FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Greg Liakopoulos
June 17, 2014
Horn-rimmed glasses, a bald head like mine, an obviously Greek name – what lies beneath the surface of this dapper man-about-town who does legal work in commercial real estate? Sure, easy answers – solicitor’s work, sales, purchases, leasing, projects, development work, but who is he, really?
I’ve met Greg Liakopoulos several times in recent years – we cross paths at industry events. One year I chaired a panel discussion where he was a panel member. Those encounters, like so many we have, are short and superficial – we don’t have time or privacy to drill down to find out what people are like. Bumping into Greg at the Calgary Leasing Conference recently – we spoke about taking time to explore beneath the surface, which we did recently over a long lunch in the card room:
The restaurant? “Granada house, a Spanish name for a Greek restaurant serving western Canadian cuisine.”
The jobs? “Dishwasher, bus-boy, front-of-the-house – during high school and university”.
Born and raised in Saskatoon (his mother, an immigrant, met his dad when she returned to Greece for a wedding – and he soon followed to be with her in Saskatoon), eldest of three children, excelled academically (8th grade valedictorian), not so much in sports except for soccer (he played until his late 30’s when knees started hurting), helped out in the family restaurant business, Greek school (language, history, culture, dancing skills) on weekends, Greek Orthodox church – left not enough time for hanging out with his friends, something Greg is mindful of for his own children. University (BA in Political Science & LLB from University of Saskatchewan), recruited by McCarthy Tetrault where he articled and practiced until May 2013 when he made the move to Bennett Jones.
Greg has three daughters (9, 5, 18 months) with wife Kristine (married in 2002) whom he met through mutual friends.
Several times – off the record – Greg indicated he wouldn’t want his answers to certain questions published, not because he was secretive, but out of concern for what his parents might think when they read it. When I asked if his family mirrored the family we all came to know in the hit movie ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’, all he would say was “not exactly.”
Greg wound up our conversation with this: “I’m a work in progress, more concerned about my journey that some destination. I want to feel, for my family, for my clients and for my colleagues – that I’ve emptied the tank, given it everything I’ve got.”
Greg – don’t worry, I won’t tell your parents that you enjoy an ‘occasional cigar’.
I asked Greg how he sees his business, providing legal services in Calgary currently and looking forward over the next quarter?
… business is good. I’m very happy. We have a lot of bench strength and a great brand. Ongoing business development plans – building. Waiting to build new business when I have time, when I’m not busy, is too late!
And over the next 5 years?
… complex transactions will continue to require complex service solutions. Legal services, simpler tasks – are going to become more commoditized by being done in-house by clients or directed to smaller firms in order to contain costs. I see us being true to our business model and the culture of the firm – a western Canadian resource focused one – attracting good people by remembering that people join us, we don’t join them …
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… relationships drive continued business. Loyalty means different things. They understand my needs, they understand me.
What distinguishes you that causes people/employers to choose Greg Liakopoulos to do business with, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… it’s about results. My clients know I’ll go through a plate-glass window for them (that’s a metaphor). I’m on their team, I make a time and effort investment in my clients.
What’s next for you, in your career?
… no ambitions to be a developer! I don’t want to compete with my clients. Staying at Bennett Jones for as long as I can continue to contribute – helping to build a legacy, a parade of new people who might say that I influenced them.
How would you describe your leadership style?
…leaders don’t do everything – they make sure everything gets done. I take time to help people learn. We can all learn from each other.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… my kids, my family. So much violence in the world, so much hate in the world.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my parents. My dad who taught me to never confuse effort with achievement. My mother who taught me kindness and empathy. Learning due diligence work from Stuart Blyth. I learned early on that going to court was not my interest. I’m a dirt lawyer. I help people see the results. Daryl Barber was a strong influence. Becoming an equity partner at McCarthy’s in 2009. Last year’s flood – the impact on us all, reminders to always be prepared, stocked up and safe.
Work life balance?
… being happy is the result, not the goal. We have a balance that works for our family. Biking with my kids. Golf. I work out with a trainer 3 times a week – it helps clear my head. I protect my off-grid time – no Blackberry, no disturbances – I have some freedom! I try to get home before kids go to bed …
What do you read?
… fiction (Dan Browne), business development books, survival/preparedness.
… 2014 Jeep SRT8 (my 8th car, all from the same dealership in Saskatoon – I like to get the best value I can for my budget).
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