The Pekarsky Stein Calgary team on the rooftop patio of their character office in the old Alberta Hotel Building
PEOPLE BUSINESS Written by John Hardy | Photos by Melissa Arthur
ekarsky Stein, the dynamic and innovative, Calgarybased executive search firm, continues to redefine the business essentials of relationships, personal touch and the “perfect fit.” In addition to the search basic of a perfect fit of strong skill sets and core competencies, Pekarsky Stein prioritizes matching a perfect fit of personality, values, attitude, approach, collaboration and a determination to succeed with aspects of the individual company culture. As they prove with every assignment, the thorough and indepth Pekarsky Stein search for a perfect fit is so much more than a slogan. It’s what Pekarsky Stein does, and how they do it! It’s the way they work. It is the way they keep earning client and candidate trust and respect. It is their impressive track record. And it is the uncompromised Pekarsky Stein commitment to its clients and candidates. A perfect fit, in every way, is just part of the special Pekarsky Stein win-win story. “Absolutely and unconditionally, our service, our focus, our experience and our expertise is about people,” says the positive and upbeat Adam Pekarsky, the entrepreneurial go-getter and founding partner of the sought-after western Canadian search firm, with offices in Calgary and Edmonton. “Ultimately, our effectiveness, our reputation and our success is built on relationships and people. It’s about personalizing the
client relationship to fully understand the organization’s values and their specific needs. “The personalized aspects of the search are also a key to achieving the best possible fit of skilled and qualified candidates. We walk the +15s in this city every day with our clients, our candidates, our suppliers and our competitors. It’s our name on the door and keeping it personal matters.” He explains the primary Pekarsky Stein niche as ranging from managers to C-suite, General Counsels, health and safety leaders, taxation directors, chief marketing officers, training and development managers, client relations and communications directors to VPs, CIOs, CFOs, CEOs and others across various industries. “Let’s face it,” he points out with a slight chuckle. “Companies are looking for more VPs, senior managers and directors than CEOs. There’s usually only one of them.” Exceptional rapport with clients and candidates, the many components of the unconditionally personalized search and finding the perfect fit are not only key factors of the Pekarsky Stein difference but parts of the industry-leading search firm’s competitive edge. “We are intentionally a small boutique operation,” explains enthusiastic and focused partner, Terry Stein. “The nine of us have diverse business and professional backgrounds and experience and together we have unparalleled experience in areas like law, accounting and executive leadership.
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The unmistakable Alberta imagery and comfortable vibe of the Pekarsky Stein space
“Although most of our searches are customized and individual, our diverse expertise allows us to also specialize in difficult-to-fill positions across multiple industries. “Whatever the client need, we are solidly dedicated to the personal approach that large operations couldn’t possibly offer. The basics of the search process are vitally important, but it can never replace our true strength: genuine human interaction and personal relationships.” The firm is actively involved in the community, giving back by volunteering and supporting numerous community causes. Pekarsky also echoes the firm’s pledge of exceptional service and unconditional emphasis on a personal touch. “We know how to find and match the right person for the right position, mostly because we know people! And we listen! We consistently listen and we listen well,” he says with conviction. “Listening, learning, accurately reading and getting to really know the people and earn their trust are not only crucial components of the search process but keys to understanding client needs and must-haves – from skills sets and qualifications to vital intangibles like personality, attitude, values and outlook. “It’s the secret sauce of what makes us special,” Pekarsky says with competitive professionalism and a hearty laugh. “The solid relationship with the client and fully understanding and embracing what they are looking for. The things said and not said. The must-haves from the nice-to-haves.” Internally and externally, Pekarsky Stein stresses constant and effective communication. The firm follows up and stays in touch with its clients, utilizing frequent communications, weekly status reporting, comprehensive pre-screens, thorough referencing, assistance with preparing offers and the continuity of post-placement contacts. “We not only stay in touch with candidates after we place them,” adds Terry Stein, “but what separates us is how we treat them when they’re suddenly not the client but rather the candidate frustrated by other firms not returning their calls.” The firm’s (www.pekarskystein.com) website is extremely popular, especially the company blog and more than 6,000 monthly clicks on to the site’s In The Know newsletter. The partners enthusiastically underscore some other advantages of their competitive edge of “being small.” It enables the respected and high-achiever search firm to offer a non-traditional fee structure that puts the client first. It also allows a customized search, based on the specific needs of the client, from developing role descriptions, research sourcing, conducting in-depth prescreen interviews and refining short lists to facilitating client interviews, reference contacts, presenting offers and post-placement followups. PEKARSKY STEIN | 5th ANNIVERSARY | 2
Adam Pekarsky and Terry Stein openly admit that “being small” resonates with the firm’s team of professionals and they itemize other positives of being small. Clients do not pay for high overhead and that international offices or multiple and divergent lines of business would distract from Pekarsky Stein’s most important core mission and promise – assuring clients customized, personalized, nimble, responsive service. The nine executive search specialists of the Pekarsky Stein team are plugged-in and up to date about all aspects of today’s highly competitive search and recruitment business. They are solidly savvy about the exciting Calgary market and driven by not only the Pekarsky Stein uniqueness but doing whatever it takes to continue earning its respected reputation for executive search excellence. “Calgary is such a terrifically diverse city. More deals get done, based on trust. It’s the western ethic and I love it,” Pekarsky says with high-energy spirit. “It’s not only a booming market for a broad range of career professionals but it is such a wonderfully entrepreneurial and transactional market to work in. “I am convinced that Albertans like doing business with Albertans. The search process is intricate and personal. Global offices or multiple lines of business are no substitute for understanding the way Calgary clients and Calgary candidates think.” His partner and longtime friend, Terry Stein, is also supercharged about Calgary as an exciting business community. “We’re in a tremendously competitive industry, and our knowledge of the Calgary market is invaluable,” he says. “There are so many trending changes in Calgary. Maybe the migration of younger people moving here to build careers or the steady infusion of foreign capital but culturally and in many other ways, Calgary continues to be terrifically diversified and sophisticated.” Although some search specialists cringe at cheap shots and clichéd references like “recruiter” and “headhunter,” Pekarsky (a former lawyer with solid corporate experience) surprisingly but candidly admits that while he doesn’t mind either term, headhunter is slightly better. “They both sort of ooze ‘contingent placement agency’ which we unequivocally are NOT.”
