Peter Simpson retiring from GVHBA

Peter Simpson - Leader file photo
Peter Simpson
— image credit: Leader file photo

The following is a personal letter from Peter Simpson to all 730 member companies of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association.

I have written thousands of columns, articles and news releases over the years. The written word typically comes easily. Not this time, however, as this communication to you is difficult to write.

You see, it is with a heavy heart and a lump in my throat that I announce my impending retirement.

At 68, I want to spend some quality time with my wife, daughters and granddaughters. My retirement date is October 31, exactly 19 years after I started with this wonderful organization.

Leaving a career I cherish beyond words is indeed numbing. To me, working hard is very natural.

My parents had few resources, so if I wanted something I had to earn the cash to buy it, starting with a paper route, then washing dishes in a diner, selling Christmas trees, gift wrapping china in a department store, cleaning meat saws at a butcher shop, delivering advertising flyers door to door, shovelling snow, mowing lawns and working the graveyard shift on a factory assembly line.

I have worked full time for 47 years - the first 23 years as a compositor, columnist and editor with the Toronto Telegram and Toronto Sun, and the past 24 years as CEO of the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association (five years) and the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association.

How could I not love representing an industry whose members contribute so much to the economy, create thousands of jobs, and who take financial and personal risks every single day? I enjoy advocating for positive change, while opposing those naysayers who would do harm to our industry.

Although I relish a fast-paced, duke-it-out environment, a break in the action might be a good idea.

Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional. Lately, I've noticed the waistband on my pants is inching closer to my armpits. What's that all about? See what I mean about growing up. My wife says she married an aging child. Laughing and enjoyment help to keep us all young.

Here's what occurred in the recent past and what will happen between now and October 31.

About two years ago I informed the GVHBA Board I was considering retirement and we should include succession planning in our strategic-planning exercises. A preliminary session helped to define what needed to be accomplished.

Then, last November, I asked a colleague, who happens to be a succession-planning facilitator from the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, DC., to help us set goals and timelines.

A Succession Task Force was formed. All five members are current GVHBA Directors who spend a great deal of personal time on this process, and I am grateful for their generous commitment.

A recruitment agency has been retained to conduct a national search to hire a suitable replacement. I am very much part of this process, as I want to make sure the recruiter and successor understand the history, goals and culture of GVHBA, and appreciate the dynamic of its members and staff, and its relationship with industry partners, elected officials, senior city staff, consumers and the media.

An adequate overlap is envisioned in order to facilitate a smooth transition, and upon my departure I intend to make myself available to answer questions and provide guidance for as long as the new CEO and the Board deem appropriate. Hey, I might be retiring, but I am certainly not disappearing.

I chose October 31 for two reasons. First, it is the end of our current fiscal year, and I wanted to be at the helm to see the year through to its conclusion. Your association is in excellent financial shape, and all association initiatives have produced positive results this year. Second, a new Board of Directors will be elected at GVHBA's Annual Election Meeting on October 3, and the Board will commence its one-year term on November 1, including oversight of the 2013 operating budget.

I am proud of our association's growth. With more than 730 members, GVHBA is the second largest home-builder association in Canada, after Toronto. The committees, councils and task forces are all doing outstanding work on behalf of our association and the residential construction industry.

And no one can dispute that my hard-working, creative and accommodating staffers are second to none, and deserve a significant amount of credit for our association's successes over the years.

Also, I am proud of the innovative, knowledge-based events we present for members and consumers on an ongoing basis. There were 24 GVHBA activities during May alone. It is always gratifying to see a room full of men and women gaining insight from speakers at a GVHBA-sponsored event.

Our annual first-time home buyers seminar, parade of renovated homes, and twice-yearly renovation seminars all set high industry standards of excellence, and strong member and consumer support.

This is a very emotional period. It's very tough letting go of something that's an integral part of my life. GVHBA is indeed connected to me and, although they grumble occasionally, my family is part of GVHBA. Overall, they accept the long days and weekends dealing with association issues. And they understand when I hurriedly leave a family event to accommodate a media request or manage a rapidly emerging issue that positively or adversely affects the residential construction industry.

I fully expect your new CEO will help the Board of Directors to propel GVHBA to much higher levels. I know I can count on you to provide support and encouragement. Stay actively involved.

Re-invention is likely in the cards. My wife is counting on it. As it is, she clicks her heels as I leave for the office on Mondays. She is dreading having me under foot for long periods, so I will need to find something to do besides mowing the lawn and amusing our granddaughters. Who knows, maybe I will engage in a little writing, editing, public relations or volunteering. And being an unabashed GVHBA junkie, I might even turn up at the occasional association event.

Amidst the future uncertainties is an enduring point of clarity. GVHBA and its marvellous members and staff will never be far from my thoughts. Those fond memories will forever sustain me.

With warmest wishes,

Peter Simpson

President & Chief Executive Officer

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