2022 WLI BC Outstanding Leader
The Women’s Leadership Initiative of British Columbia (WLI BC) recognizes Tegan Smith of Channel Consulting as 2022’s outstanding leader! Tegan demonstrates commitment and contributions in her career and our community, while being a proven leader and mentor within the industry. WLI BC is honoured to recognize her success and generous spirit through this program.
Learn all about Tegan, her career, her projects, and more…
1. With over two decades of experience in planning and in the real estate development industry, can you expand on your progression in the industry and founding Channel Consulting?
I graduated with my Master’s degree in urban planning in 1998. I worked in government at City of Richmond, TransLink, District of North Vancouver, and the Port of Vancouver. Then, I went on to work at a private equity firm that invests in real estate. Through all of those experiences, I had the unique opportunity to learn about land use regulations from both sides of the table, so to speak.
Eventually, I realized my point of view and skill set were quite unique. Because of my diverse career experience and broad network of long-term relationships with people on both sides of the table, I’m able to connect the dots and build partnerships between government officials and project leaders in a way that most in this industry can’t.
This realization ultimately led me to start my company, Channel Consulting, in 2019. Having spent more than 24 years now serving on different committees, building beautiful relationships, and learning the ins and outs of developing within British Columbia, I’m thrilled to be able to support our industry and our communities in this exciting new way.
2. As Principal of Channel Consulting, tell us about your firm and what project(s) you are excited to deliver in the Real Estate Development community.
Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many different types of projects—nonprofit housing, rental housing, all types of industrial and commercial real estate, as well as government infrastructure projects. From a fish hatchery and highway interchange to multi-million-dollar private developments, I’ve been involved in planning for pretty much every type of complex project you can imagine.
Because of this, Channel Consulting is able to provide a uniquely comprehensive service in which we facilitate collaboration between government officials and developers. In the past three years, we’ve been able to work together with municipal teams to find practical solutions and get our clients’ projects approved with relative ease and efficiency.
Right now, I’m especially excited about helping project leaders feel more confident about navigating the review and approvals process in British Columbia, especially for those seemingly tricky projects that deal with protected areas or complex stakeholder engagement. This is a challenging time for developers in British Columbia, but especially in light of the housing crisis, supporting all types of diverse housing development projects has been an especially meaningful way to give back to the community.
3. Part of your nomination highlighted your tremendous contributions not only in the workplace, but as a mentor (Housing Professionals/NAIOP/MCIP). You also regularly engage with the community and contribute to several professional committees, including LAI, BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, Christ Church Cathedral, and the Salvation Army Harbour Light). Can you tell us more about your role as a mentor and your community engagements?
More than anything, I’ve learned that mentoring is a two-way process—people think of mentors as the teachers and mentees as the learners, but I’ve learned so much from the people I work with.
One invaluable takeaway has been about how truly different people are. We all have different hopes, dreams, and skills. Through the experience of mentoring, I’ve become more aware of my own unique gifts and passions.
As I work with mentees and help them uncover what they could be doing to impact the industry, I too am having realizations about different ways I could be showing up to have a more profound impact as well. For me, this has meant leaning into my gifts of listening and connecting people.
4. What advice would you give to others in your industry?
My advice would be to surround yourself with the right people. In my career, I’ve been very intentional about surrounding myself with amazing mentors and the best talent.
In doing so, I’ve extended my capacity to work in my gifts—listening, connecting, and finding the truth as a facilitator of relationships. My biggest impact has been in my ability to really be present, understand the heart of problems, and then get the right people involved to develop appropriate solutions. Relationships have been the key that unlocks the review and approvals process for my clients.
At every stage of your career, I believe it is important to make the effort to build relationships with that person who you look up to and who inspires you. I believe that if you surround yourself with mentors in your industry (both women and men), you’ll go far.
In fact, I believe in the power of mentorship so acutely that I’ve decided to launch my own mentorship program. Going into the new year, I’ll be working hand-in-hand with 12 leaders of projects located in British Columbia. I’ll be sharing all the details November 29—anyone who wants to learn more can sign up for my newsletter here.
5. You previously shared a story that resonates about a cycle of support between you and your daughters. Can you talk a bit about how prioritizing mutual support has impacted you, at home and in your career?
This story really gets to the heart of why I get up in the morning. I have three daughters—Ashley and Maria, who are twins in their third year at University, and Charlotte, who is currently in grade 12. Ever since my girls were little, I’ve run every single speech past them.
From working with municipal council to working with different stakeholder groups, my speeches often cover complex or very niche topics. My girls have always listened and asked thoughtful questions like, what does this mean? Or, can you explain this part to us?
The areas where they have questions are always the areas where I know a general audience would probably also run into some confusion. So they really have helped me learn how to explain things in simple terms to a diverse audience, which is so important in my line of work.
As they’ve grown, my daughters have always offered really brilliant and constructive feedback. They’re an integral part of ensuring that what I share is meaningful to my audience. My girls and my husband David are my cheerleaders and supporters. I help them by introducing them to important skills and ideas but really, they’re helping me so much more.
My relationship with my daughters is another example of why mentorship is so important for all of us. No one is at their best on their own—it’s when we connect with and learn from the right people that we really shine.
