KTR 119 | Entrepreneurship And Optimism


The pandemic has caused a massive downturn in today’s economy, hitting everyone where it hurts. Now, people are fighting back through entrepreneurship and optimism, and we are getting on the right track. In this episode, Kim Hayden discusses resiliency with the President and CEO of CBI, and an expert in Recruitment and Business Development strategies, Catherine Brownlee. Catherine talks about the current economic situation and what we can do to change things for the better. Tune in to learn more about resiliency and change in this conversation.

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Entrepreneurship And Optimism: Lessons In Resiliency With Catherine Brownlee

I am super grateful for the time that you are taking to share with myself and my guest, Catherine Brownlee. Catherine is the President and CEO of CBI, where she brings over 30 years’ experience in recruitment and business development strategies across all sectors. Her database of 8,500 contacts demonstrates her capacity to motivate, build, and achieve results. She was recognized by her peers for her outstanding leadership with a Women of Influence Award and a Paul Harris Award through the Rotary Club Calgary.

She regularly presents career and business development seminars for those looking to find the job of their dreams and building their business. She’s also the author of three bestselling books. Want to Work in Oil and Gas?, Cat’s Tips to Get the Job of Your Dreams, and How To Sell In ANY Economy, we all need that book. The latter of which hit number one on Amazon in three categories on its first day of release. In her spare time, Catherine is committed to serving the communities through the Rotary Club of Calgary. Her passion is seen in the areas of business, politics, tech, AI, and most importantly, human rights. Welcome, Catherine. I’m so glad you could make it. How was the drive?

It’s good to see you again.

It’s been a while. It was few months before COVID hit and then I have seen very few people in real life. It’s crazy. Catherine, that’s a great bio, but if you could give us a little bit more in-depth about what you do, I’d love to know why. Let’s start with what.

First, I don’t do anything, including writing the books or anything I do without an amazing team. I’ve had a great team of coauthors and editors and people that helped with all three of the books. Certainly, Stan Peake led the third one, the one that was the international bestseller. It is because of him. I need to clear that up right away.

What I do is a combination of a few things. Our revenue streams are headhunting. Executive search placement recruiting are all the different works that people would understand and know. That is the revenue side. On the service side, the community services, when we are working with candidates that are looking to find jobs and looking to pivot into other jobs, there isn’t a revenue stream on that side, which is why we created the book to make it a lot easier for me.

I found, however many years it’s been since 1998, I was repeating myself thousands of times over and I couldn’t do it anymore. Spending that much time out in the community is certainly a heart and soul thing for me, but I also need to keep the lights on. That’s why we created the seminars and then ultimately, the books to help people get the job or their dreams in all different industries anywhere around the world. The tips are the exact same all the time.

We also do business development strategies for our favorite client, which is Moodys Tax. It’s now changed to Moodys Private Client. It’s how that the world will soon know us. It’s a full-service firm in the areas of corporate tax services. We’ve got tax accountants, lawyers, and super smart people that are much smarter than I am. I helped them with the business development side. It’s a great match. I love doing what I do for them and certainly for other clients on the headhunting side of things. That’s my what.

KTR 119 | Entrepreneurship And Optimism

Entrepreneurship And Optimism: Calgarians are strong; Albertans are strong, and we’ve been through hard times. We’ve been through good times, and we have each other.


My why, I watched my dad do what I do in another way. He was a farmer-entrepreneur who’s always creating a deal. He’d go to an auction sale and buy a piece of equipment, fix it up, paint it, make it look better, and sell it to somebody else who needed it but didn’t have the wherewithal or resources to fix it the way my dad and his team did. I watched that and how that built relationships, and how he did it with integrity, always supporting the community. Sometimes he’d make money. Sometimes he wouldn’t. I follow that exact same model.

Sometimes I make money and sometimes I don’t. The why is the jazz, the drug that comes with that. The excitement of putting two things or people or organizations together, it gets me up every day. It makes me feel like I’m making a difference. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book, The Search For Significance. It was one that was pivotal for me. Throughout the whole book, I thought, “That’s why I do what I do.” I feel like I’m making a difference every day, which is important for my mental health and wellbeing.

You’ve hit a lot of markers there. Mental health, wellbeing, and also over COVID. You’re in the headhunting, but everybody’s got their heads down. If anybody can attest to resilience, it would be somebody in your position where you are matching or bringing people back and forth when we don’t even know what’s going to be open and how fluid the world is. Share with us a little bit of your thoughts on that.

