FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Dan Hays
May 26, 2015
Dan Hays and I share growing up ‘only’, attending Western Canada High, living in Mr. Harper’s riding – and one May day, we shared a sandwich and very pleasant conversation.
Home-court advantage was his – den of his SW Calgary home, amid great views, sumptuous décor, cattle-art, books and comfy couches (he and his 2nd wife Kathy built the home recently on a vacant lot Dan inherited … right next door to where his parents had lived). Interviewing Dan Hays to learn about him seems silly at first. Hislaw firm biography and Wikipedia page tell so much, what could I learn be spending a couple of hours with him? Lots …
About his growing up Hays days: his mom met his dad at a dance. His dad, Harry Hays, and uncle were in the dairy cow business. They all moved to Ontario for a while on an international marketing venture, then returned to Calgary to the farm which is now the Haysboro neighbourhood. Dan attended Strathcona school 1-9, Western Canada High, University of Alberta for a general arts degree and University of Toronto for law school. Why Toronto? “I wanted to be somewhere else.” [not surprising – Dan has some some pretty big footsteps to follow in … only child of a cattle industry guru, 3-time mayor of Calgary, MP, Agriculture Minister, Senator – with a neighbourhood and Federal building named after him] Like his dad, Dan is a life-long Liberal, a former senator, a cattle man.
He waxed a bit … over law practice days and Senate ways [he was Speaker]. We talked about Trudeau quite a bit – not Justin, but Pierre. We share a view that history will prove what a great impact he had on Canada – his work as Justice Minister overhauling our laws and as Prime Minister, giving us the Charter …
On Prime Minister Harper, “the free trade agreements he is putting in place are probably good”. When I asked if he agreed Mr. Harper’s actions of late are that of ‘buying our votes with our own money’, Dan just smiled and nodded.
On Rachel Notley’s win? “I’m impressed by her win. She represents change – third time in my lifetime we’ve had one in Alberta. I knew her dad when we were at U of A together, debating in mock-parliament. She has to do a good job. The question, for the next election, is whether there will be a split of Wildrose and PC votes. Together, they got more votes than she did …”
Why have you been successful? “I don’t have a lot of hubris – always did the best I could. I don’t take myself too seriously. What I’ve done, I’ve done. I’ve not been right all the time, but I’ve been right enough …”
What has held you back? “I’m not a big risk taker.”
We chatted a bit about politics – the upcoming election, his thoughts on Mr. Harper’s leadership of the country. Dan and I both live in Mr. Harper’s constituency. Dan and I share another thing – we are both ‘only child’ guys. We had some chuckles about the absence of sibling rivalries. We both have daughters from first marriages – he has three. We both have two grandchildren. One of his grand-daughters is currently attending Western Canada High … 3rd generation.
Most of us live ordinary lives and our accomplishments speak for themselves, but in the case of Dan Hays, he had a most unusual beginning for anyone, for any Calgarian and for any only child (perhaps the only thing I share in common with him) – an intriguing story. We did this interview at Dan’s home – and then he made me a sandwich. His hospitality is genuine, his humour dry and he likes lots of mayonnaise on his sandwich (“you have to have enough to taste it”). He bid me good-bye in time for his personal trainer’s visit – no doubt he would work off the mayo …
I asked Dan how he sees his business “legal services provider”; I asked ‘how’s business looking, going forward over the next quarter?’
… big is good – that’s the way our profession is going – trend to more internationalizing - though it is challenging to integrate mature entities. It’s worth the risks …[his firm McLeod Dixon recently grew/merged with Norton Rose Fullbright]
And over the next five years?
… Asia/Pacific region business is growing and will become more important. There is more growth, economic activity and people in that part of that reality ...
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
... I tend to stick with people. I’m overly empathetic .. I value skills, people who stick around.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Dan Hays, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… they are prepared to trust me. I’m forthright in terms of what I can do. By being trustworthy and competent.
How would you describe your management style?
… I’m less active in management since the merger – I would say ‘I listen’, I try to understand what people are thinking, saying …
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… what I can do, to contribute to issues playing out right now (ie: federal election coming in four months)
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my dad. We got along well. He set a good example – hard work, imagination, courage. I admired FDR, Trudeau – many others
… downhill skiing (I’ve been away from it a while due to a hip replacement), travel (I enjoy learning about the world), foreign policy is a strong interest (we are just back from a trip to Indonesia and Australia). I’ve been working with a personal trainer, lost some weight and got my hip replaced – and I feel a lot younger!
What do you read?
… lots of periodicals these days (I love books – used to be a big reader. When I was in the Senate there was so much to absorb, to be well informed. Books are always better, but books are too slow …), I love podcasts, I’m a big fan of PBS and CBC radio … and podcasts – but I’m not a big techie (no more than I need to be).
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