FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Nair Bailey
September 15, 2015
He’s in the recruiting and executive search business – spends about 35% of his time on retained searches, the balance on contingency work. He explained this to me – and the uptake for me is that his industry is brutally competitive, especially now with so many people seeking work with so few opportunities …
Who is Nair Bailey? As head gringo over at Bailey Professional Search it would be easy to say ‘just another headhunter’ in a city with a lot of headhunters. I’ve crossed paths with him from time to time over the years. He’s a veteran in his field – and he’s seen several boom-bust cycles in Calgary. I thought his perspective right now, having been around the block a few times in his career, would be valuable for me and hopefully illuminating for our readers …
Born in Toronto, he grew up in Oakville. Dad was a teacher following a career in the army. Mom was mom-homemaker and had a retail business. Youngest of three, Nair has two older sisters. Grades 5-12 were spent at Appleby College (where his dad taught). Nair’s focus was sports – cricket, hockey, football, soccer. He was an average student. His back injury playing football didn’t hold him back – he went on to McGill where he obtained a B.PE (physical education). Teaching began in Mississauga in 1969. Along the way he married Betty Sinclair. He’d known her since he was 10. He told me many good things, but emphasized ‘great legs’ and praise for her many qualities. They are still on that starter marriage …. No kids.
Teaching in Peel was great, but Nair and his wife had a desire to explore opportunities. Out west beckoned. Calgary. His wife worked in oil patch jobs until joining Nair’s firm in 2001. Nair worked as a recruiter in executive search firms until NEP time … then to Dean of Student Services at DeVry Technical in an administrative role. From there, back into search – a five year stint at McLean Executive Search, then a move to Bailey Personnel Services, working for Murray Bailey. Nair later bought the company which already had his name on the door!
Why are you successful? “common sense, work ethic. Uncompromising truth-telling, and integrity. I’m privy to much confidential information and you can never compromise a client and hope to win their on-going business and recommendation”.
What has held you back? “I had a heart attack in 2004 – that slowed me down a while! Seriously, I realized early on that I was not a big-organization kind of guy. I speak my mind too much. I’ve always tried to work hard/play hard. Not sure if that held me back or pushed me forward”.
Final words? “Calgary is an awesome business environment – so much diversity. While I think of retirement one day, I can’t see myself not involved in something that keeps me connected to this business community.”
How do you see your business – executive search - going forward over the next quarter?’
… we’ve been in business 23 years – we are local and work with referral relationships with firms in Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton. My business is built on relationships. They call me because I know lots of people. Things are tough right now, but we’ve been through this before.
And over the next five years?
… the internet and social media have had a huge impact on how we do our work – and on the ways in which people look for jobs. Contingency fees will remain high because it is high risk business. Retained search will continue to be very important. We do both retained and contingcy work - but in terms of managemetn consultants / retained search firms rarely do both. Some contingency firmst 'try' to both, as retained is less risk (meaning, retained is not commission based, thus they know they will be paid).
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… trust in them absolutely to do the job as described (lack of balder-dash), creativity.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Nair Bailey, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… good reputation for finding good people within a prescribed amount of time! Connecting in the marketplace. I’ve been an active member of ISA since 1992.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… I’m very organized – methodical. Collaborative. I listen. I support as much and as well as I can. You have to be a chameleon – understanding and empathizing with someone else’s point of view.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… not much …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… I’ve been blessed by a lot of people who have influenced my thinking. Encouragement during my McLean Exec. days that I could ‘do it on my own’. My dad – force of his character, work ethic, perseverance. I have a highly capable wife who supports me to death …
Work-life balance – do you have it?
… big time! We make sure we get away regularly.
… golfing with my wife on courses around Calgary. Hiking. Exploring … travel – Baja, Arizona, California. We love Montana. Helping my wife in the garden ….
What do you read?
… periodicals, aircraft magazines (I’m a warbird fan) .. when I was young I wanted to be a navy pilot (I wanted to go to CMR but my high school marks weren’t high enough!)
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