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Pekarsky & Co. September 2016 Newsletter – Knowing Our Why

September 22, 2016

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

 

Well, you’re receiving our newsletter again so summer must be over.  When last we wrote, in our pre-summer sign-off, we spoke of headwinds (“[t]he headwinds are not yet behind us; they continue to howl but we’ve proven we can play in the wind. Golf anyone?”).  We did not, however, predict the rain.  Wind, I would have thought, was a negative enough metaphor given the prevailing mood. Predicting rain, 25 days of it in July in Alberta, would have been piling on.  But we won’t dwell on it. “Change of weather is the discourse of fools,” someone once said.  Maybe so, but we hope you had a lovely summer.

 

I was recently asked why we write a newsletter, a question that followed shortly after with by this particular observation: “I mean, it must be a huge burden, knowing that every, single month you have. to. publish. something.  no?”  Hearing that, mere days from the looming month-end deadline after a two-month newsletter writing hiatus, was much like the observation the kid behind me offered 25 years ago as we anxiously sat in a crowded gymnasium moments before taking the LSAT exam when he observed that the high-pitched buzz from the fluorescent gymnasium lights must be driving. me. crazy. No?

 

But, fair question:  why do we write a newsletter?  And, to be clear, the question was: Why do you write a newsletter.  It wasn’t Why do you write a newsletter? Or Why do you write a newsletter?  Or Why do you write a newsletter?  It was Why do you write a newsletter?  The implication, of course, was ‘seems like a pretty silly thing to do, why do you do that?’  As in, Why do you wear that?  Or what did happen? Or who does that?

 

The comedian, Louis CK, deals with the Why of children’s questions in a hilarious though entirely R-rated way here and much has been written about “Knowing Your Why” in various business books and on inspirational posters and quotes and podcasts.  Google the question “Why?” and you get over 3.3 billion results in under one second.  Yes, much has been written; mostly garble. Yet, it was a question that, temporarily at least, stumped me.

 

One thing the questioner did not know, which had he known would have caused him to ask I mean, really, why the hell do you write a newsletter?!?! is that our monthly readership, though double the industry average open rate according to the Mailchimp analytics for mailers of our size (~10,000 recipients), is that in a good month, 30% of you open it (which is a nice way of saying that 70% of you don’t). Other than major league baseball hitters, I’m not sure where else you can bat .300 and feel good about it.

 

It could be we write, and let’s be clear, we write it; don’t (in fact, of the 99 editions thus far published, 20 have been written by my colleagues and countless others edited, tweaked or outright shredded by my editorial board (a.k.a. Jessica)) it could be that we write because we get emails like this, from a leading academic:

 

Thanks for this. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – your newsletter is a real tonic. I love reading it. It picks you up when you’re feeling down. So thank you for writing it in the way you do. 

 

Or this, from a long-time mentor:

 

I’ve been meaning to drop you a line to let you know how impressed I have been with your monthly musings lately.  I believe that it is true what “they” say about tough times bringing out the best in people. Your observations have been particularly fitting this year.

 

Or this, from a competitor:

 

Simply one of the best pieces I’ve ever read by a leader in our crazy industry.  You are a credit to us all…nice work!

 

Or this, from a complete stranger:

 

Very well written and profoundly touching article. We all need to be reminded at times that life is not asbad as we think it is and the article did the job perfectly. Keep on writing my friend.

 

But it’s not the fan mail that keeps us going. After all, not all of it is nice.  I do tend to rant and, strangely, not everyone agrees with me all of the time.  Occasionally, I get on my soapbox and rail against senseless things like taking eight months to get a Frisbee-sized sign glued to your exterior office entryway; or electing a government who raises business taxes, personal income taxes, alcohol taxes, train fuel taxes, education property taxes, carbon taxes and minimum wage while suing itself and making no cuts to its payroll; or federal anti-spam legislation that results in hundreds of spam emails seeking your consent to be spammed; or analogizing now-defunct national law firm leadership to the now-defunct Captain of the Costa Concordia; or calling out those who skulk around in the murky waters of the back-channel reference swamp. And when I do I sometimes receive less loving notes, like this one, from someone who used to get the newsletter:

 

This post is garbage. 

 

Hey, like Aristotle said, “Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

 

No, it’s not for the praise or the props or the feedback.

 

Simply put: we write the newsletter because we think it’s a great way to show you we’re human and as humans in the people business, we think that people like people who come across as, well, people. Every month the newsletter reconnects us with thousands of individuals, many of whom take the time to reply; it finds its way to others we’ve never met through forwards or tweets or posts; I’m told it gets debated and discussed around the family dinner table and the workplace water cooler.  It simply strives to demonstrate that we know a thing or two about a thing or two and it’s never canned, corporate or safe. It’s us. And maybe, just maybe, if you like the newsletter, then you’ll like us and if you like us, maybe you’ll hire us or refer us or just think of us.  That’s plenty reason enough.  Over 500 successful searches later, I’d like to think it’s working.

 

We write the newsletter because we don’t think we’re quite interesting enough to rely solely on you Googling us, or following our lives 140 characters at a time on our Twitter feed or company LinkedIn page. Yes, occasionally, we may appear to be taking a bow or pumping our tires but I think that’s called marketing. We’ve run exactly one paid advertisement in 7 years. It cost us $5,000 and generated exactly no leads.  I think that’s called not a great idea.

 

We write the newsletter so we can tell you that we currently have 27 open searches, including a greenfield build of a great Calgary law firm who decided to seize upon the once-in-a-cycle opportunity of low rent and abundant talent and open an office in Calgary; to tell you we are running CEO searches for Triathlon Canada, the College & Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta, and CKUA Radio Network. To tell you we are overseeing Board searches for the Calgary Public Library and Edmonton Economic Development and the Edmonton Screen Industries Office. To tell you that over the next 6 weeks we are speaking at conferences or to industry groups in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Halifax. To tell you that we continue to donate our time to Calgary Economic Development and the YMCA and the Glenrose Hospital and Rapid Fire Theatre and Tourism Calgary and Gordie Howe CARES and so many other worthy causes, organizations and businesses as we all continue to pull together and weather current economic and political challenges. And not just for the sake of telling you, for we all do good things. But few in our business do as many, as well, as consistently, as genuinely as we do.  And we think that matters.  And if we don’t tell you, no one will; my mother simply doesn’t know that many people.

 

And that’s why we write the newsletter.

 

Turns out, if you ask Siri “Why?” she’ll say “An excellent question.”  So, to the unnamed questioner, I hope I answered your excellent question.  And, to the rest of you, please read, please write and please continue to hire us, too.