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Making Our Own Luck – The Ampersand October 2020

October 1, 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,


To paraphrase Frank Sinatra’s 1961 rendition of Ervin Drake’s It Was a Very Good Year, September was a good month, a very good month.  Okay, not for much of the world, particularly our friends to the south who continue to embarrass themselves to an almost unrecognizable point, but it was good, very good, for the good ship Pekarsky & Co.


A big win on a high-profile RFP, a validation of our Buy Local zeitgeist, continued leadership in diversity and inclusion initiatives, a new P&Co. training program, a return to the office, a reversal of salary rollbacks, a resumption of Board activities and teaching and even a found stolen bicycle!


Since March, our Ampersands have mostly echoed the general mood of the day; cautious and uncertain yet spattered with a trace of optimism. Good news remains elusive so you’ll forgive a little squawking. Maybe some of it will rub off on you. Treat it like a chain letter that you must forward along to receive the luck!


No, we didn’t just spend our summer watching Netflix and hiding under our bed. Perennially glass-half-full kind of people, we used the quiet offered by COVID to look inwards and redouble our efforts to innovate and grow; to respond to our changing world and create the future we want; to nurture existing relationships while caringly curating new ones. The upshot of all that quiet, hard work?  Here are six specific examples:


1. Green Line RFP



On the Friday afternoon before the Labour Day Long Weekend we learned that we were the successful proponent for the senior leadership and legal roles related to Calgary’s Green Line project, the largest infrastructure undertaking in the City’s history. This was a significant victory for a local boutique search firm. We were aided in our submissions, and will continue to be aided in our delivery, by our amazing Panorama partners around the globe. Panorama is a strategic alliance of like-minded boutique search firms united by the belief that small is mighty but global is reality. Still, in the end, it was our deep local connectivity, our connection to community and our commitment to diversity that won the day.


As you know, if you’ve been following along these past 11 years or so, we can be a bit outspoken when it comes to local organizations supporting local vendors. ‘Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM’ goes the saying. We ain’t IBM so we typically lose more than we win when it comes to RFP competitions. They are time consuming to respond to and, because it’s the only way we know how, we pour our hearts into every one, every time.  Every word written from scratch, no boilerplate, no clichés, no b.s.  You’re looking at the Pekarsky & Co. Marketing Dept. and in this case, particularly at this time, it was an incredible shot in the arm for our humble little enterprise.


This project will keep us busy for the next several years.  More importantly, the Green Line will create jobs now and once complete, will connect people and places, and enhance the quality of life for all Calgarians in the future. Along with the new MAX bus rapid transit lines and the Red and Blue LRT lines, the Green Line will improve mobility choices connecting people to destinations across the city with transit service that is fast, frequent, reliable and sustainable.


We will work very hard to attract the very best and most dedicated experts to provide guidance to Administration and delivering on megaprojects. In each of these Green Line opportunities, we are looking for individuals with strong values, good integrity, exceptional team players, and strategic critical thinkers. The Green Line will be more than just a transit line. If you bring the expertise and attributes, and you’d like to be part of a project your children and grandchildren will continue to enjoy, watch this space in the weeks, months and years ahead.


2. Pekarsky & Co. University



We have actively been working with fast-growth companies in the AgriTech sector, one of the most rapidly growing industry segments in these parts. Many of these companies need to hire people but, quite frankly, don’t know how. They are big enough to be actively recruiting but still too small to justify in-house HR on the payroll. Half full types like us see opportunity in that. And so, with the help of some experts in the field, we developed a proprietary, 21 module syllabus on exactly how to recruit and we are going to shop it around to companies large and small to show them the tricks of our trade.


While not quite as revealing as Penn & Teller’s Fool Us TV show where they openly divulge how most tricks are actually done  (in one of their best-known routines, they perform the “cups and balls” trick with clear plastic cups, ostensibly showing where the sleight of hand takes place), the magic of our program is that there is government grant money available to our clients who graduate from it.  As the Vanity Fair article on the brilliance of Fool Us suggested:


“The greater motivation of the show, I think, is having experienced magicians cogently articulate the merits of a performance, which in turn helps the lay public better appreciate magic.”  Precisely!


Our motivation is to make our clients better and while we will teach line mangers with technical backgrounds who aren’t sure how to interview or source or reference or screen or keep warm or turn off or any of our other terms of art that are second nature to us, we’re confident that they will appreciate what we do just a little more and probably still hire us for the bet-the-farm searches just as I will likely never try to saw myself in half, just because someone showed me how it’s done.


To learn more about our Pekarsky & Co. Training and how your talent acquisition teams, likely gutted by layoffs, or anyone on your team can be better at attracting and retaining talent, you can learn more by visiting our website here.


3. Spike in Work


Turns out that another benefit of spending idle pandemic time not just watching Tiger King, is that by staying close to people, occasionally asking how they’re doing, randomly sending ‘Thanks a Latte’ coffee cards , dropping by their home during Stampede Week with a box of goodies and routinely, and quietly, performing countless other random acts of kindness, they remember that next time they have a need. Go figure.


