FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Patricia Verburgt
May 10, 2016
I find first-born people interesting, and only-children even more – like me, they have a different perspective on the world than everyone else! Well, we think so …
I find successful people fascinating – have yet to meet two who remotely seem the same, yet qualities and backgrounds that drive them and make them thriving people feel similar. My time getting to the root of things with Patricia Verburgt (pronounced VAIR-BURKT) was no exception.
She’s recently transplanted her career as Business Development Manager in the Calgary office of Scott Builders – a province-wide firm still rooted in Red Deer where I grew up. Patricia’s roots are confusing, her Asian appearance and Dutch surname could confuse one … the answer is Dutch-Indonesian roots.
Born in Weesp, Netherlands, her parents – mom was in the perfume business, dad a welder – met and married in Jakarta but relocated to the Netherlands during Sukarno times of unrest in Indonesia. They immigrated to Canada, and chose Calgary, on the recommendation of Canadian immigration staff – without any idea what they were in for and without connections here. Lucky us!
Patricia began her Canadian schooling as a fifth grader in an ESL program at Dr. Norman Bethune School, graduated from Lord Beaverbrook High and then studied political science and commerce at University of Calgary, emerging after five years with B.A. and B.Comm degrees … and then followed a path well away from original intention (law) – retail sales/management, a marketing job, an 11 year stint at SMED (later taken over by Haworth) in marketing, product line-building/management and project sales. She left just before the Haworth factory closure was announced. She welcomed a chance to do a task for SMED days friend/colleague Dedre Toker at Toker and Associates – to help write a job description for their ‘next hire’ and began thinking “this would be a cool job”. Six years and nine months later she left – not from being unhappy, but in search of a career path with “a seat at the table”. She took 10 days off, made some calls. “I was humbled – and validated by people calling, wanting to explore me, and what I wanted to do.” An opportunity with Scott Builders emerged, and it seems they embraced each other …
She says, “it was an easy choice – Neil Elford was new, we seemed like a good fit. I like ‘different’ and saw a future and ownership in the company, a plan and a seat at the table.”
Married to Ian Morrow [he teaches Turfgrass Management at Olds College] they have no children, and one dog – a German Schnauzer. On children, “I have an aversion to them!”
Why are you successful? “People skills, relationships first. Trusted, knowledgeable. When I connect with people – that’s where we start, and the ‘business’ follows as the love-child of that relationship.”
What has held you back? “I don’t think that way. I’m happy. I like what I do and I have fun.”
How do you see your business – design-build and construction management – going forward over the next quarter?
… ‘we build stuff’. Less good than a year ago – but we are winning projects and closing business. People are still busy …
And over the next five years?
… methodology of contraction and the way people get delivery is going to morph – the concept of, ‘how do we partner better with others involved’ to get more interconnected, more synergy with the concept the client should be at the centre of it all. When you are smaller, you give more attention – and produce a better client experience. Schedule, budget and quality – more integration; it doesn’t have to cost more, it’s just better.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… follow through – people who do what they say they will. Having my back. Knowing they are going to do the right thing. Smarmy sales people freak me out!
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Patricia Verburgt and Scott Builders, and why do they do business with you, why do they hire you, over your competitors?
… because I’m fun! Seriously, there’s a correlation – I’m genuine. We are not just a general contractor – clients, consultants, contractor, a project is approached based on how the team performs. We are 100% employee owned – what we do and how we do matters. We all have a stake. We are proud of 40 years, but for the next 40 we need new blood, new energy and new ways of delivering as partners in industry.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… inspiring, lead by example, a sense of humour. I don’t ask somebody to do something I wouldn’t do myself. High energy, fun …
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… fear of failure drives me. I didn’t want to be average – I want to be above average. I’m ‘a little bit competitive’ [the laughter spilling into the hallway]. I worry about what is going on in Alberta, oil prices.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my parents – their courage and determination coming from Holland to Canada. There was a recruitment program, a point system, so it wasn’t easy. Dad got a job easily. Mom didn’t find it as easy – she worked in a warehouse, then got into banking. Mogens Smed was a great influence, so in tune with ‘we build the relationship’, his ability to connect with people, a European way of doing business.
Work / life balance?
… I’ve made peace with it – it’s out of balance!
… love cooking, I’m very good! Love dinner parties, entertaining. Chicken satay lover. My favourite workout at Barre Studio. It’s a ballet-based program.
What do you read?
… The Harry Potter series, got them for Christmas; Peter Theil’s “Zero to One” is on my nightstand, Peter Jensen’s “Thriving in a 24-7 World” is next.
… 2015 Tourag TDI … and, yes, I’m part of the class action lawsuit against VW.
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