Why He’s a Top 40: For growing the family business at a time when its competition was downsizing or disappearing
“I’m motivated by this question,” Rick Harcourt explains: “If I was hit by a bus tomorrow, would I regret not spending enough time in front of the TV or not doing all the things that I wanted to do?” The constantly on-the-move guy – who admits he doesn’t often sleep in – involves himself in a dizzying array of extracurricular activities. They include being president of the Edmonton chapter of ACSESS (Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services), a former president of the Rotary Club of Edmonton Urban Spirits and a two-time competitor in the national Ultimate Frisbee championships. As well, you can add to the list recording an album, writing, playing hockey, cross-country skiing and, most recently, surfing.
Remember, that’s in his not-watching-TV time. During his work time, he has spent the past six years climbing the entire length of the corporate ladder at Harcourt Recruiting Specialists, the business founded by his parents in 1976. At 38, he has already spent two decades at the search firm, which combs Canada to connect high-performing individuals with leading companies. “At 11 years of age I was filing for them. At 14, [I was doing] administrative tasks.”
After graduating from university, Harcourt thought he’d never return to the family firm. Instead, he opted for an adventurous teaching job in Japan, and then alternated between Vancouver, Banff and Edmonton, working as a multimedia and documentary producer. After five years of writing, directing and producing, he decided, “The film industry is a life eater. I realized I enjoyed it, but not enough to not do anything else in my life. That’s when I decided to go back to family.”
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When Harcourt returned to the family business in 2003, he introduced and developed an IT practice within the company, which led to working in managerial positions. Since then, he has modernized his parents’ legacy, updating the company’s brand and web capabilities, and helping it claim the Small Business of the Year Award from the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce in 2006.
Most recently, Harcourt has taken the helm – or, as he describes it, “full-on blame” – as company president, “right in the peak of a recession.”
But although the past year has seen the recruiting industry shrink by 40 per cent, forcing many of the 70-plus agencies in Edmonton to fold or downsize significantly, Harcourt – the company and the man – is holding on strong. The company has even started making new hires. “I’m proud of turning the corner, taking us into more productive times.”