Everybody needs to know. You’re in Calgary. Calgary has had a significant recession since 2015. It’s actually one of the worst-performing housing markets since 2015. You’ve had challenges. Many challenges probably tested your metal over the past years. Can you share with us anything in particular that tested your resilience and how you overcame or moved through that?

Again, resilience started with watching dad. He was in a car accident in 1974. He broke his back and was paralyzed for the rest of his life. Watching that was a great model for me. Anything after that was nothing in comparison on what he went through. Certainly, I’ve had my days to complain or moments at least. Fortunately, I’ve got great mentors and support around me that I have chosen that are always optimistic. I find ways around to get things done.

My dad always had many sayings or dad-isms, I called them. He always said there was always a way to get it done. He’s right. It’s okay to stay angry and sad for a while. Not too long. Hopefully, you’ve got people around that will help you get stronger and brighter again. It’s also okay to feel feelings that you need to feel when you’re going through whatever it is.

Back to your question about resilience and what I might have experienced, it’s like every other human in Calgary. I was in oil and gas sales for the first ten years. I was one of the first females that certainly took some resilience. Not everybody wanted females in the industry, so you can imagine what that was like. Later on, I started my search firm in 1998. That took resilience.

It's okay to feel feelings that you need to feel when you're going through whatever it is you are going through. Click To Tweet

In 1998, if anybody remembers that year, that was not a good year to start a business. At least, that’s what everybody said. They were wrong, fortunately. That worked out well. Throughout the years, there have always been the ups and downs of the energy industry, or prior to the lockdown, it was the way things have happened with the change and how the world sees Canadian or Alberta oil, gas, and energy. That message, that narrative has spawned negatively around the world. We buy our oil from other places.

The resilience of that alone, the people that have to deal with that on the front line, I deal with it because no matter who we are in Calgary, we feel it. We’re strong. Calgarians and Albertans are strong. We’ve been through hard times and good times. We have each other. Back to your question about what does that resilience look like, it’s the community and people around us. Our mentors, family, or support groups. For those that don’t have it, I encourage you to find it. I’m happy to help anybody find that. We always have a group doing something every week.

You said you have a group of mentors. Can you share a few people that inspire you, or that you follow, or you have been coached by? Give us some examples of the type of people that you look to for leadership.

It’s such a wide variety, it changes all the time. Over the years, it’s changed. Back when I was interested in bodybuilding, I needed a couple of mentors for that. When I was interested in starting my own business, I needed mentors for that. When I wanted to be more of a philanthropist and community builder, I needed mentors for that. No matter what it is or what my goals are, I have found the people that I need to surround myself with the leadership and guidance that I need. Not always.

Sometimes people will say to me, “Are they twenty years older?” Sometimes they’re 30 years younger. Be wide and keep our minds wide open to who’s around us. There’s a reason why we’re meeting anybody that we’re meeting and a reason why we need to learn from each and every one. It’s a wide variety of mentors that would be thousands of people. To name some of them would be people through my Rotary club, Steve Allan, Bill Redmond, Phil Libin, Lou MacEachern, and George Brookman. That’s Rotary. I’ve got my family. Everybody. They’re all mentors.

My mom and my mom’s BFF. My sisters and I always go, “This is like my Jody.” We all talk about my mom’s best friend. We’re all looking for that when we have somebody. It’s a whole term in our family. We know that here in Calgary, they are saying that women are at the lowest employment percentage since 1980 when we look at it per capita. We also know that women tend to be very resilient out of necessity. We see a need and we figure it out.

Women, in general, have always been that way. That’s why we’re gifted with bearing the children because if they’d been men, we probably would’ve died out a long time ago. Knowing that and knowing that they’re building forward, they’re coming through this recession, they maybe had to pivot, change their job, or pull back to be the caregiver of parents or children, we’re starting to see people getting back and re-engage. They’re like, “We got to get back to business. What are we going to do?” Knowing all of this, is there anything that you would suggest that could future-proof a company, the business, or the entrepreneur so that they’re more resilient?

More resilience for the females in the organization?

Females that are building their business. What could somebody put in as a foundational piece to help them future-proof their business if they’ve had to pivot over COVID? They’re in this entrepreneurial space. You went through it in ‘98 when you launched your own company. What were some of the key things that you did to help future-proof your company so you could come through 2015 to 2019 with Calgary’s recession and you can continue working?

There's not much we can do at this point other than continue moving the ball, changing the narrative, and telling the good story. Click To Tweet

Networking. Building a network. No matter what we go through as a business, there’s always a way through it. Even in the darkest times, darkest year, 18 months, 2 years, 6 years in Calgary’s case, networking is the very best that you could do. In terms of oil and gas, there’s so much we could have done about that unless we would have looked at it several years ago and got out in front of the narrative, but that’s too late for that.

