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Bringing people together in a more personal, authentic way
than an ‘and’ could ever do.

The Ampersand April 2018 – The Winter of our Content

April 2, 2018

In the dark days of February 2015 – February 2nd to be exact – I attended a very small breakfast gathering of independent owner-operator entrepreneurs at which the late Rick George, former Suncor CEO, was the featured speaker.  His advice?  “Survive, then thrive.” He went on to explain that 2015 was over – less than 35 days in — and we should hunker down and set our sights on fortifying for 2016. “By 2017,” he predicted “you should be feeling slightly better, but only if you do the right things now and if all goes well, by 2018 you should be thriving.” Check. Check. Check.


Indeed, it’s not a stretch to say, and to say so at the risk of some immodesty, that this past few months has been our very best stretch ever.  Not just in terms of the volume of work, which has been high, but the type of work, which, truth be told, is, for me at least, what matters most. We battened down the hatches back in 2015, did the things we needed to do to survive the lean years and we’re now hard-wired like Depression babies to never take for granted our good fortune fearing the next big shock is just around the corner. Though that conservatism – having no debt, funding the business out of cash flow, always leaving at least three months operating capital in the bank, dividending only when it makes obvious sense to do so – allows us to sleep well at night, it prevents us from ever enjoying our success while we have it. For the fear of losing it is greater than the joy of having it.


With that proviso, herewith, and somewhat (though not entirely) uncomfortably, a few words of congratulatory self-reflection with a quick review of the winter that was.


In December, we emerged victorious from a very competitive process amongst 11 invited search firms and were selected as the Calgary Chamber of Commerce’s preferred executive search firm to lead its very high-profile CEO search.  A few months later, we closed the search, Dr. Sandip Lalli having been awarded the job after a hard-fought competition.  Throughout the search we were able to show a broad cross-section of civic leaders, influencers and stakeholders what we’re all about. Sandip will do an amazing job as a fresh new face for the Chamber and we earned kudos along the way, too.


From the Chair of the Board, Phil Roberts:


“The Chamber had a complex search, with many stakeholders, for a very visible role in the community.  Adam Pekarsky and his team developed a search process to fit our Governance structure and came up with a candidate profile that would take the Calgary Chamber to the next level.  


Our search attracted many qualified candidates for the role, and through regular communication and weekly updates, Pekarsky & Co. kept our Search Committee informed and engaged throughout the process, allowing us to focus on our Board duties during the search. Pekarsky & Co.’s expert guidance and support throughout the process was extremely effective and resulted in the best outcome for the Calgary Chamber and our members.”


And from the new CEO, Dr. Lalli:


“As a candidate working with Pekarsky & Co. through the Calgary Chamber of Commerce search for a new President & CEO was energizing. I was valued as a person, I was valued for my background and I was treated with honesty and forwardness. I did not feel as though I was just another name on a slate to be presented because the list had to be rounded out.


The team and Pekarsky & Co. in their communication and actions represented me and their client well. Further, I received candid, timely coaching as I progressed through the different stages of the interview process. Overall in this experience, I was appreciated, and I thank the team at Pekarsky & Co. for this.”  




The thing about search done right is that you have to show your work, beyond merely arriving at the correct answer. Along the way we interacted with over 130 other candidates, stakeholders and influencers and I am confident that each one of them would have come away from their dealings with us, and by extension, the Calgary Chamber, equally cared for, listened to, and respected. Mid-way through the process we received the following unsolicited testimonial from a participant in the process, so glowing it now lives on our website homepage:

In January, we attended a firm retreat in Palm Springs whereat we met with our Panorama Partner firm, PFM Executive Search from Vancouver, to talk about ways in which we could continue to thrive in our local markets while helping each other out where one or the other of us had a particular functional, geographic or industry strength that the other does not.  We spent a day talking strategy, all with a view to serving our clients better.  The thing about national or global firms is that you usually inherit your partners, you don’t choose them. The union between PFM and PCo. is natural and easy and paying dividends for us and our clients.


In February, we hired Kate Spencer as our Research Associate.  In one of life’s full circle moments, I find myself mentoring and teaching Kate our craft, just as her father did for me 20 years ago when I was a young lawyer.  Let’s hope I can be half the mentor to her that her dad was to me but let’s also hope she sticks with search longer than I stuck with law.  Kate has had an immediate and positive impact on our firm, providing us something we’ve never really enjoyed before: leverage.  Kate’s presence provides our team with an extra set of very capable hands on every search, taking the time to do a deeper dive on the research, freeing up the team to do better work and ultimately provide a superior product to our clients. Though Kate is an accomplished show jumper who spends much of her free time working with horses, we’re confident she’ll make a seamless adjustment to working with the donkeys here at Pekarsky & Co.


March brought, as it always does, my birthday and this year that celebration happily coincided with our firm ski trip down at Pekarsky & Co. Global HQ in beautiful Fernie, B.C.  You can’t naturally and credibly come across as a group of people who genuinely like one another, care for each other and enjoy working together – attributes which no doubt lead to a better employee and client experience – if you’re not given the opportunity to play together.  And play we did.


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P&Co. Ski Trip 2018

Most importantly, March brought us perhaps the best example to date of the power of our global Panorama network when we collaborated with partners around the globe on our RFP response to, and subsequent in-person short-list interview with, the Search Committee overseeing the University of Calgary President search.  I’ve worked at national and global firms before and often came away a bit disillusioned by the way in which we’d bait and switch the prospective client with much flowery prose about our deep global firm connectivity yet rarely seeing it in action. So, when I asked Panorama partners from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia to send me a brief video clip of their experience in higher education search, I didn’t have to ask twice as they all jumped to the pump in assisting us in putting together this great video.  At time of writing we haven’t yet had a response from the University of Calgary as to whether we have been selected but win or lose, we stress tested our global alliance and it works.


As we head into spring, in addition to our usual steady diet of in-house legal counsel roles, we find ourselves working on a CEO search for a highly respected Edmonton-based medical imaging company; three President searches for each of an Alberta-based EPC company,  Metercor and Jayman; two CFO searches, for 4iiii Innovations and C&C Wood Products Ltd.; a Vice President search for a major not-for-profit, a Vice President search for a major energy infrastructure company, a Director search for one of Canada’s largest and most respected E&P companies – to name but a few — and we find ourselves in an interesting three way negotiation with our landlord and our neighbour to take additional space to accommodate more growth in our current space in the old Alberta Hotel Building.


Please don’t misunderstand. We’re still cautious. Not living beyond our means. Taking things quarter by quarter, month by month, week by week but for a firm that rarely allows itself a pat on the back, this past winter has indeed been a good one.