FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Tino DiManno
May 12, 2015
I first met Valentino (Tino) DiManno 17 years ago.
I was in the back seat, looking at the back of his head in early-morning frozen darkness as he piloted his Ford Explorer from Calgary to Lethbridge in a snowstorm, vehicle packed with his colleagues/team (John Plastiris, Paul Mercer, Cathy Sears) and me, bulky coats, briefcases, charts, plans, maps and support materials for ‘the big pitch’. In those days I was with Colliers in Edmonton – I’d been brought onto that team as a consultant by Tino’s crew. Tino was team-leading pitch-rehearsal, getting to know me and give me direction – and driving a snowy road all at the same time. That day I learned a winning pitch CAN be rehearsed in a car and a hotel lobby, disparate teams can work well. A process began which enriched a number of us professionally, changed lives and built a community – and produced an award winning multi-phase subdivision project in Lethbridge called Riverstone. We won the project, he won my admiration as a steady guy, coolest cucumber in the room, and we’ve staying in loose-touch over those years. His career has expanded significantly. Tino DiManno is currently carrying two titles – Executive Vice President, Energy & Resources and Executive Vice President, Canada at Stantec.
Catching up in mid-April after many failed scheduling attempts (many thanks Kathy & Nav for your help) to corral an extraordinarily busy guy - I got together over breakfast at the Carriage House with this extraordinary Calgarian – awesome engineer, successful businessman, ‘son of Banff’, and old friend. OK, not as old as me … but we live in that vicinity and have a few things in common …
Back in the beginning … Tino (an only child like I am – who knew!) was born and grew up in Banff. His parents came from Italy to Banff (similar geography) to make a better life. His mother worked in the restaurant business. His dad and brother worked for CP on the trains. Two brothers from Terelle, Italy married two sisters. K-12 in Banff (skiing, biking, hiking, fishing – lots), good student, determined, knew he wanted to do something important. Math and science were his strengths – influenced by Bobby Kwas, a friend of his dad’s, he attended University of Calgary where he earned a B.Sc. in Engineering. An internship, scholarship format, at HBOAG was a great help in getting through the four year. His first job was at Genstar Land Development, starting May 2nd, 1979. “I started in the field – they had no use for office sitting junior engineers .. it was the best experience I could have asked for.”
He met wife-to-be Robin in 77/78, they have a son and a daughter. Tino’s path from early work at Genstar to starting his career at Stantec in Jan.`86 was a path strewn with the NEP, ups and downs in the economy, layoffs and some job changes – during which Tino did a ’50`-year study’ of development potential around Calgary. Seems that project time bode well for his future …
Tino, among other distinguished works, was selected to serve on the Flood Remediation Advisory Panel – where he volunteered his expertise. “I grew up in the watershed – every year in the third week of June we would watch that water rise in Banff. I wanted to help. I also wanted to be sure we (meaning Stantec) wouldn’t be conflicted. I was advised ‘just do it’. The combination of rain and wet snow on that scale was unprecedented. I felt, I have to help with this. And Stantec helped. And our employees helped – some paid work and lots of volunteering.”
What is the right-combination of remedies? “The 10m. diameter tunnel needs more study. It’s a $300-500 million project. The Springbank berm .. lots of politics.”
What has contributed most to your success? “Dedication to getting things done right. Doing what is required to get the job done. I love Calgary, and the services business. Selling intellectual capital is a great way to feel good.”
What has held you back? “I don’t feel I’ve been held back. I decided I would stick with being here and this hasn't beeen an impediment to my opportunities.”.
Before we concluded our prolonged breakfast discussion, I stepped carefully on some eggshells to ask Tino to talk about the loss of his parents – about their tragic traffic deaths, killed instantly in a multiple-vehicle crash twelve years ago, in early morning fog – and I asked him about that. “My cousin, a police officer, came to the door to give me the news. My kids were 11 & 7 then – I tried to be strong. My parents would have been upset with me if I crumbled …”
I asked Tino how he sees his business “professional services business”; I asked ‘how’s business looking, going forward over the next quarter?’
… OK. Oil & gas will be hurting. Government still needs to do things. Our land development group will suffer as things slow down. Our economy should still be buoyant …
And over the next five years?
… more pressure to do things cheaper – and at higher velocity. Offshoring could be a threat – but difficult problems require different/local ways of solving. Technology – doing more, deeper. Continued industry consolidation. Since I joined Stantec we’ve grown from 300 to 15,000.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… integrity, respectful. People who stand behind what they do. Service – both internal and external.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Tino DiManno and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… value. Doing the right thing, not always the least expensive. It hurts me when WE don’t measure up. Putting people first.
How would you describe your management style?
… open, empowerment. I’m a big believer in taking risks … with successors.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… health and wellbeing of my family. How we ‘Calgary/Canada’ are progressing – do we have the spine to do what is right when political correctness gets in the way? [when I followed up with a question about his political ambitions – ‘political success would require pretending to be someone I'm not ... I'm not prepared to do that’]
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my parents, their work ethic, zest for living. 1982 was a big turning point for me – learned how fleeting things could be.
Work/life balance, do you have it?
… I do. I delegate. I don’t micromanage.
… coaching my son’s hockey, travelling … Italy visiting family. I’m an F-1 fan. We have a place in Kelowna. Reading. Golfing a little - I’ve had an elbow injury. I bike a lot. Hockey fan.
… on the day we met .. his wife’s Volvo wagon. On other days, 2012 Porsche Cayenne.
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