Friday, August 27, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

Here’s to you, Kim

Referring to the more than two intervening years since his interim appointment as head of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Kim Capeloto recently wrote that “either this job is very rewarding and satisfying, which prompted me to stay this long or I am simply bad at math.”

Though I can’t speak to Kim’s math skills (which as a veteran of the banking industry, I’m sure are more than sufficient), one thing is clear: GVCC and its membership have reaped the benefits from his tenure, which will formally end sometime before Sept. 15 when he joins the executive team at Riverview Community Bank.

Kim’s imminent departure from GVCC got me thinking about the first time I made his acquaintance, shortly after a speech he gave in front of a large audience in August 2009 at Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver.

At the event, held during one of those picture-perfect summer days one dreams about in the Pacific Northwest for the entire month of November, Kim seemed slightly out of breath – and for good reason. The featured guest at the Chamber event, Gov. Chris Gregoire, was more than 15 minutes late – her motorcade “stuck” because of a last-minute coffee run at Starbucks, I remember Kim joking.

Faced with the threat of a program with lots of empty space and expectant faces, there was no question about who the “go-to” guy would be – Kim. And for the most part, he had a crowd of more than 100 Clark County residents and business owners laughing, right up to the moment Gregoire made her belated appearance.

Kim’s distinctive presence at GVCC is a reminder that it’s often the less-tangible qualities that make an effective leader of an organization. For instance, a manager may have the perfect pedigree, including the right schools, work experience and connections, and yet still prove to be a poor leader.

So what does make a good leader? Well, I believe Kim would tell you that it isn’t just the decisions one makes in the boardroom that matter, it’s the amount of time you spend engaging with colleagues, customers and the community that help spell the difference between success and failure – especially in a tough economic environment.

In an increasing global and competitive economy, it’s this focus on face-to-face interaction – such as is on display at any number of GVCC events presided over by Kim – that frequently gets missed.

As an admirer of this “old-school” business virtue, I know I join many others in Clark County’s tightly-knit business community in saying that Kim will be missed. And I believe I am also not alone in hoping that GVCC’s selection committee will consider some of Kim’s strengths in their search for his successor.