There’s not much we can do at this point, other than continue moving the ball, continue changing the narrative, and tell the good story. All those things are important, but that’s after the fact. Whereas something like your question with being, how do you to be proactive? How do you stay out in front of it? The best thing is networking and look at all of the possibilities that the business can pivot into at any point.

It may be a certain gadget that does something for one particular industry, say ag. Maybe that gadget could pivot into something else as well. Be open to those opportunities. There’s a great organization called ConvergX that was started years ago by Kim Van Vliet. She does a great job of combining oil and gas and defense.

Over the years, every time they’ve had a conference, she smashes them all together. She has great speakers come in. They talk about all the best practices and how they can share those best practices in those two industries. Talk about proactive. That’s being ready for anything that could be coming and pivot into either one of those industries or other industries.

That’s interesting that you brought that up because anybody can look up and get a feel for where Calgary has been at. The last time there was this huge shut down in the oil industries and restrictions was back in the ‘80s. We saw a lot of sister cities, so you’ll see Denver, for example, did do the future-proofing in their economic development, so they didn’t have that challenge.

I do like that analogy of looking at it and going, “You don’t have full control, but what you do have control of, you need to utilize and maximize it.” What’s the best icebreaker that you can come up with for those introverts out there who don’t want to do networking?

What I would ask, and what the introvert would ask, or what I coach them to ask, the first thing is, “How do you know the host?” That’s so easy or, “How long have you known Caroline? How long have you known Jim? How do you him?” Start there. Something easy-peasy that you both share. All humans want to find a connection point. For sure, if you’re at the exact same party that some company or some person invited you to, start with the easiest one, especially as an introvert. It makes it so much easier.

“You can call me. I’ll go with you all. I’ll go to any networking thing.” I love new people. You had mentioned books. I always like to ask our guests because you’re all leaders. You are a leader. What are you filling your head with? What are you reading? Can you share a couple of different books that you have read and made a hit? It caused you to stop and go, “This is the piece that I’ve been looking for.”

KTR 119 | Entrepreneurship And Optimism

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living

There have been some pivotal ones over the years. The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. The Path to Enlightenment by the Dalai Lama. I love Michael Singer’s book The Untethered Soul. I love Joel Osteen. I’m a Christian. I love all of his stuff, even though every page is the exact same. When I’m at the end of a crazy day, I just need those few pages to go, “Everything’s going to be fine.”

I totally agree with you on filling yourself. There’s out enough there that takes. Especially if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re always busy. Somebody always needs something. Taking that time, do you do a morning gratitude? Is there anything like a regular morning ritual for you to literally light your brain up on fire and get you excited for the day?

I love mornings. Every morning, my sweetheart and I share coffee. We do our pre-paving for the day. We talk about our day, what we’re planning, what we want to manifest for that day, and the prayers that we have for the people that are in our lives, whatever’s going on in their world, and then I hit the pool. I’m in there for 30 minutes. It’s all about thanking the water, the ability to swim, the ability to see it, feel it, love it, and then all the gratitude of all the other things that come along with that experience. Shelter, food, provisions, family, friends, on and on. I do that for 30 to 45 minutes.

That’s why you’re sitting here smiling. When you look back, is there a piece of advice or a North Star quote that you always recenter yourself with?

Always. “Go as far as you can see, and then you’ll see further.” That’s my dad’s.

He sounds like he played a huge role in your bar of where life should be and how it should be. In knowing that, what would your dad think taking a look at our 25-year-old women out there and everything they’re coming into? Thank goodness our Millennials invented the whole gig economy. It’s totally cool to do 3 jobs, or 10, or 20. The generation even after that, what is a piece of advice that you would give to those women? Something that has been a hard one for you.

It was only in the past couple of years that I was able to learn what it was that I was praying for or wanting to manifest in my life. I was so focused on the want of what I could have or didn’t have that I wasn’t focused on the gratitude of what I did have and where I was at. I wasn’t taking enough time to focus on being present and loving myself the way I was. I was so far focused on where I was going. I was so career-driven and business-driven that I was more worried about what was on the other side than loving where I was at.

Out of curiosity, you have a gal that’s in a job, paying the bills, and it could be a C-Suite position. It could be $130,000 a year, but she’s not happy. What are some things and steps that somebody who’s looking to maybe leaving a job, creating a space, going to a new job, or creating a business should do in order to prepare them to jump?

If they’re extremely unhappy and they have heart palpitations on the way to their work, they need to stop, quit, and start over. For whatever reason, they might be a single parent or whatever the reasons might be that they cannot financially leave that role, then as fast as possible, they need to spend a weekend all by themselves, getting super quiet, and let the answers come.

