March 8, 2016

Haskayne to honour real estate leader Sam Kolias

Boardwalk CEO receives Distinguished Business Leader Award

When Sam Kolias graduated from the University of Calgary in 1983, the economy was in tatters and he couldn’t find a job. So he and brother—who had just finished high school—decided to start their own business renting apartments. The company that started with one apartment building in Calgary has grown into one of the biggest real estate investment trusts in the country.

“It’s really important to always try to find the silver lining, because there’s always something positive about anything that’s negative,” says Kolias, CEO, Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust.  “We looked past the failure to get a job and we looked past the very difficult times. We looked to find opportunities because there are always opportunities.”

Kolias has grown his business by “doing what’s right.” That includes self-regulating rents instead of letting the volatile rental market determine prices.  “We put ourselves in the shoes of our residents,” he says. “In strong economies, they want steady, stable predictable increases and even forgiveness in times that are difficult. We strive to be the friendliest landlord.”

Kolias’ leadership is being recognized with the 2016 Distinguished Business Leader Award (DBLA) presented by the Haskayne School of Business and the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. “The award puts the spotlight on business and community leaders who prioritize people and ethics as foundations toward achieving success,” says Jim Dewald, dean of the Haskayne School of Business, who has known Kolias professionally for 30 years.

“Sam Kolias is possibly the most caring, thoughtful man I have ever met,” says Dewald. The CEO builds homes in Mexico for the poor, provides thousands of rental units for refugees and donates his CEO salary to scholarships for his employee’s children. “That’s just a peek into the world of Sam’s boundless generosity,” says Dewald.

A blue-ribbon panel selected Kolias for the DBLA that recognizes the “balanced leader,” says Adam Legge, the president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber. “Sam is one of those rare leaders who remains humble, thoughtful and giving in so many ways--his connection to the community, his participation in so many local causes and charities and his view of the responsibility of successful business people to give back to their community.”

Kolias will receive his DBLA at a gala dinner June 22. The proceeds support an annual scholarship for an undergraduate student at Haskayne as well as the Calgary Chamber’s Emerging Entrepreneur scholarship. That thrills Kolias:  “An investment in education is an investment for the next 100 years.”

And he’s humbled by the recognition: “This award is truly a reflection of everyone who has supported me for so long—all the family, community, team and resident members that have inspired me over the years,” says Kolias. “Success is only possible when we all work together.”

Sam Kolias

Sam Kolias

Photo Credit: Bookstrucker Photography