Hall of Fame is a hard-earned honour; a tribute of respect and recognition. And although most inductees shy away from the spotlight, the distinction is richly deserved.
Calgary’s JASA (Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta) Business Hall of Fame is all about distinction, vision, excellence and inspirational achievement. “What makes Alberta great is our terrific, can-do, maverick attitude and spirit, coupled with big hearts and a tradition of giving back,” says Melissa From, JASA president and CEO.
“The purpose of our Hall of Fame is to deservedly honour the lifetime achievements of the province’s most distinguished leaders in business, community, philanthropy and entrepreneurial thinking. An important JASA focus is working with young people, readying them for the business world. A big part of that is to inspire them to be ethical and able to operate and compete in this global economy.
“A key priority with the Calgary Business Hall of Fame (CBHF) inductees is picking role models for future generations,” she says with pride. “Recognizing business and community leaders and entrepreneurs who have long and distinguished histories of mentoring.”
Every year since 2004, JASA has inducted four Calgary icons into the Calgary Business Hall of Fame. The purpose: to salute and permanently enshrine Calgary’s dynamic and visionary business and community leaders and acknowledge the ways they have shaped the unique and entrepreneurial story that is Alberta and, particularly Calgary.
The permanent and familiar CBHF exhibit is in the Bankers Hall East Tower lobby in the heart of Calgary’s financial district. Each year, the listing on the wall (and the touch-screen video profiles) literally grows, as JASA inducts four new names. The CBHF already honours such Calgary business icons as Clive Beddoe, JR Shaw, John Forzani, Max Bell, Bud McCaig, Richard Haskayne and other inspirational faces from Calgary’s exciting and remarkable business story.
Melissa From shrugs with a warm smile about JASA’s uniquely wonderful, annual dilemma when it comes to celebrating and paying tribute to the selection committee’s four Hall of Fame inductees. Whether it’s modesty or a common character quirk of successful high achievers, and despite being a wealth of wisdom and experience, most hall of famers are reluctant about attention. They deflect praise, recognition and fuss and they usually bounce credit to family, staff, the community … and luck.
Consistent with the genuinely humble, self-effacing (and awkward) style, the 2016 Hall of Fame inductees (Ross Glen, Ron Southern, Mac Van Wielingen and Cal Wenzel) are true to form.
“The basics of the business world are pretty straightforward,” says Ross Glen, president of Calgary-based RGO Office Products and 2016 CBHF inductee. “You gotta do what you say you’re going to. You must have uncompromised integrity. And staff is always the critical aspect of the business.”
He makes it sound so easy. “My father wanted me to be a lawyer. I told him I wanted to make money.” Glen started selling and servicing Underwood and Olivetti typewriters (collector’s items by today’s ultra-high-tech standards), and he parlayed his gutsy determination, vision, relationship building and people skills into today’s tremendously successful RGO Office Products, with more than 275 employees in Calgary, Edmonton and Canmore.
With his entrepreneurial flair, a focus on constantly being diversified and a whole lot of hard work, Ross Glen has grown RGO into the largest company of its kind in Canada.
“No matter what the business,” he points out, “you have to always move forward and diversify. Particularly in this business, the service side is critical. If you want to grow, you have to give good service and build strong relationships.”
The typewriters are long gone but state-of-the-art technology (and his iPad and iPhone) are now vital aspects of Glen’s professional (and personal) growth and diversification. “I’m a big fan of being lucky, although you can make your own luck. And you must have your family behind you,” says the gregarious, 50-years married, grandfather of five, passionate steak lover and master shmoozer, who still goes into the office every day.
Subtle but solid giving back is a vital professional and personal priority for Glen.
Privately and with RGO Office Products, he has made significant contributions to the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University, SAIT, Bow Valley College (he is currently the chairman of Bow Valley College’s “Quest for Best Campaign”), the Calgary performing arts, the Calgary Zoo, the City of Calgary, Heritage Park, Calgary Junior Achievement, the Humane Society, the Resolve Campaign and many local charities. Glen is also a lifelong booster and super-fan of his hometown Stampeders and Flames.
He is a true hall-of-famer! And his Calgary impact is forever.
Although Ron Southern passed away this January, his unconditional focus on excellence in everything he did, the depth of his tremendous business sense and his legendary business values, ethics, skills and achievements continue.
“In so many ways, he was way ahead of his time,” recalls his wife, Marg. “No matter what success he achieved, he was constantly trying to improve. And never afraid of failing. Ron was determined and never let anything stop him. In everything he did, he always had a plan B and a plan C. It became a bit of a family tradition, but Ron had a personal New Year’s resolution that was also a motto: ‘How do I do things better and how do I get better at everything I do?’ He was constantly learning.”