Some of the journaling that needs to happen during that weekend is reminding themselves of the joy that they felt at whatever age it was prior to the age of twelve, remember the days and the moments and journal them all down. Take a look at them at the end of the weekend and think, “What is it that I can create or recreate to feel like that again?”

KTR 119 | Entrepreneurship And Optimism

Entrepreneurship And Optimism: If someone is extremely unhappy and they have heart palpitations on the way to their work, they need to stop and quit and start over.


If there’s any trouble figuring out where that needs to be, there’s an amazing coach that I know. There are many out there. I don’t need to promote one or the other. There are many good ones. I strongly recommend that you don’t waste another moment and give them a ring, set up a meeting, and say, “I need to recreate it because this life is way too short to do that.” I know so many people, especially during this lockdown that are sacrificing their lives, thinking they have to hang on to whatever idea that was, whatever reason they need to keep that job, and they are not good mentally and physically. It’s terrible watching it.

Again, the mental health component coming out of the pandemic is, in many ways, going to have longer effects than anything else. I have seen that. Is there any kind of groups that you’re finding globally that you’ve joined during COVID? Have you expanded that way, like women’s groups, or are you still keeping everything fairly in Calgary?

I’ve always been around the globe. When I joined Rotary many years ago, that reached into almost every country. There are 1.5 million of us. When I need to do something in whatever country, I reach out to the Rotary club there first. It doesn’t have to be all-female groups for me. It’s whoever can get the job done. For me, when I’m headhunting, I need to reach out to the business leaders in that area. I certainly love hanging around with females. They know how to enjoy wine with me, so that’s fun, but it doesn’t matter to me what gender.

The last time I saw you, it was at Hotel Arts at a Christmas function. That was such a good night. It was an awesome night. We all need to take into account and be grateful for what we do have. It’s been a hard time for a lot of people. I want to know where we can find you. Where can everybody find you if they want to reach out, connect with you, get a book, or book a consultation? How can they reach you?

Thanks, Kim. I have my contact information on my LinkedIn and on my website. It’s CatherineBrownlee.com or LinkedIn. My email and phone number are both listed, always for anybody who needs me.

I do have a final question to ask. You said 85,000 people on your email list. I can’t even fathom it. That’s amazing. How do you nurture that list?

The 85,000 is an old database from the time that I have prominent personnel. With CBI, we’ve moved that into a passive database that could not possibly be accurate. When LinkedIn ended up on the scene, that was life-changing for us. I’ve got one full LinkedIn. I’ve got another one that’s helpful. That’s the nurturing. That’s easy-peasy. I love LinkedIn. Facebook is just for fun. We certainly post our job postings there, but that’s more for things that I believe in until I get lambasted with how I feel about some of the lockdown decisions that didn’t go so well.

Making it work takes a little longer. Click To Tweet

Denmark did a good job and they’re out and running free. Unfortunately, it’s six, one way, half a dozen, the other, and it will always be a day late. Are there any other words that you would like to share? We’re going to be seeing you at the Resilient Women in Business Conference here in Calgary. Fingers crossed. When we started going through this last, I was like, “Where’s that dip coming and where can I plant this?” Any final words of wisdom, a favorite song, anything that you’d like to share that this gets you in a position and a mindset of true abundance?

Making it work takes a little longer.

I’ll be singing that. Thank you so much, Catherine, for joining me. I am excited about sharing the stage with you. I want to thank everybody that is sharing your time because we know that the natural resource of time is the most unforgiving and the most valuable resource we have. Until next time. Thank you.

Thanks, Kim.

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About Catherine Brownlee

KTR 119 | Entrepreneurship And OptimismCatherine Brownlee is the President and CEO of CBI where she brings over 30 years’ experience in Recruitment and Business Development strategies, across all sectors. Her database of over 85,000 contacts demonstrates her capacity to motivate, build and achieve results. She was recognized by her peers for her outstanding leadership with a Women of Influence Award, and a Paul Harris Award through the Rotary Club of Calgary.

Catherine regularly presents career and business development seminars, for those looking to find the job of their dreams or building their business.

Catherine is the co-author of three bestsellers. Want to Work in Oil and Gas? Cat’s Tips to Get the Job of Your Dreams and How to Sell in Any Economy, the latter of which hit number one on Amazon, in three categories, on its first day of release.

In her spare time, Catherine is committed to serving the community through the Rotary Club of Calgary. Her passion is seen in the areas of business, politics, tech, and AI, and most importantly, human rights.