FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Marjorie Zingle
January 9, 2018
Most of my interviews take 75-90 minutes. Some take a good deal longer – in part because hers is a longer story, in part because she’s incredibly interesting with great stories to tell and, let’s just say it’s a longer than usual journey …
She never had children – she’s had businesses. Her first business, at age five, was her lemonade stand – she paid mom for the lemons and sugar, she paid her staff (her younger brother) with marbles …
She says she’s the only woman in the world to own a data centre …
Marjorie Zingle was born at home, Star City, Saskatchewan. Mom was from a farm family, so was her dad – he was a Pentecostal minister. Raised in a ‘strict’ household, Marjorie was both precocious and eager to leave home.
The family moved when she was three – to Saskatoon, then to North Battleford – she left home in the 11th grade at 17. She wanted to get away from home, was an average student – wanted to be in business. Self-described as an average student who didn’t study very much. She worked part-time at Safeway. Her interests were sales, economics, leaving home …
“I loved school, but it wasn’t home!”
Together with three girlfriends, she moved to Edmonton, got work on the 4AM shift at Gainers meat packing plant. Cleaning wieners. She enrolled in business school, got her secretarial skills and began working to advance her business career. She married Del Zingle (boy from Thorsby who moved to Edmonton – C.A., now semi-retired) in 1955 – they’ve been married 62 years. “Kids didn’t happen for us …”. Her working life is too long to detail fully here; in short: electrical permitting, insurance, C.A. firm – move to Montreal, instrumentation and controls in pulp & paper industry, French immersion school, sales in instrumentation and controls – then the FLQ crisis. Her husband was offered a job in Calgary. Marjorie sold their house in Dollard, ‘played the ponies’ in Calgary for a year – successfully. She sold real estate for Royal Trust – she was #2 producer but didn’t care for it.
She saw an ad for Executive Director of the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta in the newspaper – got the job she held for five years, got professionally certified, then quit to establish the Association Management Centre which she later sold to her partner. In 2002 she bought a struggling data centre – part hobby, part curiosity, part technology love … in any case, 15 yrs. later things are really buzzing in her hive! Her firm DATAHIVE operates a 5,000 sq. ft., data centre/ISP/server co-location facility offering bandwidth, floor/rack space, security, back-up/emergency power, offers service through three fibre-optic providers. And, in her spare time she works on her charity Rhoda’s New Shoes – helping women in need to help support themselves.
She’s still in business, has a lot more marbles than most of us – and she’s in that august group of Calgarians - the ‘top 7 over 70’ you may have read about …
Why are you successful? “It’s who and how I am. I had to prove myself – to my parents, to myself. In the morning I can hardly wait to get to the office. I love what I do.”
What has held you back? “Men. There was always a man telling me what I could or could not do.”
How do you see your business – internet technology – going forward over the next quarter?
… I’m so happy. The last three years have been choppy – but we are better off than we were four years ago. Not by much, but we are thriving. Local business, but we also have a lot of Montreal and Toronto region firms with their gear here – not because of price, but because of the service.
And over the next five years?
… fantastic, especially if the larger players don’t wake up to how rapidly this industry is changing. We are nimble and flexible. [pressed for an answer of ‘how is it changing?’ … Marjorie answered with a whisper: “Sensors”]
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… I’ve never spent money I don’t have. I’m a negotiator. I try to be loyal – I buy Canadian and deal with Canadian suppliers as much as I can.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Marjorie Zingle/DATAHIVE, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… we don’t have any sales staff. I do the selling. Most of our business comes from referrals by our customers and by word of mouth.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… a fist, in a velvet glove. My staff are all long term, they work well as a team and support each other.
… not much. My life is my work and my work is my life …
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… mostly about our data centre! About ineffective decisions bureaucrats make …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… I’ve had four great mentors. Jerry Webber, John Francis, Huey Craig and Jack Donohue. They taught me so much – about business, how to negotiate, about lobbying – and my mantra: “never give away how you make your living, but be generous with your money”.
… going out for dinner. I used to ski a lot, dance a lot. Travel – lots, to the far east, Egypt, Europe, the U.S. and South America.
What do you read?
… mostly business books, IT publications – and yes, I read business books for pleasure. I love to read biographies and speeches – they inspire me and make me more determined.
… I have a 1998 Mercedes SLK convertible with 10,000 miles on it – for fun. And I have a 2015 Mercedes sedan for everyday use.
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