Lauchie MacLeod was a man of real presence

Industry peers salute a multi-decade career with multi-generational influence
Monday, March 14, 2016
By Barbara Carss

In a 40+-year career in commercial real estate, Lauchie MacLeod mastered and applied a wide range of skills in property management, building operations, service deployment and talent grooming — all the while sharing his expertise and enthusiasm with clients, co-workers and industry contemporaries. His death in early January saddened many who have benefited from his guidance and friendship, while leaving them impressed with his fortitude in facing the serious health challenges that forced him to step away from the work he relished.

“Lauchie’s love of the industry was second only to his love of his family,” observes Peter Riggin, president of NorthWest Healthcare Properties REIT’s Canadian division, Lauchie’s final employer, where he served as Regional General Manager, Ontario, from 2006 onward. “He just loved the industry — the people in it, the professionalism, the mentoring and all the innovation and advancements that we’re seeing in areas like technology and energy efficiency.”

These days, a look at baby boomers’ employment history invariably leads to a conversation about the extraordinary workplace and labour market transformations they have encountered. Operationally, manual and paper-based processes have given way to automated IT-driven environments and ensuing expectations for response at any time from anywhere, while, on the business front, almost every industry sector exhibits a long trail of company launches, demises, mergers and/or break-ups. Lauchie’s career path exemplifies this reality.

Hands-on know-how

Hearkening back to 1973, some of his former employers are now consigned to real estate history, but long-time peers and friends confirm he learned at each step, synthesized the knowledge and carried it forward. Ross McKerron, a colleague at Lauchie’s first jobsite, the 827,000-square-foot Canada Square office complex in midtown Toronto, outlines the hands-on training that provided a grounding in basic building functions and services.

“He was exposed to most of the aspects of building operations, working for stints in the power house with the stationary engineers, working with the construction group — plumbers, electricians and carpenters — and dealing with general building maintenance and housekeeping issues,” McKerron recounts.

“He often referred to this time as the golden age of property managers,” notes Greg Chapman, business development manager with Impark, who worked closely with Lauchie in the early 2000s. “This was management by walking around the shop floor. Lauchie knew this has now fallen out of favour, but he also understood how important it really is.”

In addition to senior positions with commercial real estate companies, he also filled out a noteworthy resumé with executive roles in key support industries: parking and telecommunications. That multi-disciplinary know-how later bolstered NorthWest Healthcare Properties’ expansion plans as the REIT acquired older facilities with on-site parking and what Riggin characterizes as “often unique” existing building systems.

“We needed someone with Lauchie’s depth of experience and knowledge,” he says. “We also gained another asset, which was his strength in recruitment, particularly in hiring talented young people with potential.”

A giving, yet discerning mentor

A striking figure at 6′ 4″ with eye-catching white hair and a laugh that reverberated throughout the office, he’s remembered for sporting a kilt of MacLeod tartan on Robbie Burns Day and for a personable manner that could turn imposing when warranted. While typically managing with warmth and generosity of spirit, those who worked with and for him were always aware of standards that must be met.

“He challenged the people around him to become better managers,” reflects Peter Willmott, director of operations at the MaRS Discovery District, who served with Lauchie on the board of directors of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Toronto. “Lauchie rarely answered operational questions directly, but, as a manager, made staff think through the problem, come up with solutions then implement them.”

A longstanding member and past president of BOMA Toronto, he was actively involved in organizing BOMEX — the annual national gathering of BOMA local chapters from across Canada — when it occurred in Toronto in 1991 and 2000. Many BOMA members also enjoyed his camaraderie on the golf course.

“Lauchie was present to witness my only ever hole-in-one during a BOMA convention in Tennessee, and he was as genuinely excited as I was,” recalls Kevin Brown, president of MediaEdge Communications and a fellow BOMA and BOMEX organizing committee member. “Over the years, we had many golf outings as well as more serious meetings. He was always engaged and engaging, fun, honest and giving. We will miss him greatly.”

That’s a sentiment especially noticeable in the corporate offices of NorthWest Healthcare Properties REIT. “One of the things that really struck me when he was battling the illness was that so many young people, whom he had hired and managed and mentored, were just so emotionally invested,” Riggin says.

Donations in Lauchie’s honour can be made to the Gerry and Nancy Pender Brain Trust or the Dorothy Ley Hospice.

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