FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Mike Kerr
February 19, 2013
My recent conversation with Mike Kerr, Principal at Davies Park Executive Search in his Stock Exchange office offered me significant insight to his firm’s approach to recruiting – but much more, offered insight to what makes Mike tick.
Mike moved to Calgary from his Winnipeg birthplace when he was 3 months old – since then, Calgary has groomed him – did his junior high and high school at Strathcona Tweedsmuir (his mom taught there), studied finance and marketing at University of Calgary. B.Comm. CGA. Some industry wandering, a couple of long stints in the ATCO organization and then he went for a run with Alan Nielson for some coaching on preparation for an interview. Nielson recruited him instead. While he does plenty of teaching and mentoring in the CGA professional programs, his primary focus is DaviesPark. And he calls himself a ‘former runner’ after having broken his leg in 30 places … now limiting his leisure to golf, cycling, hiking and snow shoeing.
He brags, justifiably, about his firm’s growth – from Alberta roots, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto and a strong association with Pearson Partners in Dallas and other industry partners who share philosophy as well as databases.
I asked Mike how he sees the market, over the next 90 days?
… we need some political settling – too much uncertainty around pipelines. And health care – we need to find efficiencies to better balance and define public services and private
. . . and over the next 5 years?
… from my perspective, we need to solve issues in youth employment across the country. For example, we have a huge oversupply of teachers in Ontario, lots of late ‘Y’s’ can’t find work in the fields for which they were trained. We have a leadership gap coming in the executive level – a lot of people staying on, working longer, but without enough bench strength of the succession ‘generation’ to take their places. Also, the shortage of skilled trades people will remain a large challenge for Alberta
What trends do you see in the executive search industry?
. . . the large firms – thanks to software proliferation (DILSTO), networking tools (like LinkedIn) – no longer hold an advantage simply by virtue of size. Certainly companies will have an easier time of soliciting applicants directly, but the most important and valued service of our industry is around evaluation
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… personally, I worry about my kids, about their future. Professionally, I worry about our business, meeting employer expectations
Work/life balance – what is at the core of it for you?
. . . two-way loyalty, giving my time and expertise to help coaching sports, sitting on not-for-profit boards, mentoring and working on education initiatives in the CMA program
Any significant sea-change moments that changed your life or strong influences?
. . . three of them; my wife of 24 years has taught me a sense of spirituality and been my cheerleader and supporter of my risk taking. My long time friend Judd Virtue – we push each other. My high school basketball coach Jim Schmidt who taught me that, despite my height, I could be a good basketball player, build my confidence
What qualities, looking back, have distinguished your preferred suppliers, partners and employees ?
. . . I need to feel a values connection – is it like ours, and will they be around when I need them? We like to align ourselves with firms that are giving back to the community
What qualities do your clients look for in you, in your firm, that distinguishes you or sets you apart from your competitors?
. . . the strength is in the relationships that we build. Our partners do the work. When our clients get our advice and recommendations we know the candidates because we’ve interviewed them ourselves. We avoid conflicts, wherever possible we work with one client per industry category. We don’t work for everybody
What are you reading?
. . . Trinity and Redemption by Leon Uris and re-reading Good to Great by Jim Collins
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