Alistair Vigier says his life has not changed much since B.C. Business named him one of the 30 under 30 Entrepreneurs in 2017.
He has received congratulatory calls from friends and more interest in the law firm, Hart Legal, which he markets, but that is about it.
“I’m not driving around in a Ferrari or anything like that,” says the 27-year-old, with a laugh.
Vigier, who is the only name from Vancouver Island on the winners’ list, certainly has grounds to stand out.
Vigier has attempted what few have done before him in Canada: help develop a joint venture model to ‘franchise’ businesses that operate in heavily regulated industries like law or dentistry.
Under this model, lawyers, for example, continue to own their firms as per rules that prohibit non-lawyers from owning direct shares in those business, but contract out non-legal services such as accounting and marketing to a management firm.
“But the lawyers always have to have the final say about what they will be comfortable with in terms of ethics,” said Vigier.
He developed this concept in collaboration with Victoria lawyer Darren Hart, whom he met at a networking event. While most people working in industries such as law and dentistry were content with the status quo, Hart was different.
“He liked it. He was very receptive to it,“ he said. “It took us a long time to figure out a structure that actually worked for them. It is a very, very, very regulated industry.”
The numbers prove the foresight of Vigier’s pioneering efforts. Under the entity of Hart Management, Vigier has helped the firm’s revenue grow from $2.5 million in 2015 to an expected figure of 3.5 million last year, according to B.C. Business, which will honour Vigier along with the recipients April 13.
Vigier said he looks forward to meeting the other winners and learning more about them.
For all of the business success that Vigier and his fellow entrepreneurs share, his background likely distinguishes him, as Vigier had initially planned to pursue a career in the military – a choice with fateful, almost deadly consequences.
Vigier signed up for military service when he was still a teenager, joining the reserves when he was 17 years old, followed by two years of training.
In 2009, he participated in Operation Podium, a training exercise in northern British Columbia for then upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler.
The exercise featured live-firing exercises on targets in a forest. As Vigier was making his way through the woods, he found himself near a target. Unfortunately, Vigier’s comrades believed him to be farther back and contrary to established rules began to shoot on the target, with Vigier standing on the other side of it.
One of the rounds hit Vigier in the leg. “About 10 other rounds impacted right next to my head by the tree in front of me,” he said. “The range safety officer was actually really quick. He actually saw it happening, before it happened. So he ran over and grabbed me by my tactical vest and pulled me back, which probably saved my life, because I had no idea what was happening.”
Vigier said the incident did not leave any major physical injuries. “But emotionally, something like that, when you are not expecting something like that to occur, can be pretty difficult,” he said.
While Vigier could perform other duties, the incident nonetheless led to his medical release from the military five years after its occurrence. “It’s not a quick process,” he said. “There is a lot of paperwork. All the stress that came from that was possibly even worse than the actual incident itself.”
Leaving the military marked a major break in Vigier’s career, if not life. His father had served and Vigier was going to follow him. “Up to that point, it was pretty much the only thing, I ever wanted to do. I assumed that I would be in for the whole 22 years or whatever it is before mandatory retirement. I really hadn’t planned for anything else.”
Vigier described this break as “extremely hard” because his entire life had revolved around the military. “So I really wasn’t sure what to do.”
Vigier began to study psychology at the University of Victoria. “And I was also lucky enough to get a job [in marketing] with the Commissionaires…which basically was the start of my business career. I liked it because it was a bunch of retired people from the military, so I was familiar with that kind of environment. But it also introduced me to new things, such as marketing, which I had never done before.”
Now, Viegier finds himself among the rising elite of B.C.’s entrepreneur class and his next challenge consists out managing the future growth of Hart Management.
“We do want to grow, but we want it to be sustainable,“ he said.
Yet for all of his realism, Viegier’s personal journey from teenaged reserve soldier to provincially recognized business leader appears remarkable.
When Vigier was asked what he would tell the person who he was back in 2009 following the incident, he said: “It is going to be all right…things work out even in the darkest times if you keep going forward.“