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Pekarsky & Co. December 2015 Newsletter – The Spirit of Giving…It Away

December 1, 2015

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Here at Pekarsky & Co., we believe in the spirit of giving. We have, since opening our doors over six years ago, consistently given time, money and know-how to our community. The Pekarsky & Co. Pro Bonos hockey club, for example, has directly raised $330,000 in five years of participation in the Gordie Howe CARES Pro-Am in support of Alzheimer’s research. In fact, you can give too by clicking here and supporting our squad as we lace ‘em up once again this coming April.

We give time. We’ve been volunteering on various Boards and for a wide range of not-for-profits for many years, including Tourism Calgary, the YMCA, the University of Alberta Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees, the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, the TIMMS Centre for the Arts, then Johann Strauss Foundation, and Rapid Fire Theatre to name a few. We have manned the phones at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Radiothon, served lunches at Inn From the Cold, sorted through toy donations at an airport warehouse for the Calgary Women’s Shelter, Walked A Mile In Her Shoes in support of Sherriff King Home, managed food trucks at Olympic Plaza during Stampede, served as a Gold Level sponsor of Candy Cane Gala and quietly supported literally dozens of other important and worthy charities and causes.

We give knowledge. Speaking frequently to audiences ranging from the grade 10 class at Lester Pearson and Henry Wisewood High Schools to various industry groups. Just this past month alone we sponsored and spoke at The Global Lawyers of Canada Inaugural Launch; gave a lunch time talk to the In-House Counsel Network about navigating through the current challenging times and confirmed our participation at two upcoming events for the Association of Corporate Counsel of Alberta and the Association of General Counsel of Alberta. We have spoken at the NAIT Disability Awareness Day, the U of A International Student Career Forum and to numerous classes across multiple faculties at various post-secondary institutions.

We give content. Our article from the August edition of Lawyers Weekly can be found here and, most recently, we were featured rather prominently in an article that appeared in The American Lawyer entitled Foreign Lawyers Grab A Share of Canada’s Legal Market. We are frequently quoted in various media as thought leaders in the search industry and, starting January, we will be providing content to our friends atBusiness in Calgary magazine. This edition of our newsletter is our 90th if you can believe it. Click here to read the other 89.

We give advice. Not only formally, in the course of running searches on behalf of our clients, but often times for kids of clients graduating into an uncertain market or a neighbour’s friend who just got laid off, or a new immigrant to Canada looking for a start.

We give thanks. Anyone who, as the kids say, does us a solid, gets a handwritten thank you note and a Pekarsky & Co. Starbucks card. It’s not much but it’s an acknowledgement that every time you share a lead, act as a source, or a reference or generally spread the good word, we want you to know we care and that we don’t take it for granted. We don’t treat people like inventory to be placed back on the shelf after we’re done using them; an oft-heard refrain about our some of our brothers and sisters in the search business.

We give a damn. We are not afraid to comment on things around us that don’t make sense to us; to go on the occasional rant about things that annoy us. To, occasionally, get a little political, though we have no rooting interest in any particular stripe, just a general disdain for high taxes, red tape and bovine hooey.

But one thing we don’t give? 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.’

You see, recently, we pitched for a significant piece of work from a large well-known, well-funded organization. We knew we were in tough because all the usual suspects—several of the other large national and global search firms—were invited to the dance. The usual cast of Goliaths against us and our bag of stones. We responded to the RFP and, as we always do, poured our heart into our written submissions. “Copy” and “Paste” are dirty words at Pekarsky & Co. and, though admittedly inefficient and time consuming, we think every wheel is just a little different and so we don’t mind reinventing it, every time.

In this particular case, our written submissions got us in the door and, as we tend to do, we shone during the actual pitch. If you’ve ever sold anything to anyone, and I don’t care if it’s Girl Guide cookies to the neighbours or your womb for surrogacy, you just know when it’s going well, when you’ve got your audience engaged and, to paraphrase, picking up what you’re laying down. This was one such case.  We nailed the pitch. No doubter. Upper deck. Touch ‘em all, wink at the bat-girl, high fives in the dugout.

Yet, we didn’t win the work.

It is said that an optimist is someone who doesn’t have all the facts. And the one fact we didn’t have but learned afterwards during the post-mortem we requested with the almost-client, was that the successful bid beat us on fees.  We were a little surprised at this given our fees are usually lower than the big guys with the big overhead but when we pressed further we learned that the successful firm offered to do the work for free. We’re good but we can’t beat free.

Please don’t misunderstand. We’ve done numerous searches for smaller organizations and not-for-profits and charities where we have significantly lowered our fees. We’ve counseled hundreds of people, given dozens of talks, written countless articles for free. But we’ve never lost in a competitive bid process where the competition, a firm far larger and better known than us, pulled a Tonya Harding and took us out at the knees.

This isn’t sour grapes. Rather, it’s a cautionary tale. It is absolutely expected, especially at difficult times like this, that we work with our clients and our suppliers to help each other out. There’s always a way to trade rent for term or to barter something now for two things later but to work for free? We’re not talking about a Black Friday sale or a McDonalds coffee promotion; we’re talking dumb, desperate and dirty. Lord Denning, a famous English lawyer and judge, when referencing the concept of Estoppel, said that it was to be used as a shield and not a sword. So too should it be when pricing your business in trying times.

I’m no expert on pricing strategy but I’m quite sure that selling your offering for free is not sustainable. I always thought AFE meant alternative fee arrangement, not alternative free arrangement. How about we get creative instead? Defer fees; back-end load based on success; loosen payment terms; negotiate a contra arrangement; agree up front to a flat fee; split the invoice over two fiscal years (all things we’ve done, by the way). There are numerous arrows in the quiver of any salesman before he simply shrugs and says: “here, take it.” Leading with “free” is an entirely unimaginative yet spectacularly quick race to the bottom.  And, in the oldest cliché of them all, I’d submit that you still get what you pay for.  Free cataract surgery!  Who’s in?!

I’m reminded of my all-time favourite book as a kid, one I still read to my kids from time to time:

 Alligator pie, alligator pie, 
If I don’t get some I think I’m gonna die.
Give away the green grass, give away the sky,
But don’t give away my alligator pie.

So, please keep giving. Give your time, give your money, give your insights. But don’t give away your alligator pie.  Even if it is shrinking.

Regards,

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