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Pekarsky & Co. March 2016 Newsletter: Springing Forward

March 15, 2016

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

“Late February days; and now, at last, might you have thought that winter’s woe was past; so fair the sky was and so soft the air.”

– William Morris

Though winter’s woe continues unabated, Pekarsky & Co. resolved to stay positive and enjoyed a very productive and engaged February. After last month’s rather heavy sermon, the plan is to keep this post a tad lighter.  I stand by everything I wrote last month and not just because February was a short month. However, this letter addressed to our Premier is making the rounds and, in my view, is well worth the read. In it, the President & CEO of a local energy logistics company humanizes the toll taken by the current downturn and suggests in a very measured way, what he believes our government could be doing to mitigate the situation.

The month started with the annual Pekarsky & Co. ski trip hosted at the firm’s Global Headquarters in Fernie, BC.  A great day of skiing, a comprehensive sampling of Fernie Brewing Company product and volunteer quality control duty at Beanpod, served up the perfect antidote for the mid-winter doldrums.

We were also very pleased to, on February 17th, host the Calgary Association of Legal Administrators to an Open House at our office and, the next day, we were honoured to be the keynote speaker at a lunch gathering of the Association of General Counsel of Alberta where we presented “Attracting and Retaining The Best People In Rapidly Changing Times.”

On Tuesday February 23rd, several members of the Pekarsky & Co. team gathered in Edmonton for the Alberta Venture Fast 50 awards ceremony and banquet.  For all our self-deprecation about winning that award (suggesting that in 2015 being one of Alberta’s fastest growing companies really meant were likely one of the slowest shrinking ones) it was truly an honour to be in a room of such incredible entrepreneurs and Alberta-based businesses who are, in fact, growing in the face of once-in-a-generation economic challenges.

Our Edmonton team stayed very active too.  Not only sponsoring the ICD Edmonton Chapter breakfast series events where a wide range of corporate and board governance issues are presented, discussed and taught but in the arts community too, through Jane’s ongoing involvement with Johann Strauss Ball which raises funds for the Johann Strauss Foundation to support music students from across the province through the University of Alberta Faculty of Arts and her volunteer efforts at the Timms Centre for the Arts for the opening night of Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Christine, who recently received a promotion to Principal at Pekarsky & Co., continued to spend much of her spare time as an improv artist as a cast member of Rapid Fire Theatre, but has expanded her role to now teaching improv to teens every week, working with previously shy and self-conscious students to come out of their shells and tap into their inner creative side.

Back to business, on February 25th, we were honoured to participate in the Calgary Economic Development Economic Summit.  As our host, CEO Mary Moran, put it, “The Economic Summit wasn’t about our problems, rather it was to talk about the opportunities and the solutions for the future. It was about moving forward – not looking back. It was about what businesses can do and what government can do to support businesses in creating an environment for success.”  For me, the most rewarding part of the event was being asked to participate in a small roundtable discussion with some of city’s most influential business leaders and our Minister of Economic Development, the Honourable Deron Bilous.

Three things, in particular, stuck with me. The first was Brett Wilson’s suggestion that “economic diversification” is not a helpful term. It conjures distrust and gets those in the energy industry and those who rely upon it (which, by the way, is everyone) nervous that it’s a euphemism for something else. Rather, Mr. Wilson’s view is that we should be referring to “economic expansion” as this reflects more accurately the needs and realities of the day and will likely get the unhesitating endorsement of even the most sceptical members of the energy industry.

The second was how most in the room perceived Mayor Nenshi’s recent decision to regulate Uber (to the point the company has pulled out of Calgary) even though the innovative ride-share company has managed to figure out a way to co-exist with over 350 other cities around the world.  The prevailing sentiment in the room wasn’t anger over not being able to get from point A to point B in an Uber-driven vehicle but rather what the result symbolizes: another piece of government regulation getting in the way of diversifying our economy or, worse, a symbol that Calgary is the furthest thing from fertile ground for entrepreneurial pursuit. We all understand the need to diversify, err, expand but when our work takes us to Vancouver or Toronto or elsewhere, it’s palpable how much better others are than we are at actually doing so. Sometimes it feels as though we simply need to get out of our own way here in Alberta and allow the entrepreneurial spirit we tend to nostalgically fall back upon to flourish again. This was a topic of an earlier rant which you may read here if you’re finding the tone of this post all a bit too tame.

Notwithstanding what I would describe as an uber ego-snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the Mayor did make a great speech at the summit, very similar to this one made a week earlier in Ottawa, which I would encourage you to forward to anyone living west of Ontario who may not realize they are filling their cars with gas shipped to Canada, up the St. Lawrence Seaway from places with far shakier moral standings than carbon emitting Alberta.

The third was a comment made by Dr. David Chalack, former President of the Calgary Stampede and well-respected veterinarian. Quoting an unattributed source to make his point, he said “the invention of the light bulb had nothing to do with incremental improvements to the candle.”  I can’t for the life of me remember what that was in reference to but I really liked it!  And, recently, when I was relaying it to my kids at a bagel place in Fernie, a local hipster approached me afterwards to say that he’d overheard me describing the quote to them and thought it was “extremely cool that I was keeping it real by getting my kids out of the box and embracing non-linear thinking exposing them to such an insightful life-learning metaphor.”  Clearly, it worked for him too.

Speaking of economic expansion, our very own Jessica Young has landed in Toronto and opened our Pekarsky & Co. offices there effective March 1.  We are extremely excited to take our award-winning prairie ethic to Toronto and points east. Jess is now firmly ensconced in our office on Temperance Street in the heart of the Financial District and can be reached at (416) 304 9283 or [email protected] if ever you are passing through the GTA or know of anyone there who could benefit from our prairie resourcefulness.

Lastly, but certainly not least, we continued our ambitious fund-raising efforts for the Pekarsky & Co. Pro Bonos hockey team as part of the Gordie Howe CARES Pro-Am in support of Alzheimer’s research.  This is obviously a very difficult market in which to raise funds, no matter how worthy the cause, but we are extremely proud to continue our support for this amazing event. We have stayed true to the cause and, as with our day jobs, simply worked harder and become more resourceful in our efforts.  Recently, we responded to a client request to lower our fees by saying we would only agree to do so if they channelled the savings to our fundraising efforts (which they did).  We would ask that you consider donating to our squad, if you can. Our team goal is $25,000, which would take our six year total to just over $350,000. Pretty amazing for one of Alberta’s slowest shrinking companies.  All you need to do is click here and give whatever you can.

If we can pack all this into a 29-day month, imagine what March has in store!  We look forward to springing forward and sharing it all with you in a few weeks time.

Until then and with warm regards,