FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Alan Tennant
September 1, 2015
He says it all began with a desire to be the best realtor in Airdrie.
And he says he has no ego. I nearly choked on my sandwich! We laughed about that a while – and I’m comfortable saying, for the sake of taking him at his word, that he is ‘a very confident, sell assured and successful guy.’
A writer interviewing a writer? Yes. A realtor interviewing a realtor? A comedian interviewing a comedian? Well, neither of us should quit our day jobs – but we had fun visiting and obviously we both think we have a great sense of ha+ha. So began our laughs over lunch. He picked our venue: Big Fish, his favourite lunch place. Food was good, service was fine and the entertainment was all Alan.
He was born in Brandon, raised in Kamloops and moved to Calgary with his family after high-school. Mom was an accountant with an eye for detail. Dad, a journalist and publisher. His parents are divorced. His younger brother teaches journalism at Mount Royal University.
Alan admits to being an average student, a quasi-jock and a member of the chess club in high school. He studied Business Admin. at SAIT, where he says he ‘pushed the average envelope’. He wanted to ‘get in the game’. He spent time at the TD Bank where he was Assistant Mgr. of Administration. Along the way he married his high school sweetheart from Kamloops (they have two grown daughters). For work, he migrated to an on-again off-again relationship with his dad’s publishing business (weekly newspapers) selling advertising, writing columns and soon learned that “family business was not for me”.
In 1985 his real estate selling career began in Airdrie – and he’s been salesman, manager, owner, salesman again in several brokerages over that time. His marketing involved joining the local chamber of commerce where he became president, getting involved in the Canadian Real Estate Association, where he became president too – so the step into Ron Esch’s shoes at CREB was the next step on the path …
Why are you successful? “attitude, self discipline, aptitude. Sense of humour. I don’t have a hunger to ‘get the credit’. I have the ability to shift from high to low without losing the message or the vision.”
What has held you back? “I think I’m on the path that was intended for me, so if something has held me back, that’s a mystery to me. I think I’m on track … and making good time.”
I enjoyed the conversation – and his obvious pride in CREB and its 5,200 members. His focus on data integrity and a pro-active approach to sold-data access for public impressed me though that is not a view held by Canada’s largest influence real estate board – Toronto. We swapped some stories and enjoyed talking about real estate, and we had great fish for lunch!
I asked Alan how he sees his business “a real estate professional association manager”; I asked ‘how’s business looking, going forward over the next quarter?’
… our industry is in pretty good shape – and we’ve moved to being better positioned so our members can thrive in any market …
And over the next five years?
… we’ll see a flatter, more nimble, association structure that does a better job of serving its members. Responsive to change, less duplication and overlap – and more responsive to wants and needs of its members.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… I can rely on my gut – but depending on the impulse, I engage my mind, taking into account relationships. Experience matters. Will I be proud of the decision down the road?
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Alan Tennant, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… because I care, and I’m different. The unusual intrigues me. If someone is hearing me, then I’m listening to them. I can be brutally blunt with myself.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… inclusive, open minded. I like to move fast – want to see a process progressing! If I have to change gears I know that my organization can handle it.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… lots of things – mostly people. I’m in a world of relationships …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my dad, Jack Tennant, in many ways. He told me, ‘if you find you are down and out – buy the best tie you can afford’. During my time at TD, I was told to listen in on a call where I was being discussed. Someone said, “it looks like he has talent but he doesn’t seem serious’.
Work-life balance – do you have it?
… YES more than NO. It’s a struggle. If you are passionate about doing what you do, it’s a struggle you should embrace.
… a long history of volunteering. Hanging out with my wife. Travel.
What do you read?
… a lot of business books. Currently reading Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design and U2: The Definitive Biography.
… weekdays, a 2014 Mini. On weekends, my 2008 Ford ¾ ton diesel.
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