FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Mike Tims
November 6, 2012
My recent conversation with Mike Tims, Chairman at Peters & Co. , conducted over an entertaining lunch at his favourite table at the Ranchman’s Club, complete with bottomless Gruyère cheese plate. Seriously, he’s a nice man with who talked across, not down, to me about his reality . . .
I asked him, to describe his proudest moment in your Peters & Co career?
We have been very fortunate to be involved in many great deals and have done lots of great business transactions over 41 years, but I have always felt that the transaction that launched us into bigger and better things was when we were co-advisor to Alberta Energy Company Ltd. in its acquisition of Conwest Exploration Company Ltd., in 1995 (17 years ago) While we later advised on many transactions, larger and smaller, this was a bit of a break-through deal for us and it gave us new confidence about managing significant deals.
…. and, his greatest regret?
As with most people in client service businesses that require long hours, this necessarily takes time from family and from personal interests. So, my greatest regret is simply a lack of time to do everything that I have wanted to do. However, I love our business, I work with wonderful partners and colleagues, I am still happily with my wife (after 30 years), and we have three great, well-educated kids (ages 18, 25 and 27).That all seems to be a very good result.
As we look at the near term, with lots of storm clouds on American and European horizons, how does he see the market, over the next 90 days?
While I remain very optimistic in the long run about energy and Calgary, I think that there is a bit of a pause coming in both the investment markets and in some kinds of oil and gas investment activity. Natural gas prices remain too low; oil prices have softened a bit; regulatory/government matters are generating worries; and investors are looking more closely at oil price differentials and at overall investment returns, and they are trading fewer stocks these days. With a “big picture” backdrop that includes: a weakening global economy, the Eurozone issues, the U.S. debt and deficit concerns (which don’t go away post-election), and international tensions on various issues,..... and with stocks being priced for a rosier scenario, I am bracing for a correction. ( I have, however, been too cautious before sometimes.)
. . . and, looking ahead, how do you see the position of your company in the market and vis-à-vis the industry, over the next 5 years?
I see our firm’s main advantages to be: our independence; our stability and strong financial position; our ethics and values; our focus on the quality of the services that we provide; and our strong focus on the quality of the companies which we finance, and whose shares we recommend. I see these advantages as standing us in good stead, notwithstanding the competitiveness of the investment banking industry in Calgary. We have seen competitors come and go, periodic oil and gas industry turmoil and turmoil in some other investment firms at various times over the past 41 years, but we have just tried to stay the course with what we think is the right strategy and a strong approach to serving clients well.
I asked Mike to describe what qualities distinguish his preferred suppliers?
These qualities are : service orientation; availability; awareness of value; and cost-consciousness. On the latter point, we are very busy, so we simply want to pay fair prices for goods and services, commensurate with market rates. A supplier who tries to take a short-term advantage in pricing probably won’t be in our picture for long, as we will find someone who is fair.
Without revealing trade secrets, why do your clients hire you instead of your competitors?
--- I think that the main factor remains the skills, knowledge and intellect of our people. However, our commitment to service, our availability and our willingness to give our best advice, even against our short-run economic interests, are all important too.
Offering him an opportunity to plug for business, I asked what is your company/industry’s most significant ‘unsung’ advantage?
--- Our company’s most unsung advantage is how well our 90 people function as a team. Teams beat individuals all the time, and much of what we do (including our communications and our compensation system) fosters great teamwork. All companies say that they want teamwork....but many do not do what it takes to really achieve it.
I don’t think clothes make the man . . . but I believe I learn valuable things about people when I ask about their cars, so Mike, tell me about your ride . . .
I am not really a “car guy”, so I just usually simply take whatever vehicle the family allocates to me. I am today driving a 2011 Mercedes-Benz BlueTec SUV (diesel)--- good traction in winter (as I go to work very early in the morning, even by Calgary standards) and excellent fuel economy.
Mike’s generosity – in the community, and his time spent with me, is greatly appreciated. Thank you Mike for taking time to share with our readers.
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