Soon after being awarded the Green Line work, other searches poured in the door. As you can see from our Featured Opportunities, these include a Chief Administrative Officer for a professional services firm, a VP, Operations in the real estate space, an HR Manager for an oil and gas company, a President for a P/E backed portfolio company and multiple board and committee mandates for a multitude of civic entities. Turns out good things do happen to good people. And though it’s likely temporary and we may all be back under the bed soon enough, you need to take the wins when you get ‘em.


4. An Innovation Revitalization


The V-shaped recovery we’ve experienced since our March swoon, which is looking evermore like a check mark, but could go L or W shaped at any moment, has re-energized us in many ways. Back downtown in our Stephen Avenue office, salary-roll backs and 4-day work weeks cancelled, we are seizing on the new energy by actively exploring other ways we can serve clients, old and new. To this end, we are in the midst of a comprehensive assessment through a trusted consultant to dive deeply into our market, assess the gaps and the opportunities and we’ll report back once this is more fully baked.


The goal is to transcend the transactional; to become a more holistic trusted advisor available to our clients at all times for multiple needs and not just the trouble shooter when a crisis hits. As we’ve hinted before, we’re on a journey designed to transform us from plumbers to window washers and we’ll keep you posted on our progress.


5. Embracing Equity, Diversity & Inclusion


For the record, Pekarsky & Co. has been an industry leader in diversity since long before diversity in hiring gained its current prominence. As far back as 2009, we wrote on our website:


“There is a leaning amongst the more traditional executive search firms toward ‘pale, stale and male’; both in their own makeup and the candidates and clients they represent.  The world is changing and though our team believes the best candidate should always get the job, we believe that diversity of thought, gender and background makes us better and, by extension, makes our clients better too.”


Indeed, that language lives there today. Still, we acknowledge that whatever ‘change’ we referred to those many years ago could not have foreseen the long-overdue and seismic shift currently underway.  While we must guard against tokenism and call out those who simply wish to ‘check the box’ and while we believe diversity comes in many shapes and forms, not all of them visible or obvious, these are topics for a future blog post.


In the here and now, we are proud to have our own Ranju Shergill co-chair the Panorama global Diversity and Inclusion initiative. As one of 40 firms working together as Panorama, we are global and diverse and that makes us uniquely positioned to be a platform as a voice for change – for fairness and equality. The executive search and leadership development industry experts are key to driving change towards more diversity in organizations and we plan on leading by example.



Fact is, at Pekarsky & Co. we are more than just a statement on a website.  We walk the walk and to that end, we invite you to review some recent diversity case studies highlighted on our blog here, here and here and our entire commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion can be found here.

You have to understand that for a firm whose partnership is 50% female and whose headcount is over 70% female and who has employed gay and straight, black, white and brown, Jewish, Christian and Sikh and proudly a black, gay male who once auditioned on Canadian Idol, this diversity and inclusion issue is second nature to us; it’s hard-wired in who we are: tolerant, respectful, open-minded humans. We approach every search informed by the values of who we are as people, striving to find the best fit possible for our client, while ensuring a fair, transparent equitable, diverse and inclusive process.


But we realize not everyone thinks that way and it is our responsibility as trusted advisors to our clients and leaders to our community to remind those constituents of the values that we sometimes take for granted.


6. Community, Community, Community


As always, we continue to be heavily immersed in our community and we used our COVID downtime to redouble our efforts.  Adam is once again teaching his Client and Business Development course at the U of C Faculty of Law while also serving on the YMCA and Calgary Municipal Land Corporation Boards.  Ranju is vice-Chair of the Calgary Immigrant Women’s AssociationErin Dand volunteers with CRIEC (the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council) and serves as a mentor in their mentorship program for internationally trained lawyers (“ITL”s) who come to Canada hoping to break into the legal world here. Through COVID, Erin has been mentoring a couple different individuals, and the most recent was an ITL from Nigeria who landed in Calgary in late March in the middle of the lockdown who Erin helped land her first job since arriving in Canada.


After the 2020 cancellation, the Pekarsky & Co. Pro Bonos hope to again lace up the skates for the Gordie Howe CARES Pro-Am in support of Alzheimer’s and continue to support, in ways large and small, so many important people, causes and organizations in our city.  Samuel Goldwyn said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”  We say, the more you give, the more you get.


In a month full of good news and good luck we conclude with the story of a stolen bike returned. I nervously forayed onto Facebook in early September to report my youngest son’s mountain bike stolen while he attended a movie with friends in Fernie.



More conventionally, I filed a police report with the local RCMP detachment providing them the serial number and a description and I then, quite appropriately, resigned myself to never seeing the bike again.  Four days later, the RCMP in Kamloops calls. A constable was fuelling up, noticed a truck loaded with bikes, approached the driver who acted suspiciously, ran the description through the computer and got a hit. Guy arrested. Bike retrieved and soon to be returned thanks to a neighbour’s friend in Kamloops.



We live in a strange times, friends. A pandemic continues to rip across our planet, an American president won’t condemn white supremacists, and Tampa Bay wins a Stanley Cup beating Dallas in Edmonton in September.  Yet, we can only control the things we can control.  Left foot, right foot. Day to day, month to month. And right here, right now, fleeting though it may be, we had a good month.  A very good month indeed.