FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Greg Pocherewny
August 9, 2016
I first met Greg Pocherewny last year – we were at a golf event together and chatted, swapped cards and we’ve yet to play a round. But we had lunch recently, and I look forward to more lunches and maybe a round of golf one of these days.
He was born in Calgary – then he went away. Still a toddler, his parents relocated to Canora, Saskatchewan. Middle child (an older sister, a younger brother) Greg Pocherewny got an early exposure to retailing, customer service and music. Mom was a pharmacist, dad was merchant – with a photography business and music store. The family relocated to North Battleford and operated a pharmacy there.
Greg’s focus in school was math and science – so off he went to University of Saskatchewan to study mechanical engineering (three years) before he transferred faculties. With his freshly minted B.Comm. degree, he made tracks for Calgary’s hot job market in 1992. Staying with a friend he found the job market not quite as easy to penetrate, so he postponed ambitions to be a stock broker in favour of sales at The Sony Store where he excelled. But, he wanted more challenge, which led him to sales and sales management jobs at General Fasteners – where, upon getting the seven-year itch, he made the rounds of recruiters and head-hunters, one of whom suggested he would make a good head-hunter. Fast forward: Robert Half for 11 years in recruiting and management, lots of travel (he was responsible for Permanent Staffing in 32 offices (Michigan, upstate New York and Western Canada was his territory) when the needs/desires of family building brought his focus back to Calgary (he married Karen 20 years ago – she’s an accountant – and they have two boys, 12 & 5). He made a move to Conroy Ross and was a happy thriving partner there. Until a head-hunter came calling. It was Odgers Berndtson, and the offer compelling.
Greg sold out his partnership interest and joined that Odgers Berndtson as Partner in their Calgary office where two partners and two staff are weathering the current downturn with, as I sense it, ‘a smile and patience’. More about the market below. “Odgers Berndtson is one of the largest search firms in Canada – so our search capabilities fit a different tier in the market than local and regional players. My focus is Engineering Leadership and Finance Leadership – recruiting for Director/VP levels, C-suite and boards.” Regarding the current market downturn in Calgary, “we have a really long sales cycle. Relationships alone only get you to the table – it is consistently delivering value that produces business. I want my clients to know that for me it’s not a ‘sale at all costs’ approach business. We are experiencing growth in business right now – but, we are a small shop.” I suspect, given Greg’s approach it won’t be small for long …
Greg has done some teaching at U of C's Haskayne School of Business, has had some community board involvement and currently serves on the board of Momentum, “playing a role, creating opportunities for people below the poverty line.”
Why are you successful? “perseverance. I’ve tended to ignore my failures – learn from them, and move on. Great people I’ve been fortunate to have around me, with me. Opportunities showed up – and I took advantage of them.”
What has held you back? “trade-offs you make. I made a career-path change because of choices made around not moving my family. I used to be risk-averse, I was very conservative. Now I do more calculated risk-taking.”
How do you see your business – retained executive search – going forward over the next quarter?
… we are busy, but doing substantially different work/assignments than two years ago. Oil & gas is flat, but there is lots going on in public sector, private sector (outside of O&G) and ‘the innovation space’. Leaders need to hire the best talent available in the market – not just the market they know or the people they know – but the whole market.
And over the next five years?
… our segment of the industry will be better focused on bringing more value to the transaction relationship; adding complementary services (i.e. leadership development, assessment and other services); staffing at the managerial level and below will increasingly be commoditized. Technology tools supporting staffing are making that easier for companies – and fees are smaller, again technology driven.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… that depends on what I’m buying. Utility, or quality? Everything involves a different approach to risk assessment.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Greg/Odgers Berndtson, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… relationships matter, adding value. I’m in it for the long haul. I’m not driven just by the transaction – I focus on understanding the need and solving the problem.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… I’m very ‘hands off’. I don’t like to meddle in someone’s details – I like to get the right people on a task, have them do the work and keep me involved.
… they meld together – yes!
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… how to keep us competitive and serving our clients – having the right people in place, doing what they are best at …
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 in his businesses, I learned ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ from a good teacher. A client, early in my recruiting days, who told me a story about risk taking which influenced me, gave me impetus to get into our first investment property. A colleague from my Robert Half days; I often find myself asking “how would Dlin handle this?”.
… golf, camping, scuba diving trips, kids in hockey, playing guitar.
What do you read?
… lately I’m not reading a lot for pleasure (spending lots of free time with my kids). Mostly non-fiction, leadership books, books on guitars …
… 2007 Toyota Tundra for day-to-day. 2006 Z4 BMW convertible for play.
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