Enjoying a lighter moment, from L to R: Brendan Wade, Jessica Young, Terry Stein, Adam Pekarsky, Lisa Luedtke, Patrick Malachi and Ranju Shergill.
He feels that anyone can create a website, claim to be a recruiter and just accumulate files in a database. He regrets that some recruiters give the legitimate search profession a bad name by treating candidates like commodities, throwing resumés at a wall and hoping one sticks. “After a search and a shortlist of six candidates,” he points out, “only one gets the job. But how you treat the other five matters a lot.” He proudly differentiates that being much more than a recruiter and “being exceptional” has been the uncompromised Pekarsky Stein goal since the firm was founded in 2009.
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THE “EXECUTIVE SEARCH BUSINESS” (AT LEAST WITH THE MIDAS TOUCH OF PEKARSKY STEIN) MAY WELL BE THE ULTIMATE PEOPLE BUSINESS. “We have a team of total superstars. Absolute professionals. Highly educated, ethical beyond reproach and communityminded.” Today, the unique double-sided Pekarsky Stein sword that is commitment is more relevant and critical than ever. On one side, applying the personal touch to properly understanding the specific needs of the client is the firm’s priority one. “At the end of the day, like most service businesses, we’re the butler. We are there to serve our client,” he says. Equally important is Pekarsky Stein’s focus on the candidate. Pekarsky calls it “candidate care” and working with candidates to effectively tell their story. The dynamic Calgary-based search firm spends in-depth time listening to and coaching candidates. It’s a given. Most job-searching people above certain levels already have required skills sets and job competencies. But, as Pekarsky cites from 14 years experience, “How well do they play in the sandbox? Do they have a high EQ (emotional quotient)? Do they mesh with people? Do they collaborate? Are they strategic and business savvy? Are they practical? Did they say ‘thank you’ to the receptionist? “Look!” he implores. “We’re selling oxygen. Everyone is a candidate and ultimately interested in doing better. Sometimes when we make a cold-call contact, the person may politely reply, ‘No thanks. I’m happy, satisfied with my salary and my job and doing fine.’ I quickly tell them, ‘That’s great because a happy and satisfied candidate is exactly what our client is looking for. When can we meet?’ “Our personalized expertise is not to just add names to an endless database list. I didn’t go to law school to do that. We engage people and work closely with them in a professional and positive way.”
From a career lifetime and the success of working with the gamut of specific client wants, needs, wish lists and matching up qualified and compatible candidates, Adam Pekarsky illustrates one of the most common personality-trick questions that pop up during many interviews. “So, tell us what you know about us.” He cautions that it is a popular and telltale way for a potential employer to gauge the candidate’s interest and seriousness about becoming a productive member of the company. “If it means reading a year’s worth of SEDAR disclosure documents,” he grins, “the sharp candidate will be ready.” According to Pekarsky Stein partner Ranju Shergill (who is the firm’s first employee to recently become the firm’s first “homegrown” partner) followup comments from the firm’s clients and candidates are a gratifying confirmation. “We get positive feedback about the way they were treated with openness, honesty, respect and our proactive communication. The trend has shifted back quite a bit,” Shergill says. “Today, employers and candidates are both looking for long-term career security and advancement opportunities. Especially at senior levels, companies are looking for potential stars that will evolve and grow with the company.” As Stein, Shergill and Pekarsky point out from years of experience and success, “the executive search business” may be a misleading and misunderstood misnomer. The “executive search business” (at least with the Midas touch of Pekarsky Stein) may well be the ultimate people business. “Sometimes we call it a passion match,” Adam Pekarsky says with professional expertise and a good-natured smile. “It’s like knowing two friends really well and setting them up on a blind date. He likes horror movies. She likes long walks on the beach. If they’re truly compatible, it will work out beautifully.”
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