Former rowing champ Kreek has continued his tough Friday routine during the pandemic
Motivating others is second (and third) nature for the gold medallist-turned-businessman
For many, Fridays are a way to relax—a port in the hectic storm that is the work week. Not for Adam Kreek. “It seems really normal to me, but it seems odd to a lot of people,” he says with a chuckle when recounting how he spends his Friday mornings.
A former Olympic rower, Kreek leads 10 to 15 professionals on a 5:30 a.m. run up Mount Douglas in his hometown of Victoria, followed by a jump in the ocean. (During the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone has been practising physical distancing.) Among the regular participants in this excursion, called Viking Training, are Tony Zarsadias, co-owner of real estate agency the Condo Group, and UVic biology professor Patrick Walter.
“It started as kind of a combination of physical training and strategic planning,” Kreek recalls. “We wanted to set a goal that wasn’t just about furthering our business initiatives but also keeping our bodies and mindsets dialled in. Sort of strategic training and strategic planning in one.”
Having laid down his paddles (at least competitively) after winning a gold medal in men’s eights at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Kreek didn’t choose to pursue a career in geotechnical engineering, which he studied at UVic and Stanford University. Instead, he got involved in coaching and leadership training.
“After your Olympic career ends, you have this opportunity to go and speak at conferences—only you don’t have a whole lot of experiences other than your sporting experience,” Kreek says. “But it exposed me to the industry of consulting, and of leadership consulting. And I really enjoyed the interactions, so there I was at these conferences, sitting with CEOs and executive teams at the table and trying to find a way to craft my story, a way that’s relevant to people going through the professional grind.”
The light bulb really came on in 2013 when he and three others decided to attempt the first-ever row from mainland Africa to North America. “When I was putting together this program to paddle across the ocean, it was very entrepreneurial and sales-driven,” Kreek remembers. “And 73 days at sea gave me a lot of time to think about what I was going to do for a career. It became clear that strategic planning, executive coaching and leadership training, that was the path for me.”
He ended up following that trail, taking courses in executive coaching and executive leadership at UBC Sauder School of Business and the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, respectively.
Today, he and his wife, Rebecca Sterritt, run Kreekspeak Business Solutions, which consists of two halves. The first part of that is working with executive teams of mid-to-large sized organizations on strategic planning. To that end, Kreek has partnered with Richmond-based MTU Maintenance Canada, an engine rebuilding service. “We’re taking three separate facilities and merging them into one,” he says. “It’s a massive operation.”
The other half of the company’s business involves him going to conferences around the globe, delivering keynote addresses and training for professionals. “We usually focus on the topics of leadership, teamwork and change management,” says Kreek, who counts BC Hydro and Bell Media among his clients. He’s incorporated many of the concepts he speaks to in those sessions into his bestselling book, The Responsibility Ethic: 12 Strategies Exceptional People Use to Do the Work and Make Success Happen.
There’s also Ergo Eco Solutions, a Duncan-based social enterprise focusing on production and distribution of petroleum-replacing, sustainable products that Kreek co-founded and sits on the board of.
So he has a lot to talk about when running up Mount Doug. “It’s community, good networking and a good way to just carve out the time to do a weekend activity,” Kreek maintains. “We also have young families, and that takes a lot of dedication and commitment to make sure the kiddos are being raised properly.”
To that end, Kreek still gets out in the boat from time to time, setting and picking up crab traps with his three kids—“it’s a great way to connect with them.” He also tries to go camping with his family on the weekend when possible.
Of course, he also has a rowing machine and other workout equipment waiting for him in his garage. “I’ve got logs and rocks and chains, tires, chin-up bars, dip bars, random pieces of equipment. So I can go out there with the kids, and they can go in the backyard and play while I get some lifts in,” says Kreek, who comes in at 6’3” and well over 200 pounds.
He also makes time to go to a couple of regattas a year, usually in San Diego and Boston. At those, he’ll hop in the boat with some ex-Olympians.
“We stay relatively fit. It’s nice to get a good bomb down the course, get the burn in,” he says, his deep voice turning to a booming laugh. “You’re not as fit as you were, but it still hurts just as much.”
Kreekspeak Business Solutions offers speeches, workshops and retreats, and executive coaching to organizations and professionals around the world. Though he and his wife are the only full-time staff members, Adam Kreek employs a number of contractors as needed, including website marketers and salespeople, and works with Vancouver outfits like the National Speakers Bureau and Page Two Publishing.