FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Jim Pender
March 29, 2016
Having my own ‘assorted’ experiences with social workers and counselling psychologists – I admit to being cautious in my approach. But, when smart people I like make the suggestion I relax. Still … he’s a psychologist. Yikes. Gives me the willies …
All kidding aside, Jim Pender is a gentle guy - wears several hats and writes plays for fun!
And he had some funny stories. And that’s not his first career. Intrigued, I ventured in, met with Jim in his office – early in the day before his colleagues and clients would fill the place, and so I wouldn’t encounter any on my way in or out – he guards his clients' privacy.
Born in London, Ontario, fifth born of eight siblings! Mom was from Timmins – strongly focused on books, on reading. Jim has fond memories of Wednesdays – bread day! Dad was from Parry Sound, a locomotive engineer for CPR. Summer fun always included time at Horseshoe Lake – and a property there is still in the family. He remembers lots of work, and lots of fun.
Jim’s education/work path – from H.B. Beal High in London. He was an average student who excelled in English. He had a wide circle of friends who seemed to gather at the ‘nerdy table’. He attended University of Western Ontario where he earned a B.A. in English Literature with a Minor in Religion. The Dean, Philip Mueller, influenced him to stay and to overcome some self-sabotaging behaviours. Summer jobs were at CPR. Married at 20 to Maureen (a now retired librarian and business owner), a son, graduation, Multi-City Sales job @ CPR, promotions, then a transfer to Calgary in Sales & Marketing in 1982. He didn’t find it satisfying. Then, the Hinton train collision [it was a CN train] in 1986 grabbed Jim’s attention, and focus, toward dealing with and helping those people impacted by the accident. In short, “things changed!”. Why? "I wanted to find new meaning in my life. CPR was exploring improvement to ‘employee assistance programs’, so I volunteered to join in, and to go back to school – with their permission, and a leave of absence." Jim earned a B.Sw. at University of Calgary and later, his Masters and Ph.D. as well. His counselling career and management work: Kelly Littmer Consulting, Alberta Wheat Pool [a head hunter called, Bonnie DuPont interviewed him – hired him]. “I wanted to work there. I got the job offer, but thought it over. I’m a loyal person … but working for/with Bonnie was compelling.” Subsequent mergers and opportunities left Jim with the opportunity to compete for a vacant CEO role, or move on. He returned to Kelly Littmer where he managed employee assistance programs until 2002 when he set up his own firm …
His practice: managing employee assistance programs, addictions counselling, registered family mediator, arbitration.
Why are you successful? “I love what I do. I like that Mark Twain quote: ‘Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life’. With the work I do, every situation, every client, is very different for me. I have a capacity to earn respect and authority. My work ethic. I’m responsive to my clients’ needs.”
What has held you back? “I don’t feel like anything has held me back.”
His last words, perhaps a motto: “We only need enough.”
How do you see your business – helping people who are having troubles – going forward over the next quarter?
… business is robust. People who have perceived problems, and real problems, have them whether the economy is booming or busting – we’re busy either way.
And over the next five years?
… employee and family counselling programs for small employers will see plenty of change. The marketplace is dominated by three dominant national firms – but that is changing as employers find they get better results from smaller boutique providers (like ours) vis-à-vis 1-800#solutions.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… relationships. I have to like someone to want to do business with them. Loyalty. I like to keep things simple and manageable.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Jim Pender, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… trust. They trust me. All I have is my reputation. In conflicts I try to mediate, then arbitrate.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… I follow the servant-leadership role. I lead by looking after staff, taking care of their needs. [his staff these days is small – but in the past, he’s managed large crews]
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… about our world! … American politics, ISIS.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my wife (43 yrs.) We met in the fifth gtrade. She’s been a great partner and influence. I gave her a ring in the seventh grade – but her mother made her give it back. Eileen Parish, fifth grade teacher – inspired me with her cultural influences. Philip Mueller, in university, had a real sense of where I came from, helped me to stay there when I had no clue about how to be successful. Ron Trojcak, at Kings College – thoughtful, cultivated my thinking. Bonnie DuPont, a great boss, colleague and friend ... still!
Work-life balance – do you have it?
… Yes. I work hard. I have an excellent marriage.
… cooking. I like to entertain. Working out. Wife time. I’m writing a play about John Donne.
What do you read?
… lots of profession books and publications. I started a Men’s book club – 10 members. Currently reading ‘White Like Me’ by Tim Wise.
… VW bug convertible .. five yrs. old, I think it’s 2011.
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