“Every success in my life has been because of relationships that I’ve been able to build in the community,” says businessman Kim Burden. “Being able to explain on a personal level what you’re trying to accomplish and sell that concept, that idea, while you already have that relationship in place is way easier than going in cold.”
Dealing with people who strongly oppose new ideas, is, in Burden’s opinion, an important part of leadership. Burden advises earning trust, gaining respect and occasionally accepting “people’s feelings as their own.” This is how he did it.
Building connections in the community has enabled Burden to support a variety of endeavors. For instance, a supportive housing community for people experiencing homelessness, and a company to assist offenders reintegrating into society. Burden recently sat down with Leadership Victoria to discuss how he approached the complex issue of reintegration.
Burden’s journey in this field began while he was working for the Salvation Army. He helped run “a home for ten youth who had been sentenced through the courts to come into our care,” recalls Burden, “and then we also had a school attached to it. So we had ten beds for kids that needed some fairly strict controls over their movements.”
Burden worked with these youth for about five years and then was given an opportunity to work with adults on parole. Burden describes this experience as “incredibly gratifying”. He enjoyed working with people “who had had some significant incidents in their life that brought them into the criminal justice system,” and been released back into the community. But Burden noticed that, because these individuals had criminal records, nobody would hire them. You can imagine the complexity of the obstacle.
So, Burden dedicated himself to solving this problem. He began by approaching BC Hydro, who needed people to clear trees growing near power lines. Next, Burden secured funding and equipment for the project. However, when BC Hydro went on strike, Burden turned to other relationships he had in the community. Through his connections, Burden enabled his team to work on stream remediation, tree planting, as well as building trails and playgrounds. Burden even helped some of the men start their own businesses.
Finding support for these kinds of programs wasn’t always easy. When talking to his connections, Burden aimed to be informative and educational. He tailored his arguments to his audience and always tried to hit a positive note. Burden believes that
being able to “tell the right story to the right people in the right way allows us to move forward.” Burden uses the example of an offender re-entering society: “We’re far better off as a community and we’re far safer as a community to bring them in with proper supervision and providing them with some tools and some positive experiences, than we are just cutting them loose.”
Burden’s philosophy of building positive relationships stems from his involvement in sports, which he played growing up in Vancouver. He realized that, “everybody’s got a spot on the football or the rugby field based on their skill set and their physical makeup and you can’t get along without that array of skills and … sometimes, you know, you’re not the glory guy, but the glory guy doesn’t get the glory unless somebody’s in there doing the prep work and making things possible and I think the same thing applies to leadership and applies to business in the sense that everybody has a role to play. And, as a leader, it’s critical to recognize that and it’s critical to make sure that people are in the right role.”
In addition to playing sports, Burden had another opportunity to develop his skills as a team player. After leaving school, Burden became the manager of a garage. “I’m guessing that [the owner] saw something. I was a keener. I was interested in what was going on and I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic so spent a lot of hours at the shop doing a variety of different things.” Doing this job, Burden learned that, “you don’t have to be the smartest guy in the room you just have to have smart people with you”.
Burden, who is now nearing retirement, still believes in the importance of being a team player and focusing on the needs of the community. He presently works at the Parksville & District Chamber of Commerce and is gratified to see that this attitude is embodied in the young faces who are fledgling local leaders. These people, says Burden, are “smart, they’re capable. They’re leaders, you know they’re engaging. That gives me hope.”
To learn more about Burden’s work, please visit: https://www.parksvillechamber.com/about-parksville-and-district-chamber-of-commerce/staff-bios