FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Bryan Arthur
May 17, 2016
I met Bryan Arthur for the first time about 15 years ago – introduced at a breakfast at the Petroleum Club, so it seemed a fitting venue for our recent interview-over-lunch …
Much has happened, and he’s been busy – but there is more than ‘over 30,000 contacts on LinkedIn’ driving him. He’s Managing Partner at BluEra, a recruiting firm that seems to do much more than recruiting. And, since the recruiting business is suffering in our current downturn, I wanted to get his take on ‘how things are going’.
We began, as I often do, in these interviews – “where you were born?”
Born in Vancouver, Bryan moved to Calgary with his family at age nine. He’s been here, except for his university education, ever since. Mom was a traveler, dad a major-league retailer (Regional Manager, Hudson’s Bay Company) – they met in Vancouver. Bryan is second-born (he has an older sister). After graduating from Western Canada High, he headed off to Halifax – did his B.Comm. degree at St. Mary’s [the school choice had something to do with following a girl – which didn’t work out, but he did well in school].
“Returning to Calgary I had no particular idea what I wanted to do. Doing my degree I really enjoyed the courses in H.R. and sales. One day I was waiting in a building lobby to meet my dad for lunch. There was a Randstad office there. They had information in their window. That afternoon I called the VP for Alberta at Randstad who said they weren’t hiring, but I persevered – and he met with me, and hired me.” After a few years learning the business and moving up, it was time to move on – which he did, joining Conroy Ross where he progressed, succeeded, met his wife-to-be Carla, and secured his C.H.R.P. designation. Two colleagues left Conroy Ross to start BluEra. Bryan followed them a few weeks later. Why? “I like building and shaping things – and I don’t like being constrained, so joining a new organization with people I liked and respected was a fantastic opportunity.” Bryan joined the ownership group (four equal partners) in 2013, and became managing partner in 2015. “I learned I excel at trying things – to be leader of a boutique operation that truly partners with our clients – building deep relationships with fewer clients, rather than trying to be everything to too many.”
Why are you successful? “I believe in hard work. I don’t quit. I don’t take failure as an option – I don’t believe failure will happen.”
What has held you back? “Probably lots of things – but I’ve looked past it. There is lots of runway ahead of me … .”
How do you see your business – in your industry – going forward over the next quarter?
… we believe, on average, our industry is down – perhaps 30-60%. We are faring well, holding steady and we’ve hired three people in the last month.
And over the next five years?
… I’m very optimistic. There is always a demand for top talent. Fit is important, and I want my clients to have difficult choices because we’ve presented top-drawer candidates. While technology, LinkedIn and social media – new things – will influence how the recruiting process morphs, I don’t expect it’s going to change fundamentally, and we intend to grow! We are after ‘fit’. More emphasis on integrating teams after a successful hire. Emphasis on executive coaching, and we do that well, so I’m banking on that focus to be important.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… relationships. People I like. Values, of course. And customer service is immensely important.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Bryan Arthur/BluEra, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… truly partnering with our client. They buy ‘Bryan Arthur’, not just the name on the door. Reputation is #1 and I don’t lose sight of that. We aren’t focused on one-off transactions – we build relationships.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… we are very flat – creating an environment that engages people. We hire professionals and give people freedom.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… I try not to worry about things I can’t control. I worry about providing a good life for my kids. I worry about 18 people at BluEra and their families – so I worry about them and our firm being successful.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my parents inspired me to volunteer – to give back, and I do, and I want to set that kind of example for my kids. Spelling was very important in our home. We weren’t pushing in any direction – but we KNEW we had to get an education. My father taught me to be kind, about being a good person. As kids we travelled a lot – my dad thought we should travel all over Canada, to know our own backyard first before we travelled the world. I’ve met lots of fantastic people who have influenced me …
… travel, a lot. Mexico many times. Golf [handicap 15 .. “but it was lower before kids!”] at Earl Grey. Trailer camping with our kids (the Arthurs have two) – 33 nights last year. Learning Spanish.
What do you read?
… I’m not a ‘device reader’. I like the feel of books and put them on my shelf when I’m done. Business books. I’m not much of a fiction reader. My wife is a voracious fiction reader.
… 2013 Dodge Ram 2500. I didn’t know I was a ‘truck guy’ until I got it.
… I don’t like that term. I’m content with my life. I’m the most effective I can be when I’m really busy.
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