Last month, Canada's version of Warren Buffett, Jimmy Pattison, turned 90. His company, the eponymous Jim Pattison Group, is Canada's second-largest privately held company, with more than $7.5 billion in revenue and 45,000 staff.
Born during the Great Depression, Pattison started in business at the age of seven selling garden seeds. That was followed by door-to-door sales and delivering newspapers. Today he owns Great Wolf Lodge, Ocean Brands, Buy-Low Foods, and Ripley's Believe It or Not. In fact, his holdings include ventures in the automotive, advertising, media, agricultural equipment, food and beverage, entertainment, exporting, financial, real estate, and periodical distribution industries.
Pattison recently sat down with reporters to share the secrets to his successful life. Some you may have heard of before; some are unique to him. Here are the seven lessons I took away:
1. Have fun everyday -- love what you do.
Pattison said he gets up each day happy and goes to bed happy. His secret to happiness is doing what he loves. Whether he was selling cars or building an empire, Pattison worked every day and had fun doing it.
2. Learn from everybody.
Pattison is friends with the Bushes, the Reagans, and even Oprah Winfrey. But the media mogul believes that to be truly successful you need to "learn from everybody." Pattison, who came from humble roots, stresses that wisdom is not the exclusive purview of the elite, the educated, and the rich.
3. Sales come from integrity.
The sales legend believes that sales take total honesty, hard work, and a clear and un-obscured focus on the customer. Pattison paraphrases a well known parable from Dale Carnegie, telling his sales people to focus on customers' needs, not on what they are trying to sell.
4. Reputation is your most important asset.
Pattison's mantra is total honesty. He prides himself on this and believes that reputation is more important that money in the bank. While he never enunciates the reason he believes so strongly in this, Pattison's reputation as a tough but honest capitalist is known worldwide.
5. Change is the mother of opportunity.
When asked if building an empire would be easier today, Pattison said he believes it would be. He bases this on two key factors: access to capital is easier and change is more rapid. For Pattison, all change leads to opportunity, meaning that the more things change the more opportunities there are for you. And today, the world is all about change.
6. Give away 10 percent of what you make.
Pattison has donated more than $100 million to local hospitals. His foundation endows millions a year to organizations like the Vancouver Symphony Foundation, Food Banks Canada, Pathways Clubhouse and Ryerson University (where I teach). The billionaire was giving away at least 10 percent of what he made even before he started making a lot.
7. Donate time as well as money.
Pattison led Vancouver's Expo 86 (the 1986 World's Fair) for six years, for free. This project saw more than 22 million people visit Pattison's home town and generated more than $2 billion of economic impact.
Pattison believes there has never been as much opportunity for young people to succeed as there is today. The speed of change--not just technological, but societal--has a reached a tipping point, where opportunities are born every day. To make the most of these opportunities, follow Pattison's life lessons. It may have been his 90th birthday, but it's us who get his gifts.