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Pekarsky & Co. July 2016 Newsletter – It’s Not How You Start; It’s How You Finish

August 30, 2016

Dear Friends and Colleagues,


Recently, as I settled behind my desk, assumed the newsletter writing position and stared blankly at my merciless computer screen, my long-time business partner, Ranju, poked her head into my office, all too familiar with the vacant, self-pitying stare and creased forehead, and said “it’s the last one of the year; just don’t make it too depressing, ok?”


Too depressing? Were they really that bleak? I promptly deleted my entire first draft (linking my beloved Oilers’ trading of Taylor Hall as an exclamation point, perfectly punctuating a profoundly pitiful year), and did some digging through the archives to prove Ranju wrong.


The year began with The Waiting Game (I remember the first time I ever applied for a summer job as a waiter. It was at a restaurant in Whistler called Nasty Jack’s in the late 1980s. As I soon learned, the name was only half true; it was actually a guy named John who ran it.”) That’s funny. A pithy piece about cracking into new space, getting a break and making your own luck. A solid 9/10 on the cheery scale. Wait ‘til I tell Ranju.




September produced our usual light-hearted review of the summer that was, entitled You Know What We Did Last Summer. Okay, so it opened with Here’s a question: How do you stay positive in the face of such overwhelmingly crappy news?” But it finished strong: “’A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’ We choose to be optimists. Whether you’re worried about losing your job or losing money on the markets or losing your sanity, try not to lose your sense of humour.  We promise we won’t.”   And we haven’t. Oh, Ranju, how wrong you are, I bravely whispered when no one was around.


By October, however, it wasn’t just the late afternoons that were growing darker. My Stampede Wrestling homage drew a very mixed reaction, split almost entirely on gender lines (clearly the critics never met my Auntie Lucy). In it, I may have said “as I walk the half-empty streets of Calgary (and let’s be clear; they are half empty, not half full).” I suppose that could be construed as a tad negative. And, yes, November saw a rant about the absurdity of attempting to affix a Frisbee-sized exterior sign to our building entrance but it was absurd. Though one of our most well read blogs ever, it could be, I concede, with the benefit of hindsight, seen as, perhaps, unconstructive. Two weeks later, I introduced Rick’s rather positive and nostalgic piece entitled, A Simpler Time, with this happy nugget: “The world is truly going to hell in a hand basket.” Though, in my defence, this was written in response to the tragic events that took place in Paris in mid-November. Nonetheless, it did prompt several concerned calls and emails from friends and family.


By December we were on a full boil regarding competitor search firms literally giving work away for free. “But one thing we don’t give?” I wailed, “In this season or any? We don’t give away the farm. We know the pie is shrinking and that our competitors and clients alike are hurting. But we don’t cut our competitors at the knees on fees preferring, naively perhaps, to win work on the merits and lose it with our head held high.  To quote the great Rocky Balboa, ‘if you know what you’re worth, go out and get what you’re worth.’” Yes, that behavior is depressing (and desperate, and pathetic, and pointless) and, sadly, it continues. I make no apology for calling out that business ‘strategy’ and I use the word ‘strategy’ in the same way Prime Minister David Cameron used the Brexit vote as a strategy to show Europe how committed to it the UK is to the union.




Happily, Christine’s holiday-themed post provided a positive shot in the arm to our readers, only to have me then kill the mood by suggesting in January that our recognition by Alberta Venture as one of Alberta’s Fastest Growing 50 companies really meant we were just one of the slowest shrinking ones. Man, I really am depressing. The theme continued in February with our There’s No Place Like Home post. I’ll tell you one pipeline that isn’t having any issues getting its product to market” I lamented, bitterly.  “That’s the pipeline of talent from Alberta to points elsewhere.” I’m turning into a grumpy old man before your very eyes. Okay, in the sober light of morning, I’ll admit; a shade dramatic. But, it was in direct response to losing two of our beloved “work daughters” to points elsewhere (Jessica, at least, to open our Toronto office; and Lyndsey, temporarily, to London where she selfishly decided to go live with her husband). Young people these days.




March saw me lead with “Though winter’s woe continues unabated, Pekarsky & Co. resolved to stay positive and enjoyed a very productive and engaged February” suggesting, perhaps, that I was at least becoming slightly more self-aware, though I should properly attribute that to my editor, Jessica Young. Gina McKnight, author of The Blackberry Patch, said: “Writing is like riding a bike. Once you gain momentum, the hills are easier. Editing, however, requires a motor and some horsepower.” Every month, Jessica provides that horsepower and, if you can believe it, keeps me from sounding more, well, everything. In fact, it was Jessica who stepped out from behind the editor’s chair to pen our April edition about our, and her, move to Toronto. A superbly written piece, though one which some regular callers to the show dubbed ‘lonely.’ I disagree, describing it instead as genuine and authentic, a front row seat to the real-time ups and downs of opening a new office in a tough town. That’s not depressing. That’s real life.


And, most recently, June saw me channel the lyrics to a song entitled Stressed Out, perhaps further evidence that Ranju’s reprimand came from a place of truth.


And yet, as I sit here, watching the sun rise on a new fiscal year and reflecting on the one just completed, I point out that over the past 12 months, we exceeded our revenue goal for the year; hired a great recruiter from a competitor search firm and another from the cast of Modern Family; executed, or are in the process of executing, 75 search projects; were named by Alberta Venture as one of the Fastest Growing 50 companies in Alberta; received a Business in Calgary Leaders Award; opened an office in Toronto; raised another $33,000 for Alzheimer’s research as part of the Gordie Howe Pro-Am bringing our seven-year total to just under $400,000; volunteered hundreds of hours for worthy charities and not-for-profit Boards and spent hundreds more writing another 16 newsletters. In fact, heading into the new fiscal year, we are brimming with optimism. Indeed, on the last afternoon of our last day of the year, we were awarded the Calgary Public Library Board search mandate and, with mere minutes to go before all the numbers flipped back to zero, closed a very successful and high profile EVP and General Counsel search.


Take that, Ranju!




We wish you a wonderful summer ahead. As is tradition, though we are absolutely open for business, happily accepting new searches and diligently completing those in progress, we will once again put our newsletter pen down for the summer and will return around Labour Day with our next submission. We hope you have enjoyed the past year’s worth of original content and, as always, welcome your feedback. You can stay connected to us by following us on Twitter, visiting our website or dropping by for a visit.


Finally, a heartfelt “Thank You!” to all of you, our loyal readers, for the support this past year. Call me depressing but it has been the toughest on memory; yet, I can confidently say it was our best year ever.  Perhaps not from a pure top line perspective but success must be measured in many ways.  We have the best team in the business, great suppliers, amazingly loyal clients and a brand that’s the envy of the search profession.  I hope you all find a bit of time to relax over the summer. I know I plan on spending as much time as possible working out of the Pekarsky & Co. Global Headquarters in Fernie, BC.


The headwinds are not yet behind us; they continue to howl but we’ve proven we can play in the wind. Golf anyone?