normalcy so that everyone can enjoy what Macleans now knows — that we are the top city in the country from a variety of perspectives,” she says.

Bringing people together — within current public health and safety guidelines, of course — is something Alshazly and Sidebottom will both champion, thanks to how the practice bolsters business, churns out new ideas and creates community. Adding more diversity into that mix is something both agree will set Halifax up for even more success in the future, and the greatest possible chance at making it through this end stages of the pandemic even stronger than before.

“We are here to support each other and if we can help you, we will,” says Alshazly. “I love the notion that we have such a diverse group of businesses that are members of the Chamber and I’d like to see that continue to grow so more members can see all the benefits the Chamber has to offer.” ■

The Chamber had our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility policy and action plan approved by the Board in the end of 2020.

The plan has 5 overarching goals:

  • Feature underrepresented groups in our communications
  • Highlight our diverse Board of Directors and our participation in the 50/30 challenge to encourage others to join
  • Host a minimum of one DEIA-focused education event quarterly
  • Hire a staff member focused on community engagement and recruiting 100 new members from underrepresented groups
  • Ensure diversity in our event speakers, suppliers, and content is widely publicize

We will keep our members updated on our goals through our regular communications channels.

< Back to Articles | Topics: Cover story

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