FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Kevin Gregor
September 2, 2014
He sells business services. The products have changed, but it seems the style, the method and the salesman involved are all the same. Evolved, matured, focused and ... interesting.
In answer to ‘how do you do it all?’, Kevin Gregor, Partner at Boyden, answers immediately – “I compartmentalize things. I can separate from things, then bring it back when required. It’s a coping mechanism.”
Who is Kevin Gregor and what does he think of himself? A man about town, larger than life (big grin, big mustache, ample belly – man about town), gregarious, shameless self-promoter, political operative, schmoozer, name-dropper, leader, cheerleader, cause-involver – but what makes him tick? I’ve spoken with him before – years ago – on the phone but had never met him. I’ve had friends and strangers remark about him, some con, but mostly pro – so I thought learning more might be as interesting for my readers as it would be for me.
Let's start at the beginning: born in Oxbow, Saskatchewan, moved to Edmonton (grew up in Sherwood Park) at age one; mom was a teacher, dad worked in the oil patch (they met at a dance in Frobisher). The eldest, he has a younger brother and sister.
Growing up, sports were a strong interest – football, rugby (together with injuries that linger – seems to be a merit badge for rugby players), golf and curling.
After high school, studying business – B.Comm from University of Alberta (marketing and industrial relations were his majors). First career move was interesting – he went to a Xerox interview as moral support for a gal friend who didn’t want to go alone. He got hired. She didn't. That gal-connection didn’t last. But a long and illustrious career with Xerox followed. Kevin describes himself as a fixer. That led to a series of promotions and moves – to Toronto, then to Calgary where he was determined to stay. When the next move-up would mean leaving Calgary, he moved-over … to Crain Drummond (now Relizon). As movement upward there suggested a move to head office in Montreal was imminent, a move over again to RGO. His next move was to be head-hunted no more, but to become one. He now recruits others to work for his clients. Cool gig.
We have things in common. Some acquaintances, SE Saskatchewan roots, Edmonton time, we’ve both been selling all our working lives …
Three kids and a wife Deb whom he met on a blind date. Kevin credits his greatest sale ever as being able to sell Deb (from Victoria) to join him in Yellowknife (his posting at that time with Xerox). After raising three kids, many moves, career moves, many bumps in the road later – still married. He credits his wife with keeping it all together.
What has contributed most to your success?
“Family support, friends, mentors, being excited every day to do something interesting. I like solving puzzles. Thinking big picture, big strategies – strategizing with clients.”
What has held you back?
“Time. Its limitations. I’ve tried to get involved in a lot of different things – and thanks to great family support I’ve been able to do that. I’ve never felt blocked – and when I do, I try to find a way around it.”
I asked Kevin how he sees his business – and the executive search business generally; ‘how’s business?’ over the next quarter?
… business is good – in a healthy state. Our industry is being re-defined. More strategic than transactional. We are playing multiple roles, especially in succession planning.
And over the next five years?
… greater need for global reach, particularly for contingency firms. Retained search firms like ours need to offer greater value and services, better tools and consulting services.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… I’m not much of a shopper (hate going to malls). My wife buys my clothes. I tend to be pretty loyal. I do business with people who try to understand what I am in need of. Trust is important. I’m not price focused. Time is worth money.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Kevin Gregor, why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… integrity. I’m loyal, accountable, and have a true interest in my clients.
How would you describe your leadership style?
… I like to create a vision. I’m a servant-leader.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… family things – care and services for aging parents. I try hard to not look at negative stuff.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… our decision to stay in Calgary in 1995 – to build our life here. My wife leaving teaching to stay home with our son when he was identified as having a learning disability. My volunteer life – especially being chosen to head the Chamber of Commerce board in 2000. I couldn’t have done that role without family and support of friends and colleagues.
Work life balance?
… depends who you ask. My wife might say I manage it well. It’s a pendulum for me.
… golf, curling, dinners out with my wife, entertaining friends, I like doing things with my kids. Friday night is date night.
What do you read?
… I’m a Dan Brown novel fan. Newspapers. Local autobiographies – like Harley Hotchkiss, Dick Haskayne – helps me get to know them.
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