For those who are looking for mentorship and aren’t sure where to turn for support, I’d love to invite you to connect with me. I’ll be hosting a free workshop November 29, 2022, for project leaders who want guidance around navigating British Columbia’s review and approvals process. I would love to see you there!
6. What factors in your career have impacted your perspective or your approach to your work?
My career has been massively impacted by having strong women mentors in my life. Earlier in my career, I worked for a woman-owned consulting firm. Then, when I was working at the District of North Vancouver, I had very strong female role models and leadership.
These mentors taught me the power of listening and understanding diverse perspectives. This has come up over and over again throughout my career, in many small, magical moments that made a huge impact on my ability to progress issues and get results in my work.
In a more general sense, this skill of listening to diverse perspectives is exactly what makes our work at Channel Consulting so powerful. I’ve learned to always listen first, consider everyone’s points of view, and find thoughtful solutions based on the truth. This sense of “truth-seeking” is at the heart of everything I do, and I think it stems from the important lessons I learned from my mentors early in my career.
7. What project has had the biggest impact on your career?
One particularly impactful project was the Xchange Business Park. Xchange is the largest greenfield land development in the Lower Mainland of the past decade. Land use approvals, government relations, and indigenous engagement for this project were extremely complex.
The executives overseeing the project relied on me to work with all of the government organizations and engage input from subject matter consultants on a daily basis for over four years. Channel Consulting’s role included:
- Ongoing review of land use and environmental regulations and investigating options to move the project forward considering City and provincial policy frameworks and indigenous input.
- Government relations with staff and elected officials at the City, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Agricultural Land Commission, Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology, FLNRORD, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations groups, and adjacent landowners.
- Facilitating meetings, planning subject matter expert presentations, and preparing quality submissions to City and other government staff to ensure stakeholders’ alignment in advancing the project.
The client was committed that existing City, Provincial and Federal environmental policy would be met or exceeded. As a third-party consultant, I was able to hear and articulate competing perspectives of different regulators and the client. Having all the issues on the table enabled me to facilitate solutions that would streamline land use approvals by different organizations, including City, FLNRORD, Fisheries, Ministry of Transportation, Oceans Canada, and input from First Nations.
This project, perhaps more than any other, really put my abilities to form connections and collaborations to the test. It’s a great example of the powerful work we do at Channel Consulting.
8. As a planning professional who’s worked with many stakeholders, what is your outlook on BC’s Housing crisis?
The housing crisis is going to get worse before it gets better, because of the labor market shortage. We have record-low unemployment in the province. We have 46,000 vacant positions. And this is impacting our development industry and government equally.
There is such a shortage that it’s going to be difficult to find enough talent, to design the projects, to approve the projects, and to build the projects. So in my work, my focus is on the development review and approvals process, and helping to manage the space in between the project team and the government.
I think the most important thing we can do right now to get projects through the approvals process is to support both government officials and project leaders in understanding each other.
For this reason, I’m launching my own intensive mentorship program to help project leaders learn to effectively collaborate with government, so we can get more projects passed through and make an impact in this crisis. For more information on this experience, sign up for my free workshop or email me at [email protected].
9. What’s next for your career? What are you excited about right now?
I’m most looking forward to expanding our impact and building out our capacity as a company. Facilitating collaboration between project teams and government officials is key to unlocking much-needed housing supply, so I’m very passionate about providing this support to a greater number of project leaders in the coming year than ever before.
This is exactly why I’m launching my intensive mentorship program. This mentorship opportunity will allow me to work closely and concurrently with 12 project leaders over the course of 16 weeks, so they can learn what it really takes to navigate the land use review and approvals process with confidence.
10. Where can people in our community go if they want to learn more from you or connect?
November 29, 2022 I’ll be hosting the free virtual workshop I’ve mentioned a few times above—“Navigating British Columbia’s Land Use Approvals Process: How to Get Your Project Approved With Ease & Confidence.”
This will be an exclusive one-hour training with a special Q&A to follow, during which time project leaders will learn how to get out of their own way during the approvals process, work in collaboration with BC government officials, and get their project across the finish line as seamlessly as possible.
Right now, land use regulations feel stricter, more confusing, and more intimidating than ever before. Many project leaders and developers are going into the review process without proper knowledge of how to submit a complete application and address complex issues like environmental protections and stakeholder engagement—which often leads to their project being held up in review for months or even years.
At this workshop, I’m going to share some of the most powerful strategies I’ve learned in my career to help project leaders move their application to the top of the stack and get their project across the finish line. I’m also making myself available for a general Q&A on the review and approvals process, and I encourage anyone with questions about this process to take advantage of the opportunity.
Project leaders, developers, and subject matter experts can get access to the free workshop right here.
In addition to the free workshop, I’m going to be opening enrollment for the intensive mentorship on November 29. Enrollment will be limited to just 12 project leaders, and doors for this round will close on December 15, 2022—so if anyone is interested in getting more information about that experience, you can visit this page for all the details.
(Note to Readers: The free workshop mentioned in the article takes place on November 29, 2022. The intensive mentorship program is open for enrollment through December 15, 2022. Reading this article after those dates? Click here to watch the workshop replay, or click here to learn how you can participate in a future mentorship opportunity.)