FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Mark Bernard
October 18, 2016
His Sioux name ‘Heckamony’, given to him by a group of elders means ‘he who walks backwards’ … someone who doesn’t follow the rules. His life has had its share of that I suppose – but as I’ve seen him in action, and as he’s recounted his path it seems the path has zigged and zagged plenty (but whose hasn’t?) on the road from that starting point …
I first met Mark Bernard several years ago in the Toastmasters world – but we’ve continued crossing paths in many ways that make me smile, make me say ‘hmm …. vewwy interesting!). Small world things.
Where did his path start? Born in Winnipeg – dad was in the military police and mom did office work. Mark was the baby (you’d hardly think of him that way at 6’5½”) – preceded by two older sisters. The family moved around a lot with dad’s work post-military career in law-enforcement (small town policing), hotel ownership, private-investigator work – around SW Manitoba and then back to Winnipeg. Mark recalls his childhood days of being known as, and having high-expectations from others who knew him, as ‘Al’s son’ …
Adolescence – a biker gang (the kind you pedal), excelled in school sports: track & field, volleyball, basketball, badminton, ping pong. After graduation from Glen Lawn Collegiate in Winnipeg, Mark balanced part-time work in private law enforcement and school – obtaining B.A. and M.A. degrees from University of Winnipeg – exploring a broad range of sociology, anthropology, geology and philosophy studies, and courses preparing him for work in teaching and/or counselling … in search of better understanding himself and his heritage. In those days his dad was very low-key about his Metis heritage (Mark's dad's mother was Sioux, his dad's mother a mix of French and many nations) – but then Mark’s own pursuit of his heritage had an influence and spurred interest/involvement with dad and sisters. Our discussion took us on a few tributaries of adventure – including his heavy involvement in downhill skiing in university days as President of the Ski Club. Skiing, in Winnipeg? “I was the organizer of bus-trips to the mountains!” And, as you might expect, he was President of his university's Toastmasters club.
Back to the career/business world. And personal relationships. Mark met his wife Sharon at a Toastmasters conference; his first marriage, her second. They have three grown children and four grandchildren. Career moves in Winnipeg were progressive in security work, sales and marketing – and then a job transfer to Calgary in 1996. They sold their house, Sharon took a leave from her teaching job … and the job fell through. They came to Calgary anyway, seeing better opportunities here. Lucky us!
Mark explored sales jobs, spent time selling insurance – then got a lead with Calgary Board of Education and began working as a behavioural specialist with troubled youth. That led to similar work, and household moves, in the Black Diamond, DeWinton and Okotoks areas. But Mark couldn’t shake the desire to own his own business which he started in 2000-2003 as HQ Training – then a change of name to Bernard Training Solutions. He’s the primary trainer and owner; a staff of three, plus his ‘virtual assistant’ right now and ‘growth mode’ is in full swing. He’s written a book. He’s a professional public speaker too.
Why are you successful? “I have to give a lot of credit to my wife Sharon – she’s seen, believed in and supported the ‘potential’ in me. I’ve been open and vulnerable. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have – it’s authenticity and passion people want and are drawn to. I put myself out there, I don’t sugar-coat."
What has held you back? “I never bought into ‘needing a team’. I was wrong, and that change in thinking has been transformative for me. My dad – given the times and his attitude growing up in Metis settlements, attending residential schools – believed that not wearing/owning that heritage was a good thing. Maybe it was then, and for him. For me it wasn’t OK – and I turned it around. I got active in the Metis Federation of Manitoba. In 93/94 I established Mystic Wolf Native World Trading – selling replicas of artifacts. I always had a table, selling at pow-wows.”
So, Mark, how do you reconcile your life with ‘doing things backwards’? “I needed to learn that I couldn’t be someone I’m not – so I did other things first!”
How do you see your business – “sales training, consulting and coaching” – going forward over the next quarter?
… for me, business is increasing – and that growth is keeping me very busy. I think our trajectory into 2017 is going to be a game-changer for us.
And over the next five years?
… our type of work is going to explode – changes in society and business culture are aligning with our business. The landscape of our customers is shifting. Technology is changing the selling process – but that means more than embracing social media and selling on-line. Traditional selling requirements are never going away – and so many businesses need a new approach to selling like never before.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… that their core values match mine. I used to go more on my gut-feeling, but over time I’ve learned the facts and doing my research have served me better.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Mark Bernard, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… they see integrity and an open mind. I’m an expert at what I do – and I know what I’m doing.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… I think I’ve always been a macro-manager, collaborative. I believe in the round-table approach, making sure everyone is engaged and feels they have a voice. I want to be around people who challenge me …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
... Miss Buckles, in 3rd grade – she saw something in me at a time where I gained the nick-name ‘crash-bang’ from a lot of reckless bone-breaking adventures biking (the pedal kind). My mom and dad. My dad was larger than life, a pillar of the community. And a girl, I don’t remember her name (we were 16) who encouraged me to join Toastmasters. It took me a long time to get there, but I'll never forget or regret that advice.
… coin collecting, volunteer work, metal-detecting, travel, rv-ing (5th wheel, parked at the lake). And when I was younger – backpacking around Europe and the Middle East, living on a Kibbutz, an archaeological dig in Tel Aviv. Toastmasters. Working out at the gym, fishing and swimming. I miss the lakes in Manitoba … and ski-dooing.
What do you read?
… non-fiction mostly. Personal development books. Audio books and ‘real books’, no Kindle. In terms of fiction, I’m a big Wilbur Smith fan – he writes using history and archaeological references in his work which really interest me.
… 2007 Dodge Ram ¾ ton – need that for towing our 38’ 5th wheel.
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