It’s a bittersweet goodbye as Dar Schwanbeck, managing director of Northern Alberta Business Incubator (NABI), hangs up his coat after 12 years at the organization.
“I’m going to miss spending time with clients,” the 67-year-old said. “It’s the sharing of stories, and it’s the trying to figure out what the person should do next. My mission in life is to guide and inspire.”
While NABI was already functioning in St. Albert when he joined, Schwanbeck was instrumental in growing the organization to what it is today.
The non-profit started in 1989 in Mission, where it offered business coaching and leasing space for new businesses. Under Schwanbeck’s direction, it opened its second location in 2008 in Campbell Park.
This year the organization opened its third location, NABI Commons. The Commons is different than the two other locations, offering a café-style space where budding entrepreneurs can work or get coaching.
Alyssa Tintinaglia, who manages NABI’s leasing and building operations and human resources, has worked at the organization for three years.
“He did such a good job in this role because he genuinely cares about the person and the businesses,” she said.
Schwanbeck’s compassion for others isn’t reserved solely for clients. Tintinaglia said he sponsored a corporate gym program, called NABI Fit, where staff and members go to the gym and work-out together.
She said rather than sticking to rigid professional relationships among staff, Schwanbeck cared about the well being of his employees.
“He implemented that as a health and wellness program for staff and tenants,” she said. “He’s great at being flexible with us and actually caring about what’s going on in our lives.”
Schwanbeck’s passion for fitness is contagious. Tintinaglia said he’s an avid runner, known for besting people in the gym who are decades younger than him.
Seeing his fitness level, she said she’s often compelled to work out harder.
“I know that he’s run from Mission to the gym, has done the whole workout, is kicking my butt and he’s still going,” she laughs.
Tintinaglia said she started at NABI in an administrative role. She said Schwanbeck mentored her over the years.
“He’s really given me the opportunity to be able to make mistakes and grow,” she said, adding that Schwanbeck often threw new challenges her way.
Melissa Rutledge, finance coordinator at NABI, said Schwanbeck will be missed at the organization. She’s worked with Schwanbeck for 10 years.
“He’s a very fair and supportive boss,” she said. “He’s always willing to listen, to help you out in any way and he is the kindest man.”
Rutledge recalls a fond memory of when she had a to remove a behemoth weeping willow tree from her back yard. Rather than keep his employees at arm’s length, Schwanbeck jumped in to help.
“Him and his wife came over one weekend and cut it down for me. It would’ve cost a lot of money to do so, and his payment was that he wanted to keep the wood,” she laughs. “That’s what kind of person he is.”
Rutledge said Schwanbeck is the “best boss she’s ever had”, and that his presence will be missed around the office.
When it comes to success, Schwanbeck said a good idea, business skills and perseverance is key.
“The ones that are good are gritty, they just keep going,” he said. “It’s the grit that I love.”
Refusing to use the word ‘retirement’, Schwanbeck said he’s simply standing down from his position at NABI.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I’m not planning to retire,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
In September the organization published a retirement announcement in the Gazette, which he jokingly called an obituary.
Prior to being at NABI, Schwanbeck worked for 30 years as a practising management consultant. He spent most of his time consulting across North America, spending more than 100 days annually travelling.
The amount of time spent on the road became tiring and he knew it was time for a change.
One day Schwanbeck was looking at the classifieds when he stumbled upon an ad for a managing director position at NABI. He quickly called the headhunter behind the ad and applied for the job.
“It was great,” he laughed. “The headhunter told me that I could consult and all my clients would be right around the corner.”
Schwanbeck’s last day will be Dec. 31. A new manager has been hired to take his place in the new year, although the organization is keeping a tight lid on who it is.