New President and CEO Katie Pushor adds fresh ideas to Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
Katie Pushor gets a rush as she looks out of her 27th floor office, taking in the booming development in downtown Phoenix. The president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce mentions the expanding ASU campus, the expanding convention center and the TGen headquarters. “I just like to see what’s going on,” says Pushor, who took the helm of the 4,000-member chamber early this year.
“The most important thing I bring is the knowledge of actually running a business, being in business in the Valley for 27 years, and I understand the challenges that business owners and executives face,” Pushor says. “When we look at programs or events or opportunities we might have here at the chamber, I am able to say, ‘When I was in the business community, would that have had value for me? Is that something I would have wanted to go to?’”
Pushor agrees with others who say her leadership style is “calm and collaborative.” But she feels she is most noted for building superior management teams, “and getting accomplished through a team, what you could never accomplish through a collection of individuals.”
She’s also process-oriented. “I see structure,” she says. “Here at the chamber, I’ve been very interested in understanding our business processes and improving them so that they can better serve the needs of our growing community.”
Her main strength, Pushor says, is the diversity of her experience, but that’s not all. “My genuine interest in people and wanting their business to be successful is probably my greatest strength,” she says. “That’s what provides my motivation and passion when I come to work each day. I love to hear about other people’s business models, I like to understand what makes it work, how they get their customers, what their profit margin is, what their challenges are.”
Not surprisingly, Pushor says her weakness is impatience. “I’m able to see exactly what needs to get done, and I have a hard time understanding why it wasn’t done yesterday,” she says.
Working at the Arizona Lottery provided Pushor with a bridge to her current role. The Lottery is a quasi-public business that deals with 2,600 retail outlets, does a lot of consumer advertising and acts like a privately-held business, but is bound by legislative mandate.
“It was an opportunity for me to learn what it’s like to work with an administration and with elected officials and how to work within a legislative cycle,” she says. “And how a great deal of our value to the business community is advocating for them within the legislative and executive branches.”
Since coming on board at the Phoenix Chamber, Pushor has made it her business to meet with chambers and other groups in the Valley, such as the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and other economic development officials.
“That has helped me understand what they do, and helped me to differentiate in my mind what we’re doing,” she says. “What is the unique slot that we’re fitting in and where can we be of help to other people? Where can we join forces? A lot of it is communication and to be willing to be a student, and not come in and think you know all the answers.”
While high-tech is a key driving force of the Arizona economy, and a sector where Pushor excelled for several years, she now takes a broader view. “What the chamber really does is accelerate business growth and retention within the Valley,” she says. “What’s different about us is we look horizontally across the Valley. We don’t see you only as a bioscience company or only as a technology company or only as an agricultural company. We see you as a business partner.”
So the focus is on the challenges that all businesses face, such as workers’’ compensation, safety, human resource issues and employee retention. Pushor says her mission is to get the word out to non-member businesses about the services the chamber provides. “That’s why they hired me,” she says.
And she emphasizes that the chamber is not competing with business recruitment organizations. “They’re looking out of state, out of the country, to bring people here,” Pushor says. “We want you to start here and stay here and grow here. If they bring the fish in, then we’re the aquarium.”
Quick Facts about Katie Pushor
Katie Pushor’s resume reads like a been-there, done-that array of business and executive experience. She came to the Greater Phoenix Chamber from the Arizona Lottery, where under her leadership, revenues and profits soared. Beginning her career as a CPA, Pushor has started and operated two small businesses, held several executive positions at MicroAge starting in 1989, and in 2002, co-authored a book, “Into the Boardroom.”