Rick has extensive experience with high net worth individuals and families, working with them in both a financial and governance capacity. He thrives on understanding the business and entrepreneurial journey of individuals and families and then using creative and strategic thinking skills to help them succeed.
When I lived in Germany in 1979, I remember distinctly walking past a movie theatre and seeing a sign that, roughly translated, said “The Land of Unlimited Opportunities!” The poster showed a beaming family, with the father in a suit holding a briefcase, and they were off to North America to chase their dreams.
The flow of people from one country to another in search of opportunity has seemingly existed since the dawn of history. The entrepreneurial spirit and the family business appear to be at the core.
An individual’s experience as an immigrant tends to shape their view of life, the role of family and how they approach business. While immigrant groups from Ireland to India are many and diverse, there are a number of similar views and traditions born from the experience of being an immigrant to a new country.
Of course, the experience of moving from one country to another—whatever the circumstances—will vary depending upon whether they are fleeing persecution or are professionals. But, for many, there are challenging circumstances and this will shape their economic outlook. Personally, having grown up in a household with parents who were post-World War II refugees, with no money, education or language skills, I could see the impetus to grasp opportunities was not optional.
This transition is often coupled with various challenges, such as a new language and customs, no friends, no job and no contacts, and so it can be quite a challenging situation. Immigrants are often quite driven to be financially successful and to grasp opportunities previously unavailable. This approach is, in fact, one of the typical entrepreneurial characteristics.
One of the traits of the entrepreneurial mindset is what is commonly referred to as “opportunity obsession.” One example is a Mennonite entrepreneur, Peter Niebuhr, who arrived in Vancouver, BC in the 1960s. He explains, “I had always looked at the Greater Vancouver area as having unlimited opportunities. We are the western gateway to the Pacific.” Newcomers often see a “ land of opportunity”—but it’s all a matter of perspective.
For Niebuhr, his immigrant experience shaped his personal and economic outlook and over the decades he built a track record in construction, property development and a building supply company. The business, continuing after 50 years, retains his family involvement through the second generation.
This entrepreneurial trait can be more common among immigrants, who are often fueled due to a lack of opportunity from where they have come. Immigrants are also more likely to involve their family members in their business, often borne of necessity rather than strategy. Kids are typically co-opted, whether it was a construction sub-trade, restaurant or a corner store.
A few years back I was attending a seminar on family business. The speaker was a senior partner at a large, national accounting firm. He came to Canada as a kid with his parents from Hong Kong. The family ran a corner store. He would be picked up from school to work the evening shift during the week, in addition to weekends. Leisure was not in the lexicon.
This is a typical tale of a family trying to minimize cash outlay. When you are trying to keep costs low, you tend to go for unpaid homegrown labour. So, a small enterprise becomes a family business. Newcomers are typically hungry. They want to improve their circumstances. They have a mindset where perhaps a decade or so prior they had absolutely nothing. And, now, in their new country, they have seemingly umpteen opportunities available—the only requirement is to work and work hard.
In short, the immigrant experience imprints a unique worldview upon the individual. Consistent among disparate group, they have a particular way of seeing themselves and the world, which often involves entrepreneurship and the family business.
This material contains the current opinions of the author and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material is distributed for informational purposes only. Nicola Wealth is registered as a Portfolio Manager, Exempt Market Dealer and Investment Fund Manager with the required provincial securities commissions.