FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Shannon Potter
August 2, 2016
Part time retailer/server in an ice-cream joint, summer jobs in construction – and an early career in journalism. Not the planned law career, not commercial real estate leasing … well, not in the beginning.
In the business of commercial real estate, getting to know our contemporaries very well is a challenge – because we have so many short conversations: giving/getting information, touring prospective tenants and buyers or just talking-shop. These days that is often a conversational mix of emails, texts, voice-jail messages, phone calls started at red lights and ended when traffic gets dodgy – the result of which we often ‘know people’ we’ve never really sat with, talked with and explored ‘getting to know them’. One such busy person I’ve been trying to corral for an interview for a very long time is Morguard’s Calgary Leasing Director, Shannon Potter. Well, we finally made the time – it was a far-ranging enlightening exploration of her success and hard work.
Shannon Potter’s journey began here – born in Calgary. Mom was a stay-at-home kind, with three children. Shannon has an older sister and younger brother. Dad’s career took him from plant manager for IKO, to being a contractor and eclectic master of carpentry and other construction expertise – most of which Shannon got exposed to during summer jobs on-site, great preparation for her eventual career path …
Rebellious second child? “No, more the ‘under the radar’ child. I was never there – spent so much time out, at friends homes and at part-time jobs from 13 onward”. She grew up in Acadia, attended Lord Beaverbrook High (class of '87) where she described herself as a ‘mediocre student’ and avid athlete who did all the sports in junior high and high school. Her path was to be law, but it didn’t turn out that way.
Shannon obtained a BA, in English at University of Calgary but postponed law school in favour of making a living. Her first job after university was writing, in the newsroom at the Calgary Herald (in the J.P. O’Callaghan era), shift-work staffing the desk, monitoring the police scanner. She might have had a long career in journalism but an event in 1987/88 time frame, a hot-air balloon accident involving a death and the reporting of it, and how journalists do/should deal with that turned her away from the gruesome bits, that underbelly of journalism – coinciding with an opportunity to relocate to Vancouver. She followed her boyfriend and his career, but didn’t move without a job to go to. She found one with a software support service firm – but hated it. Good thing, because her next stop brought her into our industry. Buetel Goodman – everything from reception to administration, earned her RPA designation and got involved in office, industrial and development work. Her title when she exited was Property Manager.
Personal business intersected – a relationship ended, sold the house and returned to Calgary … but first, she explored south-east Asia for six months. Her path since has been incremental and steady (though she fit in meeting and marrying Andy Potter, an oil & gas consultant, and having two sons along that path); Bayview Property Management, TONKO, Dundee, and most recently – Director of Leasing for Calgary at Morguard.
Why are you successful? “I consider myself a work in progress. Say what you are going to do and do what you say.”
What has held you back? “Confidence to take more career risk during that ‘marry, get established, have kids’ phase of my career. I didn’t stretch as much as I might have. But, I’m a work in progress …”
And yes, we talked shop, had lunch - well worth the wait.
How do you see your business – “property management, asset management and development” – going forward over the next quarter?
… certain segments are hurting, but we are doing what we always do, in up or down markets, working hard to fill our buildings with market-driven deals and providing good customer service to our tenants and our owners.
And over the next five years?
… technology is and will continue to shape how we do business; not what we work on, but how we work. Real estate is fundamentally a people business and you can’t substitute technology for that …
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… I’m not a ‘shopper’, I’m a buyer. If I need something, I go get it. For example, I only use two handbags – both black – and don’t have the time to change every day. In suppliers and people – I look for the capacity and willingness to provide the standard I require. It’s not just about price, I do want to get what I’m paying for.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Shannon Potter, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… I inspire confidence. I tell you what I’m going to do, and then I do it – or I’ll call you and explain why I can’t. I don’t like surprises. Nobody does. I’m selling what I would buy.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… collaborative. I’m not a micro-manager. My door is, literally, always open. I don’t butt heads with anyone in my office.
… working on it.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… I worry about everything. My kids. My yard. About my dad who has cancer. About how my mom is doing, coping. About everything that might go wrong on our Chilkoot Trail trip. I have a Plan B for everything …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my father’s high integrity, taught me values of working hard – personally, professionally and in sports. A fifth grade teacher, Linda Latoski – she was hard to please, demanding and not afraid to tell students, this one anyway, “you can do better”. J.P. O’Callaghan – he always put his dime in the tin for his coffee early in the morning when nobody was watching.
… always, since childhood, loved time at the family cabin at Gull Lake. Ski, run, yoga, hiking. We are hiking the Chilkoot pass this August with our sons.
What do you read?
… everything! I always have at least two book on the go. Currently, Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion and Elizabeth Hay’s This Boys’ Life. I read lots of fiction and non-fiction. Love Niall Ferguson’s books. Gwyn Dyer – I’ve read everything he’s written. [she rattled off several other favourite authors but I couldn’t scribble fast enough – so, when you talk to her next, talk to her about books!]
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