Against All Odds

Against All Odds

Against All Odds

An Update to a Story Written in 2010…

On January 23, 2021, Larry King passed away. He had been a well-known broadcaster for 35 years in radio and on TV. The connection will become relevant, as he had played a small role in the life of Hardy Bunn, a connection
of which he was totally unaware, but one which Hardy used in the following tale.

“The King and I” (that’s Larry King and Hardy Bunn)

“The What does Larry King have in common with Hardy Bunn, you ask? Here’s what:

In May 2010, Larry King celebrated 25 years in his business at the same time as Hardy Bunn celebrated 25 years in her business. Coincidence?

In Larry King has enjoyed interviewing a great many celebrities, artists, politicians, world leaders–the personalities go on and on–25 years’ worth.

The only celebrities/politicians/world leaders Hardy can list as meeting and even being photographed with, were the President and First Lady of Estonia. Why would that be? Because Estonia is where Hardy’s life started a long time ago. The President and First Lady attended the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and were greeted by members of the
Estonian community.

Hardy’s life continued in Sweden for seven years, after fleeing the Russian occupation of her birth country, and in 1952 she and her family immigrated to Canada.

In 1985, newly back in Vancouver after a five-year stint in Toronto providing word processing services to the Civil Service Commission of the Ontario government, with no job, no advanced formal education or professional credentials and entering the market during the 1984 recession—what to do?

Well, if you have nothing much to lose, why not take a big gamble and start your own business? From nothing. When you have few other assets — not counting your own skills, drive, and determination — why not add “no clients” to the list?

So, from a less-than-fully-respectable, unrestored old building on Beatty Street in Vancouver on the fringe of the 1986 Expo lands, cashing in her mutual funds, Hardy purchased a fledgling secretarial-service-wanna-be packaged office and opened Offices In The Marine Building (DBA) on May 1, 1985. Offering fewer than a dozen shared offices and business support services performed by Hardy alone, prospects looked chancy at best . . . dim if one were being realistic. But realism wasn’t always her way of looking at things.

Imagine, if you will, Hardy’s having to have her father, who had no experience in business, co-sign for telephone service for her company. In 1985, there were many extra challenges for a woman in business—especially one who had no husband to sign for her—needing to be taken seriously by banks, other lending institutions, leasing companies, etc.

Survival was the game during those first, formative years; survival achieved by focusing on client support and satisfaction, rather than on the limitations imposed by her limited tangible assets, the premises, and the out-of-the-then-downtown-core location.

And, as was luckily the case, client support was rewarded by clients’ support. By supporting her clients, Hardy won their support. Many brought in new clients, and the business survived and grew a bit. She gained leverage on her finances by buying furnishings at auction and exercising some imagination with the support of family members to make the offices look better than their cost. She was able to add a second floor of offices in the building, but the location still was less than ideal.

But an expanding client firm came to the “rescue.” Needing more space, and wanting to be in more prestigious space, the clients came to Hardy with a proposal. They had become used to, and greatly appreciated, the levels of support and service Hardy had been providing, so wanted her to continue that support — potentially a problem for both if the client were to move.

So, the clients offered to take a head lease in a more upscale building, and to share the premises with Hardy and her still fledgling company. Quite a new risk. Not only would Hardy be potentially vulnerable to the wishes of a single client, but she knew that some of her other clients would be unwilling or unable to follow her downtown. But, the chance to expand in far superior premises was too good to pass up. The deal was done, and . . .

. . . in 1993, Hardy moved Automation Plus to a small portion of the 12th floor of the Marine Building, arguably Vancouver’s most iconic office tower, and certainly one of Canada’s most outstanding examples of Art Deco architecture and design. A year later, she took on the entire 14th floor. Within three years, the business was re-established and doing well enough that Hardy was able to take yet another major risk — adding the entire 10th floor, thereby more than doubling her space and number of offices. A that time her company moved off the 12th floor, together with the head lease client, who became a tenant on the 10th floor.

Again, Hardy spent time at the auctions, enabling her to add superior quality furniture at costs low enough to keep prices to clients attractive, and thus to keep her office spaces rented.

Back in 1985, 25 years after starting with virtually no assets beyond herself and the support of family and friends, Hardy operates from two floors in one of Canada’s — and Vancouver’s — greatest office buildings. Remarkably, some clients who signed on with Automation Plus back in the days on the Expo 86 fringe are still with her — living testimony that, against all odds, a woman (or perhaps even a man) with determination, a dream, and a focus on client satisfaction can succeed for at least a quarter of a century.

Go, Larry and go, Hardy!

Hardy now celebrates 35+ years in business, but the death of Larry King brings an end to their connection. Hardy will carry on.


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