Matt Hutcheon has been the CEO of the Kingston Chamber of Commerce since 2011. He has a unique perspective on the business community in Kingston. He is also a master at running meetings. I sat down with him to get his thoughts on both topics.
How did you come to live and work in Kingston?
Matt: I was born in Amherstview, and went to school at Ernestown. When I graduated high school, I went to Queen’s because their commerce program was the best in the county. I worked for my dad in his accounting firm during the summers, and realized that there was a gap between traditional accounting and bookkeeping services I could plug. I did this for many years, until I started with the Kingston Chamber of Commerce. So I have been a Kingstonian for pretty much my whole life.
You are one of the few people I have met trained in the art of managing a meeting, specifically with Robert’s Rules. How do they help you manage meetings?
Matt: Robert’s Rules come from way back in the day, when discussions at the parliamentary level were very formal. During these formal discussions, a need was seen to keep discussions focused on issues; the discussions could be derailed by people and personality clashes. Robert’s rules provide a mechanism to stay on a single issue until it is resolved. While the rules may seem cumbersome, they are meant to streamline discussions and add an element of respect. I have used, and seen them used, at various board meetings, including not-for profit, and even small project meetings.
The main benefit of the rules is not the mechanics. A chairperson must understand the intent of the meeting well enough to keep the discussion focused, and prepared to say “let’s not talk about that yet until we have dealt with this”. This can be a problem when the chairperson is the person most informed and most invested in an issue. This is very common scenario for many organizations. Technically, the chairperson is supposed to run the meeting, not comment on issues. When I chaired the executive board meeting for the National Junior Chamber of Commerce, I specifically did not read the agenda before the meeting. This made it easier to objectively run a meeting as I was not up-to date on the issues enough to comment.
Another key point to running an effective meeting is to pre-circulate a properly structured agenda. This also helps to focus conversation and stay on topic.
You ran a successful Kingston business for many years, and now have a leadership position at the head of the business community. There is a perception that Kingston is not a business-friendly town. What are your thoughts on that?
Matt: This is true to some extent. First, there are some regulatory hurdles that exist in the city. We still have three sets of bylaws that are not yet integrated, which create issues for businesses that need to be overcome. Also there is a strange mindset, and I’m not sure where it comes from, of suspicion towards successful businesses, enterprise, and profit. This can create a challenge in attracting businesses to Kingston, and fostering the businesses that are in town. One of our Chamber goals is to rebrand the business community as a whole, focusing on the many good things that businesses bring to Kingston, including jobs and charitable activities. We aren’t entirely sure what that message will be yet, or how to get it out, but it is a big concern.
That being said, I have optimism that this mindset is changing. The Kingston community is teetering on the cusp of a real transition. The younger generation is making more decisions; our mayor, the head of our economic development corporation, and the parks commissioner are all under 40, for example. Members of the next generation are becoming the decision makers and influencers, and are starting to realize that the business of government is not enough, and that we need to emphasize companies with entrepreneurial spirit so they can multiply. I am confident we are building what we need to do so.
Thank you for your time, Matt.
Here is a link to Matt’s Chamber page.
Follow Matt on twitter.