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Pekarsky Stein December Newsletter: Work Hard, Play Hard and Be Kind

December 1, 2014


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

One of the members of our team, Lyndsey Dangerfield, she of Gus fame arising from her exceptional Paws For Thought article in our September 2014 newsletter, has hanging in her new office a poster that reads “Work Hard Play Hard & Be Kind.”

LD office poster cropped

Ironically, after months of hand wringing about a new and improved Pekarsky Stein value statement, Lyndsey’s artwork may sum it up best.   And our recently concluded November is ample proof of our commitment to at least two of these three virtues.   Let’s quickly dispense with the first two, as they’re the easiest.

Work Hard?   Check.

Our Edmonton office move was completely completed; the Calgary office renovation is mercifully done; we hired an awesome new Calgary Office Manager (welcome, Sinead!); I successfully extracted myself, err, ended my five-year term on the Tourism Calgary Board and ramped up my involvement on the YMCA Board;  We once again supported the Hospice Calgary Sage Soiree Fundraising Dinner;  Terry was actively involved with the ongoing work related to uniting Canada’s accounting profession under a single, unified designation (the Chartered Professional Accountant)AP revisions

through his committee involvement at both the provincial and national level;  Rick prepared for his keynote address at tomorrow’s Disability Awareness Day speech at NAIT; we re-upped our commitment to the 2015 Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Pro-Am Hockey Tournament in support of Alzheimer’s research; kicked off nine brand new searches (including a Director, Financial Reporting for a major services company; an HR Manager for a publicly traded retail company; a Vice President of Corporate Services and a Vice President, Representational Services for Legal Aid Alberta and a Legal Counsel for a global E&P company, to name a few); I did my annual talk to the Legal Studies class at Lester Pearson High School about all the many and wonderful things one can do with a law degree, assuming you knuckle down, like NOW!, take your darned ear buds out of your head and don’t sleep while I’m talking!  Finally, I was privileged to speak to the Commerce Undergraduate Society of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary.  More on that later. Much more.  For now, take my word for it:  Yes, we worked hard.

Play Hard?  Let’s put it this way. Going on a safari at Animal Kingdom in Disney World and, thus, crossing Africa off your bucket list is like going to Las Vegas and saying you’ve seen the Eiffel Tower. I happened to do both during the past month or so.  Disney and Vegas, that is.  I wrote about Disney last month and the details I’m prepared to share about our firm retreat to Vegas are, at best, vague.

As you may recall, we started a tradition in Calgary a few years back whereby we go to Las Vegas as an office, with spouses/significant others, once per year or when there is an event worth celebrating, whichever is greater.    With a team in place that considers itself friends first, colleagues second, it was a wonderful mid-November pick-me-up in Sin City.   A few carefully selected and moderately altered photos are attached.


Be Kind?   We tried.   Honest, we did.  But we may have come up a bit short.    Remember that Haskayne talk I referenced earlier?

Let me start by saying that the U of C is a wonderful school with which we enjoy an amazing relationship. Not only is Pekarsky Stein a preferred search vendor to the school, but we frequently assist the Deans of various faculties on a wide range of matters, and we have successfully completed their General Counsel search and other senior level roles for the University.   We think President Cannon is terrific and absolutely on the right track with her ambitious Eyes High strategy and we value the relationship and the friendship immensely.   What follows is in no way meant as a slam.  Against the University, that is.   

The event to which we were invited was billed as Dress and Dine for Success; an evening where the students would be guided through a fashion show by leading men’s and women’s retailers on appropriate work attire as well as be taught the various etiquette protocols of a business meal.

My role, in addition to signing the cheque that paid for most of dinner, was to provide some content around the competitive world out there into which some of these young students will soon be thrust.   My speech can be read here and you can judge for yourself whether I accomplished my mission.

The part that so infuriated me was the nearly two hour-long etiquette session that preceded my remarks.  Unless these students were hatched and not raised by an actual mammal with opposable thumbs, the content of the talk, which predominated the evening, was so patronizing, so dated, so riddled with tired clichés and impossibly exaggerated ‘war stories’, so utterly ridiculous that it was all I could do take the podium after the final wisdom nugget was choked down (“when RSVP’ing, make sure you reply promptly and with either a ‘yes’, a ‘no’ or a ‘maybe’ and be sure not to lie.”) and stick to my script.  Which I did.  Because I’m kind.  But that was November and now it’s December and kindness is so last month.

What I wanted to say was “if you think for a moment that using your salad fork instead of your dinner fork or, god forbid, mixing up your continental dining with North American style, is going to have one shred of influence over your future income earning potential then I wonder how you were able to get into this fine school in the first place.”   Don’t get me wrong; manners matter.  But I’ve also had many a lunch with many a CEO who, gasp, ate their fries with their fingers.  I dare say, if a candidate used a fork and knife to eat their fries at a lunchtime job interview, it would only increase their likelihood of not getting the job.

Here we have the best and brightest commerce students and senior faculty at a beautiful downtown hotel ballroom, networking naturally and proudly primped to the nines only to have our guest speaker use giant three-foot fork and knife props, as though we’re stuck on the set of some Teletubbies episode, and painstakingly teach 22 year olds how to use them?   We’re seriously wondering what to do when the waiter mistakenly delivers the wrong dish to our table at a business lunch?   We’re asked to believe that a senior executive actually once picked up an entire side of prime rib and ate it with his hands (I’m guessing it was in a bun, during Stampede, but that’s not much of a story now is it!?).   We’re admonished not to, as a couple allegedly did do, floss not only our own teeth at the table in front of our guests but to then be sure not to share the same string of floss with our companion, as “really happened.”   We’re instructed, in-frickin-structed, that “every good handshake has a beginning and an end and a right web to right web connection somewhere in the middle.”   Ohhhhhh, so I guess using your index finger to tickle a new client at a business lunch is out?   Good to know.

We’re told that we can’t eat fries with our hands but we can eat crispy bacon and “unsauced” asparagus in that manner.   Who eats unsauced asparagus?!  And to think the students paid for this and to think we subsidized that purchase.  We’re such enablers.  Makes me feel dirty.   Makes me want to poke my eyes out with a three-foot fork.

Again, this is no fault of the University or the incredibly hard working students who volunteered their time to make the event happen.   Maybe it’s me.  I’m the guy who doesn’t understand why my kids are learning cursive hand-writing in school. Who writes with a pen?  Still, it’s a commentary on the recency and relevancy of the advice we are giving today’s graduates.   Here’s mine:  work hard, play hard and be kind.

We are undecided whether we’ll do a mid-month edition in December.  Just in case, allow us the occasion to wish you and yours a very safe, restful (and kind) holiday season.