FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Craig Tervit
December 19, 2017
When, where and how do you meet people who make an impression? I’ve found, when I look at folks in my life, ‘when you least expect it’ is often the best explanation – and I sometimes wonder if it is the randomness, or just that we aren’t guarded, so we are ‘open to it’ …
We met at a luncheon – you know the scene, strangers at a table shaking hands, exchanging business cards, small talk … we’ve all done it a hundred times. On rare occasions the person, their ‘mini-story’ and that business card swap stick in our minds, in our memories. This is one of those.
He was a guest at that luncheon. So was I, but I had a job to do – to introduce the guest speaker, to chat with my host and others I met and visit with the speaker – so my interaction with Craig that day was as minimal as with others at that table, but something kept me interested and following up led to this interview. Affable guy. Wills and estates lawyer – with a great slogan. Clever slogan. Craig Tervit has The Last Word.
I’m a pun lover, clever ones at least, and I found the edgy ‘good taste’ approach to a subject most people don’t discuss in social situations – making our will, or ‘having the last word’ to now be something refreshing …
Craig was born in Witbank, South Africa – left for Italy, Canada/Toronto/Vancouver at age 11. His mother, from the UK was a math teacher/computer programmer in Rhodesia(now Zimbabwe), where she met his dad, an instrumentation technician from South Africa. Craig has an older sister and younger brother. Leaving South Africa for Canada in 1994 was partly ‘to get out of South Africa’ and to find better opportunities for the family. UK, U.S. and Canada were considered … and North Vancouver became their new home.
Craig’s recollection of school days is that they were academically focused – told he had lots of potential, but he had a passion for basketball. “But I was under-tall”. Over a 10 year period he earned his B.A. (English major, minor in Political Science) at University of British Columbia, travelled and worked in the Yukon in mining exploration (a summer job that grew). Travels included S.E. Asia, Japan and Europe. Law school, J.D., MBA – at the University of Calgary included meeting his wife Jemma, [she is an immigration lawyer in Calgary, they have two children and expect a third one soon] the first day of classes in law school. After finishing his articles at Knight & Pritchett, Craig stayed on to work in family law until establishing his own firm – The Last Word Wills And Estates Law. His practice is 75% wills, 25% estates and his focus/passion is connected with advising clients, particularly in small businesses, on succession planning. “My goal is to be the best at what I do in Calgary”. In terms of other types of legal services, “I refer clients to specialists in what they need”. His primary source of new clients is referrals – people who read his blog, financial planners and insurance professionals whose clients need wills …
Why are you successful? “because, ultimately, there are two sides and I feel I balance them – the family side, my wife and kids and making sure my work is not at the expense of my family. The other side, where ’m able to benefit people’s lives. I help people free up their anxiety about their future and providing for their family – to free up that mental space to focus on other things.”
What has held you back? “The challenge of prioritizing – when I am really busy. On those days when I have the most to do I sometimes feel like I get the least done. Building time ‘for me’ into the mix.”
How do you see your business – wills and estates – going forward over the next quarter?
… business is good. There is underlying change in our industry in lots of ways (i.e., document automation). Commoditization of our services is not a huge impact yet but it is looming on the horizon …
And over the next five years?
… I think it will be different. In Calgary, like most places, this specialty is a fairly small field – and there are always retirements. People wishing to ‘not spend much’ will be drawn to on-line products. I see more focus on estate planning rather than simply will preparation. Having ‘any will’ is better than ‘no will’, but will kits ignore/undervalue the importance and value of advice.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… concrete objective facts. Intuition. Having a good feeling about the choice of person/supplier. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not going to happen.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Craig Tervit, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… it comes down to ‘care and attention’. I really enjoy my clients – and I enjoy getting to know them. I do free consultations for prospective clients – and I find that about 90% of time I earn their business.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… files I’m working on, stresses of ‘early days’ in my business, my family … normal things for someone in my line of work and stage of life.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… a 1st grade teacher who saw me lacking confidence, bolstered it. While I was articling, my father died – without a will – and that focused my attention, and changed my direction.
… family things running our life, my wife and I are big basketball fans, comedy clubs …
What do you read?
… tons of legal material! I’m getting back into pleasure reading, but kids keep me busy!
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