FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Mac Logan
March 27, 2018
It is near-impossible to be involved in the real estate development world in Calgary and have not heard of Mac Logan. He was, until recently, General Manager, Transportation for the City of Calgary – until his abrupt departure. Count me as curious. Add to that the Mayor’s protestations that he knew nothing about it, that it was just a personnel matter …
My curiosity grew – I reached out to Mac for an interview, and he graciously gave me his time and his confidence. I learned a lot.
Let’s begin, as I always do, with, “Where were you born?”
Malcolm (Mac) Logan was born in Fontainebleau, France where his dad was posted (Canadian Army) on a NATO project. His mother had worked in finance before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Mac has three older sisters. The family came home, to Barrie, Ontario. When his dad retired from military service he got a job in Lethbridge running the Canadian Winter Games – the family became Albertans! Mac attended grades 4-12 in Lethbridge where he was, “an average student, active in football and track, and Student Council President”. He attended the University of Lethbridge (Chemistry & Physics) for one year, then transferred to University of Alberta to study civil engineering. He graduated with a B.Sc., Civil Engineering. Along the way in his careeer he also collected and MBA from Queen’s and a love of cars – Firebirds in particular, and has self-published a book on the Firehawk. He has three of them … but I digress.
Back to Lethbridge in search of a career in Transportation Engineering – a pursuit fostered by a 4th year course, and a prof, that turned his interest to transportation planning. A teaching assistant to that U of A prof called one day – he was quitting his job and recommended Mac pursue it, which he did – and the interview went well. He spent five years working with Al Swanson at Swanson Transportation. In 1990 married (later divorced), he returned to Calgary to work with Reid Crowther (they bought Swanson Transportation). Mac worked on ferry terminal, airports and long range strategic planning projects for clients. Interwoven with work, he entered a Masters Degree program at University of Calgary (1988-93) – completed the course work but couldn’t get time off work to do his thesis. In 1995 his mentor Al Swanson suggested going over to the other side, to spend five years or so working for the City of Calgary, and that’s what he did. Transportation Planning, Sr. Engineer, Development Group. Then eighteen months at Hopewell Residential as Mgr. Community Development; “they were an all-star team – I loved it there”. Recruited back to City of Calgary in 2001 – this time as Manager of Transportation Planning. A re-organization at the city in 2003 – then Director Transportation Planning in the Transportation Department. And a personal re-org that year too – married Stephanie Logan (she’s a change management consultant); the Logans have no kids, just cars. The next few years were a blur of activities – Mayor Bronconnier led an aggressive infrastructure agenda and Mac was enthusiastically at the heart of it. His jobs changed quickly too: Director of Roads, then Director Transportation Infrastructure, then in March 2010, General Manager, Transportation Department – then he ‘departed the city’ in December 2017. I asked WHY?, and he replied, “there were reasons, and it was time for a change in leadership – that’s all I can say because there is non-disclosure requirement”. I asked, are you all wrapped up and done? “Nearly … ”.
Mac has hung out his own shingle ‘Maplehawk’ and has been too busy on projects to spend as much time on ‘marketing’ as he had expected. I caught him for a coffee after his recent solo road-trip - 11,000 km, “my gap month”, visiting 27 air museums/airports in 11 states in 27 days. He called it a holiday but it sounded a lot more like project research to me. He says he’s keeping a low profile, building a shop. He’s just added his 9th client …tic toc …
Why are you successful? “I’ve had opportunities. Relationships. There is a lot of Calgary I’ve had a part it. I don’t give up – it’s about problems, commitment to the work and getting the job done. I’ve taken risks to do what I believed were the right things to do.”
What has held you back? “Not much. I’m not been as self-promotional I should be.”
How do you see your business – strategy and planning transportation and urban development consultant – going forward over the next quarter?
… business is picking up. I’m very positive – in what I’m hearing in Calgary. I’m working on projects, just added my 9th client and I’m looking to hire …
And over the next five years?
… autonomous and connected vehicles – especially driverless trucks are going to impact and fundamentally change how people and goods travel. Smaller cities, without large staffs, will need lots of help. How will the future change us?
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… past performance is the best predictor of future performance. I like people who are collaborative – you need different perspectives around the table. I need all the data – then I can make fact based decisions.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Mac Logan, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… I add value to what they are doing. I was a ‘customer’ for many years – so I know what they need. In terms of results, I’m outcome based. I’m not so much rigidly focused on process as I am on outcomes.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… I believe in leading from the front – but with shared accountability. I want knowledge but not control. It’s important to let people be heard because everybody knows something I don’t. Your net worth is your reputation. 1 + 1 = 3.
... it WAS hard. It comes and goes …
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… about health. About adding value for my clients.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… playing football in high school taught me lasting lessons on teamwork; when I was six I went into a car dealership … ; a 4th year Transportation Planning course in university; working with Al Swanson.
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