Opinion: It was a privilege that the late financial pioneer Rob Peters “robbed” me

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It was in the late spring of 1996 that I met Rob Peters. He was the affable and immensely energetic pioneer of Calgary’s then fledgling financial industry. His call came at 11 a.m., a full 25 years after he founded Peters & Co.

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It was the first time I was “robbed”.

At the time, I was president of Hopewell Residential Communities and barely waved when I heard his enthusiastic, engaging, resonant voice: “Hello, I’m Rob Peters. What are you doing right now? You need to join me on a journey that will change your life. You have to come.”

It didn’t take long for Rob to convince people to join in on his adventures. He was funny, compelling, and had an answer for every doubt, question, or hesitation. He easily convinced me to change my schedule and drive down Highway 8 to a large patch of grassland that is now home to Elbow Valley.

We toured in style: in an old model A. Rob reasoned that the car was built before paved roads existed, so it was designed to go up and down hills and through mud puddles. By then I was an experienced real estate developer with dozens of projects, but this was an unimaginable style. It was elegant and terrifying at the same time. I was impressed by this man with a smile the size of Texas and the energy to light up the planet.

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He had a very pragmatic approach to all things and as an inexperienced property developer he invented his own tools to market property. This included a renovated ATCO trailer that he converted into a very authentic fisherman’s shack as an on-site sales center. He converted a van to have a 12-foot-high stand-up bed so people could see the view from his kitchen in a parking lot.

The best partnerships are the ones where you learn from each other, and although I was supposed to be the expert, I was very proud to have partnered with Rob for the next 25 years as we developed Elbow Valley and Elbow Valley West.

Sadly, Rob passed away on June 15 at the age of 79, just six weeks shy of his 80th birthday. Calgary has lost one of our truly great entrepreneurs, and it’s only fitting to recognize him this week when Calgary returns to the full and open offering of the greatest outdoor show on Earth.

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Those who knew Rob will be familiar with what it means to be “robbed.” It usually starts with a small innocent request, which leads to something else and then more, and soon you know you’re leading the biggest project of your career.

Many were “stolen” during Rob’s time as the quintessential Stampede booster. Every day at every Stampede was a reason to make new friends. This was his life mission. You may be one of the thousands who traveled in the famous pink Cadillac, which is still running. Rob catapulted corporate parties to a new level with Firewater Friday, and each day of Stampede meant a different pancake breakfast, guest lunch, reserved field seating, wagon parties and nightly celebrations. Your best defense was to start each day with a blank slate, ready for whatever Rob would come up with.

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Rob applied his business and sales skills to fuel chuckwagon racing, including sponsoring a Peters & Co. chuckwagon (which was set up in front of the Westin), convincing Toronto businesses to sponsor chuckwagons, and was an architect and promoter of the first canvas. auction.

The Peters family has co-hosted the Hays Breakfast for many years.  At the 2012 62nd Annual Breakfast, from left to right are Rob Peters, Jack Schneider, Ruth Peters, Jessica Schneider and Elizabeth Peters.
The Peters family has co-hosted the Hays Breakfast for many years. At the 2012 62nd Annual Breakfast, from left to right are Rob Peters, Jack Schneider, Ruth Peters, Jessica Schneider and Elizabeth Peters. Photo by Bill Brooks /post media file

By the way, he honed his sales skills buying and selling cars before he was old enough to get a driver’s license. Being an educator, I asked him about his university education. Many of you reading this will know that he claimed to have majored in skiing, with the good fortune to somehow receive a degree in economics.

Without a doubt, Rob’s greatest financial contribution to Calgary was the founding of Peters & Co. in 1971. In those days, Calgary was a branch of the United States or Central Canada, and there was little interest in or support for a financial firm. from Calgary. Rob had to fight a lot of skepticism by building the company on faith and trust in people.

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He always told me, “invest in people first, ideas second”. He advised me to focus on companies that aren’t more than a tank of gas away, so if you have any concerns, just hop in your vehicle and meet with the founders.

When I visited him at his Peters & Co. office, he typically had one or two active/waiting phone calls, people asking questions at his door, his assistant interacting through a sneak window, and my meeting with everyone happening at the same time. weather. He loved that level of activity and handled it in a way that made everyone feel like the center of attention.

Rob was all over Calgary all the time. It could be said that he was not only the founder of Calgary’s energy finance industry, but he was also an internationally successful sportsman as a car racer and polo player, skier and sailboat racer. He celebrated the best of art and culture in a very pragmatic and accessible way: when you visited Rob’s house, the chair you sat on and the table you ate at were vintage furniture that was centuries old.

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Rob Peters, left, chases a ball at the Black Diamond Polo Club in Calgary on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015.
Rob Peters, left, chases a ball at the Black Diamond Polo Club in Calgary on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015. Photo by Lyle Aspinall /post media file

Late in his life, Rob took up golf as a way to spend more time with his daughters and grandchildren. He invited him years before, but he said he was excruciatingly slow and boring. Grandchildren change everything. I have fond memories of attending a family golf outing where he decided that I should be his teacher and caddy. No matter where you were with Rob, it was a fun time and I enjoyed every minute of it. I wish there was more.

Rob Peters was a great friend to many in Calgary, and now we have been robbed of his enthusiasm and energy. I think we can best honor his memory by being true entrepreneurs and celebrating our Western heritage. Happy stampede, Calgary!

Jim Dewald is Dean of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary. A Rob Peters Memorial Celebration will be held at First Alliance Church on July 6 at 2 p.m.

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