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The Insider: Learn from the Greats

The Dave Allan Interview

Interview by Tormaigh Van Slyke

Dave Allan, 59, was born and raised on a dairy farm outside of Edmonton. He graduated high school with honours as the valedictorian before attending a bachelor of science program at the U of A.

Dave moved to the Peace Region in 1985 to earn his Turf Management Diploma from Fairview College. Again, he graduated with distinction as the valedictorian. He went on to instruct the course for the next 20 years.

Meanwhile, at 24 he completed his Apprenticeship Journeyman Landscape Gardener certification and started his first company, Landscape Unlimited (1988-1998). During this period, he and a business partner built the back nine holes at the Mighty Peace Golf Club.

In 2002, Dave and his wife, Fay, opened Beyond 2000 in Grimshaw. In 2016, he became co-owner of Mighty Peace Golf Club. In 2018, he and his wife opened a Bell Mobility store in Peace River.

Dave’s volunteer positions are too numerous to list here. They include coaching several sports teams for over 15 years as well as being involved in other capacities. He also served as a Town of Grimshaw Councillor (2010-2017).

Volunteer boards Dave has put countless hours into include the Alberta Pond Hockey Association, the Grimshaw & District Chamber of Commerce, Lac Cardinal Regional Economic Development Board, and the Grimshaw Curling Club to name a few.

What are the biggest factors that have helped you become successful?

Having support from family and friends is number one. That’s extremely important. Next, it’s not being afraid to step outside my comfort zone. I always want to expand my knowledge, and I like to challenge myself to take on new opportunities. Having support from family and friends allows me to do that.

What was a tough decision you had to make?

In the summer of 1999, I was selling Bell satellite TV out of my garage, going to trade shows and doing installations with a friend in my evenings and weekends.

By 2002, we were very busy, and Bell asked us to start selling cell phones in the Peace River area. We certainly couldn’t sell phones out of our garage, so my wife and I looked for retail space.

It was a significant investment for us at the time, but we purchased the old movie theatre building in Grimshaw, which is still where Beyond 2000 is. We’ve continually added new products every year since.

What business “rules of thumb” do you live by?

Show up prepared and lead by example. Be present with a good attitude. Early planning will usually pay off in the end. Work hard but also work smarter.

In an average week, approximately how many hours do you work?

Depending on the time of year, I spend anywhere from 40 to 80 hours a week looking after my businesses.

I generally spend another 10 to 20 hours a week on volunteer committees and boards. Sometimes it’s much more if we’re getting close to a major event.

That said, I feel it’s important to take a one-week vacation—at least once a year—with family and friends.

What’s your approach to finding the best people for the job?

I never hire anyone without an interview or a meeting. I find you can learn a lot from a person in a face-to-face meeting. I don’t always ask conventional questions. I like to see how the person responds. I love employees who are passionate about their job and not afraid to learn new things.

What’s helped you become a better leader?

Coaching sports is always a learning experience. You’re working with different personalities, and you’re helping them reach their individual potentials. And, at the same time, you’re showing the group the power of teamwork.

So, I’m always learning: what makes people tick; what makes people want to participate; what makes people want to invest in something; what makes people want to buy something?

Even with all the boards and committees I sit on—not to mention the 20 years I taught at Fairview College—you’re dealing with different people, different walks of life, people with a different set of ideas and goals and perspective on things.

You just keep learning, and you’re locking it all away in the memory bank, so you can use it down the road.

What’s your approach to management and team building?

I try to outline each person’s role and responsibilities, so they fully understand my expectations. I strongly believe in verbal recognition for a job well done, sometimes individually, sometimes in a group setting.

I ask myself questions like, “How can I motivate people? How can I get them excited? What did my mentors do that motivated me? What motivates my friends?” I try different things to see what sticks. Then, I adapt or modify as needed.

You have to be pliable. One system isn’t going to work for everything. However, one thing remains the same. It’s crucial to create a healthy work environment where everyone is trying to get along and work as a team. You want everyone to feel pride in their work.

I’ve learned some of my lessons first-hand, and I vowed to never let my employees feel like they don’t matter. Your employees need to know they’re appreciated, so they can make your customers feel the same way.

What do your meetings with staff look like?

I usually don’t host formal meetings. I like to set up an environment where there’s a constant flow of communication and we’re all talking and listening to each other.

As an owner, I love to have lunch with everybody and just talk about what’s going on. I might ask a question to a certain individual or ask something generally to the group to get feedback. I always try to be positive and focus on what’s working—what we’re doing right.

If there’s negativity, it means something is wrong, and I deal with it afterward, separate from the group. I don’t want to make it everyone’s problem.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

I’ve had the good fortune of a caring, loving, supportive family—my wife Fay and my two daughters Janessa and Jasmine. I’ve also had the opportunity to work alongside some amazing people at work and while sitting on boards and committees.

These relationships provide the fuel for me to carry on, and I am extremely grateful for everyone who has been a part of my life thus far.

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