FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Catherine Brownlee
July 16, 2013
“Never have I doubted . . . “ she says, adding, “I like learning about others”. Finding out what makes Catherine Brownlee tick is like a non-watchmaker taking the back off a watch to see lots of moving parts with some confusing connections. Farm raised in Spruce View (near Innisfail) transplanted to corporate Calgary, parlayed a business and social work education into storm-weathered crisis-tempered recruitment business, and for the last couple of years building a new enterprise in event management etc., with plenty of etc.
Humble beginnings, schooled in Spruce View, Red Deer and Mount Royal in Calgary, no stranger to adversity in personal, family and business life – a gritty builder with a smile, who found her calling in oil patch sales. Her calling wasn’t oil patch as much as it was sales. She can take a bet, and bets on herself. Responding to a sarcastic wise-crack at the gym led to her successful pursuit of an AlbertaBodyBuilding Championship in 1991. Believing in herself, help from a mentor and buoyed by support from her clients she started Prominent Personnel in 1998 on a shoe string - then parlayed her network of contacts into a thriving business. She credits her successes to ‘it’s all about pleasing people’. Her branching out, and adding something completely different to her repertoire is an in-your-face brand of event management – meets – philanthropy at CBI, yet to hit its high points, but these are early days. Seems her life-work balance is work-work-play-working relationships.
I asked her what qualities distinguish preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers.
. . . we work with suppliers with whom we share a connection, loyal to partners in philanthropy projects. Sole sourcing, loyalty, working out problems together
I asked what distinguishes her business, and why her clients hire her firms over competitors.
. . . relationship history, doing superb work. At Prominent Personnel, we know how to get it right. Not one of our competitors in this market focuses solely on the energy industry. We place staff from the reception desk to the C-suite, but only in energy industry businesses, here, and around the world. Our substantial database and website are a huge part of that connection. In strategic event management - generating excitement, working with sponsors has more challenges . . .
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
. . . not being diversified enough. Disasters (9/11 was devastating for us, and we weren’t prepared), this flood-summer has been a huge setback for many of our clients and we’ll see its effects and unexpected costs for a long time to come. My father’s health.
I asked Catherine how she sees Calgary business, from the recruitment and retention of talent perspective over the next 90 days?
. . . summer is usually slow in both of my businesses, but this flood-summer is putting everyone back on their heels – big firms will be fine, but smaller firms will suffer
. . . and over the next 5 years?
Energy industry diversification will continue to grow, more environment-related jobs, the tools we use likely won’t change much. Our clients may do more in-house work, but they still need the vetting, still need the personal attention, assessment and services. Call me cautiously optimistic!
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life?
… Steve Allen (a Rotarian) has been like a big brother to me, a guide, a mentor and we’ve worked on projects together. Heather Douglas is a mentor and confidante.
What are you reading?
My Bible. And Practicing the Presence of People: How We Learn to Love, by Mike Mason
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