Dialogue

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It’s hard to get a handle on titles and job descriptions around here. Why is that?

There are no titles at Westbank. It’s a very flat structure and Ian likes it that way as he likes to be involved in all facets. He’ll let you make a $5 million decision but he’ll care about the colour of the brochure. However, he knows when to let people loose.

You’re a senior staffer. What do you typically do in your role?

Ian likes continuity from beginning to end, so I act as a cross between development manager and project manager. As our projects have gotten bigger and more complex, my role is in line with project director, managing the project.

As Westbank evolves, do you notice things changing?

Growth is changing the culture. There are no layers here and that’s one of the struggles, as there’s a part of Ian that wants to, or has had a tendency to be involved in everything.

We’ve gotten the reputation of being able to handle these large, complex types of projects and that’s forcing us to look at ourselves and how we can grow organically. We’re all involved in everything and right now it’s not very stratified, although the senior people do have regular meetings with Ian.

Do people outside have any misconceptions about Westbank?

Most people are very surprised when they look at the company from the outside in. We are a very lean company and they must wonder how we are able to accomplish as much work as we do.

What inspires you to work here?

I left the company once and it isn’t until you actually leave that you sometimes appreciate what you had. Money aside, I appreciate what Ian is able to do. When he won Woodward’s, he asked if I’d like to come back and I did.

With Woodward’s it was never about making money or the returns on that one. The risk on Woodward’s was huge. I don’t think anyone really gave Ian the credit he deserves for doing that project and for the project’s influence on the neighbourhood. We were trying to make that community better and turn it around. I think our company will always be remembered for the impact of Woodward’s on the community. It has been a career maker for me.

I believe that the body of work that we have as a company is so attractive it keeps us all motivated. Other offers always come to you, but it would be harder to go to another company where you couldn’t bring your dog to work, etc.

Ian can be a really challenging individual, but he’s very level. His greatest strength is his ability to compartmentalize and that makes him the best chess player in the business context. He’s able to manoeuvre the people to his vision but still give the stakeholders what they want. There’s a difference between needing and wanting. He has achieved more than what most people have achieved and it’s not about making money at the end of the day, it’s about doing good work. He’s not afraid to spend money to make the project better.