Best known for the ATCO Group, a business Ron Southern started with his father and grew into a diversified company with over 8,000 employees, his legendary high energy, tireless hard work, attention to detail and business savvy impacted the gas, pipeline and electrical utility sectors; midstream, drilling, logistics and manufacturing; as well as workforce housing sales, leasing, maintenance and operations.
“Many entrepreneurs feel a need to control,” says his daughter, Nancy Southern, president and CEO of the ATCO Group. “He was exceptional with his ability to assign responsibility. He trusted people and always looked for ways to teach and mentor the people around him. He was a relationship builder. It was important for him. He knew everybody’s name, and their children’s names.”
“He was ferocious when it came to learning about international business,” says his daughter Linda Southern-Heathcott, president and CEO of Spruce Meadows, Calgary’s superb and internationally acclaimed, 360-acre equestrian and showjumping facility that attracts more than 500,000 people every year, which was one of Ron Southern’s passions. “His approach to everything about business was ambitious and big. It had to be global.”
The CBHF honour is richly deserved and unanimous. From being inducted into the Canadian Manufacturing Hall of Fame, recognized by the Financial Post as the CEO of the Year in Canada, companion of the Order of Canada and the Alberta Order of Excellence, Ron Southern was an inspiring business leader and, more importantly, an unforgettable community and people person.
Mac Van Wielingen
Calgary business icon Mac Van Wielingen has a remarkable track record. With a lifetime of business vision and achievement, he has created a hard-earned legacy of respected business success in Canada’s oil and gas industry.
With ARC Financial, his dynamic strategy, corporate development and investment decision-making have generated approximately $5.3 billion of capital under management. Van Wielingen is also a founder of one of Canada’s largest conventional oil and gas companies, ARC Resources Ltd., with current daily production of approximately 120,000 barrels of oil equivalent and total market capitalization of approximately $8 billion.
He is also chairman of Alberta Investment Management Corporation, a provincial Crown corporation responsible for managing approximately $90 billion on behalf of public sector pension, endowment and special purpose funds.
In business, and in Haskayne classrooms, Van Wielingen continues to earn much respect and admiration for his contribution, inspiring generations of business forward-thinkers and actively sharing his limitless passion for entrepreneurship, leadership, organizational culture and his 30 achievement-filled years of business savvy.
He is consistently asked for – and generously gives – advice. “The active ingredient within culture that must exist is a continuous ever-present search for clarity, deeper insight and objective, evidence-based understanding.
“It is the relentless passionate pursuit to see what is real and true that can cut through the obscurities of our biases and partial truths. If you are authentically searching for objective understanding, you will search everywhere and you will allow the evidence to confront you, and potentially change you.
“Major research published in 1999 tremendously changed my outlook about business and management,” he says with enthusiasm. “It showed that the most important factor in employee satisfaction and productivity was not compensation, not benefits or training, not even the bottom line or success of the company. It was the quality of the employee’s relationship with his or her supervisor.”
This example and many others Van Wielingen often references were all sourced using what he calls “the same active ingredient” – a passionate, if not fearless and uncompromising, search for objective understanding.
For Cal Wenzel, the founder and owner of Shane Homes and 2016 Hall of Fame honoree, it’s a family business in many ways.
From the very beginning, when things were tough and he and his partner pitched in to help out with everything from construction, sales and accounting, his nearly 40 years of hard work, business smarts, market savvy and vision has created one of Calgary’s most respected and successful new homebuilders. But it has always been about more than building homes. It’s about creating a quality lifestyle for Calgary families.
Professionally, Cal Wenzel’s experience and expertise has transformed Alberta’s homebuilding industry, and, while growing the success of Shane Homes, he was actively involved in many industry groups like the Alberta, Calgary and the Canadian Home Builders’ Associations and the Alberta New Home Warranty Program.
With much success came the opportunity and, for Wenzel, the responsibility to give back and make life better for families in the Calgary community.
Since the first profitable year of Shane Homes, the company has donated 25 per cent of its proceeds to Ronald McDonald House. It was just the beginning. Today, the Cal Wenzel Family Foundation continues as a big booster of particularly Calgary-area children and families, amateur sport, theatre and more. Last year, when the going got tough, the foundation donated $50,000 to the Calgary Food Bank. Wenzel is also closely involved in the Willow Park Charity Classic which raises in excess of $500,000 annually for a variety of Calgary charities.
His business and personal life is still – all about family.
“How lucky am I?” he asks with a deep, warm laugh. “I’m semi-retired, so I get to sleep in till five, then I go into the office and meddle. My son, Shane, is the company president. My daughter, Sharlene, is vice-president of administration. My son-in-law, Dave Rickett, is vice-president of operations. And my granddaughter, Natasha, works in the design department. My wife, Edith, is the real workaholic. She works much harder than me, and she’s the one who should get the award,” he says with affection and pride. “She looks after the foundation.
“Family makes it all possible and family makes it all worthwhile!”