FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Scot Caithness
August 27, 2013
I first met Scot Caithness 25 years ago when we sat together as members of the Court of Revision (now Municipal Government Boards) in Edmonton, hearing tax assessment appeals, getting acquainted over lunch breaks – seeing each other in action during hearings. I liked him plenty then. Our paths brought us both to Calgary where our paths cross from time to time, but catching him in one place very long in recent years for coffee or lunch has been challenging – as it was for this interview.
His return from assignments in the middle east, should have resulted in long catching up times over lunch much sooner, but then he was off eastern Europe on other projects for SNC-Lavalin. His recent move to the position of Leasing Manager, Canada for WorleyParsons June 1st this year has given time to unpack his luggage and fit in some catch up with old friends time – which we did recently.
So, lets go to the beginning . . . in Edmonton, son of a well known real estate entrepreneur, Scot followed his dad’s advise to get his real estate license, get an appraisal designation and to take business at the U of A (B.Comm 1980). He learned quickly, licensed in real estate at 19, that a sure way to feel good was to go out and make a deal – and he thrived on that early success.
His well ordered path was interrupted by an accident in October 1991, spending a year in hospital followed by a 5 yr. recovery (and 29 operations on his right arm) which took him out of the mainstream of business during important years in his career. He taught himself to be left handed. The silver lining – “I got to spend those 5 years at home when my kids were very young, which most dads don’t get to do”.
He moved to Calgary in 2002, worked with Altus on consulting assignments and property tax assessment appeals before moving over to SNC-Lavalin’s Nexacor division, working with the Bell portfolio (3,800 leases). After completion of the Bell campus in Calgary, a 2 yr. assignment in Doha, Qatar as a corporate real estate advisor to owners of a 25 acre, $3.5 billion development stretched into 4 ½ yrs. “Our son stayed here. Our teenage daughter hated it – I think she cried for 3 months, but she stayed there! She has a great job managing a law office. My wife Leslie is an artist – she painted everywhere we went. We brought a number of pieces home with us, but a lot of them were sold in a very successful fund-raising auction before we left.”
Returning to Calgary in Feb. 2011, Scot set up a business unit at SNC’s office here – only to be sent on assignment to Saudi Arabia, then to eastern Europe to manage a JV with Homburg involving 59 buildings and business development work, returning to Calgary in Oct. 2012, working on projects in Calgary, Vancouver and Ontario. In the spring of 2013 and opportunity with WorleyParsons came knocking . . “We have 3,000 people in Calgary, 4,000 in Edmonton, a strong presence in Toronto, St. Johns, lots of activity in Alberta, Saskatchewan, northern BC and in Vancouver. Engineering firms tend to take space for projects, pass all the costs along to clients. That results in costs we can tighten up. I’m focused on getting to know our portfolio across the country.”
I asked Scot what qualities distinguish preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers.
… integrity, straight shooters, sense of humour, no B.S., no surprises
I asked what distinguishes him, why his customers choose him over competitors, which includes, why did WorleyParsons hire you?
… the same qualities I suppose. My ability to create and maintain relationships. The drive to do the deal. While I still believe this business is about relationships, I’m probably naïve to think that WorleyParsons hired me because of simply the ability to create those. I recall in the interview that they liked that I have been somewhat of a hired gun at SNC and used to working pretty much on my own for diverse group of clients
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… my kids generation – their attitudes toward sex, they seem desensitized. That worries me because the whole love/relationship/commitment/marriage issue becomes so much less important to this generation.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my accident was literally a real shot in the arm. Time with my kids when they were little. My mother died when I was 35. If I could wake them up, the two people I would most like to have lunch with – would be my mother and my mother-in-law. They were both very strong women. Lots of fun. I miss them both very much.
I asked Scot how he sees engineering business from Worley Parsons perspective over the next 90 days?
… very busy, there is so much infrastructure to be rebuilt
Over the next 5 years?
… a continued strong economy in Calgary. There is so much money being invested in the northern part of this province – all of it controlled here.
Work life balance?
… travel, deep powder skiing, scuba diving
What are you reading?
… lots of leases! .. Flight of the Eagle by Conrad Black, adventure novels by Wilbur Smith
… whenever weather permits, Harley Davidson Ultra Glide. In foul weather, the Suburban. Some sunny days I drive my wife’s Mustang convertible.
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