FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Phil Markovich
November 11, 2014
I first met Phil Markovich of BFR Consulting about twenty-five years ago. That’s a few NFR rodeos ago – we were both in Edmonton then – he with Manulife, I with Colliers. He worked for the landlord, I worked for a tenant. We didn’t get well acquainted – both busy doing deals, but not so much with each other.
We reminisced over coffee and scones recently – caught up on twenty years of story-swappin’, name droppin’ and coffee sippin’ at the original Good Earth Café in the Beltline.
Phil is neither prone to casual talk nor informality. I don’t know if I’ve ever seem him without natty suit and tie, though he tells me there is a sports, outdoors and athletic side of him I’ve never seen.
His mother, a nurse from Ontario, came west in search of adventure. She met Phil’s dad in Peace River. He was an agronomist who didn’t want to farm. His career was with the Alberta government in Lands and Forests. Phil, born in Calgary, eldest of four, raised and schooled in Edmonton, he is a graduate of Archbishop MacDonald High School. His university career began in Toronto but he quickly learned the massive lecture halls were not for him. He transferred to St. Francis Xavier University where he obtained a B.Comm. An accounting major, he planned to be an accountant. It didn’t work out that way … because early work in auditing in a Government of Alberta job (he says two years seemed like an eternity) inspired him to do something else, somewhere else.
In 1986 Phil set out for Toronto, sublet an apartment and secured a job with Manulife Real Estate where he worked in property management using his accounting expertise. A transfer into leasing turned his crank. When a transfer to home-town Edmonton took him west, his girlfriend Mary followed. They are married, no kids, she’s the accountant and star tennis player in the family.
Phil’s work at Manulife ended in 2001 when he started his own firm (BFR Consulting). He explains that means ‘Better Financial Results’, and not big fat realtor! He has interwoven freelance consulting assignments with conventional employment in the commercial real estate industry – stints with Government of Alberta negotiating leases, Bentall in Edmonton and Calgary, consulting to owners and property managers – and primary current assignment through BFR, negotiating leases for the Government of Alberta.
What has contributed most to your success? “I worked hard, invested time and effort helping people I worked for. An ability to develop and maintain relationships. Giving back to the community – St. FX alumni, working with younger grads, MS Society involvement with cycling, raising money.”
What has held you back? “Making a pile of money isn’t the be-all and end-all of life. I don’t think I missed any significant opportunities. I’m happy with life.”
I asked Phil how he sees his businesses – advising clients on commercial leases – generally; ‘how’s business?’ over the next quarter?
… good for tenants. There is a fair degree of opportunity and availability. Landlords are more keen to do deals today rather than rolling the dice on what the near-term future might hold.
And over the next five years?
… don’t know if we’ll solve the pipeline capacity and environmental issues – which will cause oversupply. Economies still shaky around the world. Consumption is not growing as fast as projected.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… good reputation for fairness, ethical, responsible. Price is important, but not the most important. I’d rather pay a little more and work with people who can continue to be in business!
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Phil Markovich and BFR Consulting, why do they do business with you, why have they chosen you, over your competitors?
… what I bring to the table – fair, hard working, responsible, integrity. I treat people the way I like to be treated.
How would you describe your leadership or management style?
… open, relaxed, engage people to offer them genuine opportunities. We’re so much better working together than we are as individuals.
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?
… transferring from a large school (U of A) to St. FX. I didn’t want an assembly-line education. Moving to Toronto. Trying real estate. Meeting my wife, at St. FX and again at a wedding of mutual friends in Toronto. She’s continued to ground me and counsel me – or I wouldn’t be half the person I am today.
Work life balance, do you have it?
… I feel I do.
… outdoors as much as possible. Downhill skiing, snowshoeing, cycling, tennis, hiking.
What do you read?
… in fits and starts; Warren Buffett’s biography, crime novels, whatever strikes my fancy.
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