Mark Starratt is principal at StarrGazer Advisory Inc.
What is StarrGazer and what does it do?
Starratt: StarrGazer Advisory Inc. is a consulting firm that I started last year as I was preparing to retire from the investment management industry after more than two decades of serving complex families.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to work as a first vice-president with a bank-owned brokerage firm and the last 12 years as a partner with Richardson GMP, but I knew that I wanted to seek out new adventures in my career.
The hardest thing about leaving was that I had the privilege of working alongside my brother Scott for 21 years, but felt at ease that he would be continuing on with the practice that we built and that our existing families would be well served. He continues to grow the practice and focus on stewarding wealth and advising families by deeply understanding alternative asset classes that seek to mitigate risk that have become more meaningful to successful families and foundations in the last decade.
StarrGazer seeks to nurture and expand relationships that I have been fortunate enough to build over my entire life. Over the last six months, this has allowed me to focus on four main areas that I have built a team around. The first follows my deep passion and experience in the area of philanthropy.
Last month, we launched Global Humanus, providing complete bespoke philanthropic advice and planning to some of Canada’s most complex families. This is a joint partnership between StarrGazer Advisory Inc. and Global Philanthropic, one of Canada’s largest and most successful philanthropic agencies, serving the needs of charities. With 12 offices and more than 22 senior consultants across Canada, we will be providing advice in every aspect of a family’s philanthropic journey.
The second area of focus is life sciences and includes advice being provided to and equity positions taken in a variety of medical areas such as drug development, the health benefits of sound technology and even value-added products in the cannabis space.
The third area supports a passion of a close friend and colleague of mine, Gord Anderson. Gord retired on the same day as I did from the wealth management industry (most recently as president of Cidel Trust). We are either working together on or supporting each other in over 95 per cent of the areas I’m describing to you. This passion is in the area of Indigenous economic development and leverages his vast network and experience of supporting First Nations over the years. From gaining access to funding for land and other financial claims – to providing funding and governance advice to First Nations, Gord (through Anchor Wealth Advisory Inc.) and I are seeking to provide support wherever we can using a values-based and relational approach to First Nations.
The last area of focus we call our enterprise division, in that it is the catch-all for all other projects that we are advising on when it comes to the relationships that are important to us. Whether it’s an aviation file, a gas-to-liquids opportunity or anything in between – this area speaks to how we provide governance and deep advice (often to family-owned enterprises) to the ideas that matter most to the people in our network.
In talking to people, what’s the sense your getting about their mood about Calgary’s economy?
Starratt: It’s finally getting better, I promise!
For a few years, there seemed to be a paralyzing malaise in our community and throughout the province. I describe it as a lack of passionate leadership when it came to solving our current realities. I certainly understand the frustration about the economic climate and the environment that we found ourselves in.
Having said that, I was proud to be involved in some projects that brought together Calgary and area leaders that wanted to do big things for our city and province. At the end of the day, it was not the right time for some of those initiatives (or the powers to be sought to control it in such a way that made it impossible for it to be done the right way).
So where are we today?
Starratt: Today we find ourselves in the midst of two groups of positive forces seeking to get us on the right track. I would describe them on one side as the group of people I mentioned before who are simply not going to let obstacles get in the way anymore. The other side is the group of people who are excited about a new environment to move forward and are quickly mobilizing to take advantage of it.
However we got to where we are today, I have always been a ‘glass half full’ guy who believes that this is the time for people with thoughtful ideas to step forward and that there will be advice, capital and opportunity to support them and make many of these wonderful ideas a reality.
What’s your vision for StarrGazer?
Starratt: Vision is a funny thing in the sense that it never ends up exactly the way that we picture it in our own mind. I’m truly open to enjoying where the journey takes me.
One of the best pieces of advice on this topic came from a past senior Rotary leader who has unfortunately since passed away. Past Rotary International vice-president Monty Audenart (from Red Deer) had counselled me that although he believed I could accomplish significant things the year I was district governor in Southern Alberta and Western Saskatchewan (2008-09), if I was open to listening to the ideas of others and then committing to supporting and removing roadblocks for them, then much could be done in the Rotary year and the entire community would benefit from it.
I believe that StarrGazer has the opportunity to support many great things in our community and to remove roadblocks so that there can be much economic success. By specifically supporting complex families and First Nations, I believe we will be able to make a significant impact for years to come.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received about being an entrepreneur?
Starratt: It is not a unique pearl of wisdom, but invest in people! A decent idea can be made better with fantastic people around it. A great idea can be ruined by the wrong people. I seek to deepen and nurture relationships so that we can find great ideas and great people. An unstoppable combination!
Interviewed by Mario Toneguzzi, a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary.