Ask the 40: Greatest investment decisions

Each month, BIV Magazine asks Forty under 40 alumni for insight on a chosen topic

What is one of the greatest investment decisions you've ever made? | Khakimullin Aleksandr/Shutterstock

In the spirit of our March 2020 BIV Magazine theme – the B.C. investing issue – we asked BIV Forty under 40 winners about one of the best investment decisions they’ve ever made.

This is the longer version of the article that was originally published in the March issue, which can be read here.

Borrowing money as a single-parent student and going on to achieve two university degrees
– Youssef Zohny, institutional consulting director, Morgan Stanley

In 1996 joining the Vancouver chapter of EO (formerly YEO) – the largest group of entrepreneurs in the world – at the insistence of my friend, Graham Lee. It’s been such an important part of my lifelong journey of both personal and professional growth and development
– Praveen Varshney, partner, Varshney Capital Corp.

Tech is everywhere, all the time. Investing in my tech skills ensures I can see what's coming
– Linda Fawcus, founder and CEO, Gluu Technology Society

Experienced people. In the three companies I have started, this is the first time I have invested precious start-up capital to bring in experienced people and it has paid off in multiples
– Rob Craig, CEO, 3 Tier Logic

Purchasing our office. It was 2001 – the dot-com crash. We had gone from a staff of 15 to four in two months. We had almost no active projects, we were in debt and our office was sold out from under us. We found a gem of a property in Fairview Slopes for sale. Everyone knows what has happened with the real estate market since then, so needless to say, we have done well equity-wise. The hidden beauty in the purchase was losing the stress of having no control over rent and physical space and becoming our own landlord. Best business decision ever
– David Coates, managing partner, Ion Brand Design

My own business. It gave me the flexibility to create the type of place I would want to work at if I was an employee, control of my time and schedule to allow me to spend time with my three boys (especially in high school when they need you most), and to accrue passive wealth as my asset grew year-over-year above and beyond my compensation. I sold that business, which gave me the opportunity to do other things
– Paul Welsh, managing partner, National Vancouver

Taking several years off after selling my first business to focus on my wife and kids has enriched my life more than anything else that I could have done (especially now that I'm super busy again running my next company)
– Eric Jordan, CEO, Codename Entertainment

Meditation, morning and night, and the purchase of my office
– Tina Burke, director, Burke Recruiting

The best returns for me have come from investing time, resources and funds into the broader community – by giving back, volunteering, serving on a board or committee, getting behind an initiative or being a mentor. The rewards always outweigh the investment
– Peter Armstrong, founder and CEO, Armstrong Group

Investing in my company, my employees, community, and the Canadian and B.C. tech ecosystems by taking the personal risk to acquire when it could have been sold to a large U.S. company who would absorb it
– Cybele Negris, co-founder and CEO, Inc.

Building an R&D laboratory for our engineers and scientist to create novel environmental technologies
– Norm Chow, president, Kemetco Research Inc.

Our recommendation to buy The Boyd Group (BYD:TSX) in 2008 at $2.30. The stock trades above $205 today, for a gain of over 8,900%. It is literally the best performing stock in Canada over that period – a simple business that has produced outstanding gains for our clients
– Ryan Irvine, president and CEO, Keystone Financial

Expanding LMS into new markets (and my subscription to BIV)
– Ron McNeil, co-founder and CEO, LMS Reinforcing Steel Group

Buying a house in Vancouver in 2003
– Jason Smith, co-founder and CEO, Klue

Setting aside one hour a day for my health and being unapologetic about it
– Sharon Singh, partner, Bennett Jones LLP

Investments in expanding B.C.’s entertainment industry infrastructure and solidifying its designation as Hollywood North
– Jim Meier, president and CEO, Meier Entertainment City Inc.

Purchasing a corporate apartment in Toronto that is used by our agency staff and clients when they travel there for business
– Brent Nichols, founder and co-president, Inventa

To start my own business
– Peter Busby, principal, Perkins&Will

Surrounding myself, professionally and personally, with really smart people who challenge me
– Lori Baxter, founder, Lori Baxter Consulting

Investing over two years as the CEO of Ridesharing Now to bring Ridesharing Services to B.C. This will have a profound positive impact in the hospitality industry and on the people of B.C. A historic game changer
– Ian Tostenson, president and CEO, British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association

The cost of a CFA event in 1989 called, “The Future of the Investment Management Business”. I was about to co-found Genus and the vision and wisdom learnt in Boston added to my commitment that Genus was on the right track. One speaker said: ‘Cheap computers and smart professors are going to change this business forever.’ And they have
– Leslie Cliff, co-founder and chair, Genus Capital Management Inc.

My first venture investment in Sierra Wireless nearly 25 years ago
– Randy Garg, founder and managing partner, Vistara Capital Partners

One of my greatest investments has been volunteering with kids. It’s an investment in them but I think they give me more than I give them
– Jennifer Sanguinetti, managing director of infrastructure development, University of British Columbia

My greatest investment has been to make health my No. 1 job. This has let me bring my best self to everyone and everything I do in life and business
– Scott Morison, founder and CEO, Browns Restaurant Group 

Surround yourself with young people – their energy, their insatiable appetite for knowledge and their unbridled enthusiasm will keep you moving forward
– Avtar Bains, president, Premise Properties Ltd.

My Wedding. To have the solid support I have had from my wife all of these years, I have been able to feel comfortable taking risks that other people may not have taken
– Jason McDougall, president and CEO, Fields Stores

Taking the leap of faith to move from Winnipeg to Vancouver 32 years ago. The Vancouver community has supported our startup successes – all while allowing my family the chance to grow up in paradise  
– Don Schick, chairman, Strata Health Solutions

Empowering my team to take risks, providing feedback when asked and staying out of their way
– Charles Gauthier, president and CEO, Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association

Joining a CEO forum group. I started my business in 1998.  At the time I was a project manager consultant and I had to learn how to become a CEO, which was a total career change. This is a big reason why businesses fail – hands-on practitioners are excellent at their craft but don’t know anything about how to run a business.  Joining a CEO forum group helped me make that transition. I learned leadership and management skills, I shared stories about how to solve issues and be successful in business, and I had a confidential group that I could confide in about what I was experiencing. The investment has paid for itself many times over. I highly recommend a CEO forum or mastermind group for any leader who wants to grow their business and themselves
– Stacey Cerniuk, president and CEO, Annex Consulting Group

By far my biggest investment is my employees
– Leena Yousefi, lawyer and CEO, YLaw Group

My greatest investment in life, besides my children, is volunteering. Over my professional life, I have volunteered for many non-profit groups and boards that need sweat equity. Giving back to community and mentoring the next generation of leaders is critical. As someone much smarter said: “If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed. If in terms of 10 years, plant trees. If in terms of 100 years, teach the people.
– Cheryl Ziola, director of communications, Urban Development Institution

For over a decade we have invested in our annual One Good Idea program, offering $25,000 in fees to an organization that delivers a sustainable  product or service. Through this program, we have taken many brands to the next level and we provide the tools required for long-term viability. It has given us tremendous satisfaction, knowing we have accelerated the delivery of products or services to market, which in turn has a direct and positive impact on the sustainability of the community and environment
– Rod Roodenburg, partner, Ion Brand Design

My mental health by investing into time with friends.
– Paulina Cameron, CEO, Forum for Women Entrepreneurs

One of my biggest returns on investment has been ensuring that whenever possible, I am working alongside people that are passionate about what they do
– James Cronk, principal, Cronk Group

Buying real estate, especially your own commercial space, as paying a triple net lease you are effectively paying for the unit anyway without any long-term return
– Shahraz Kassam, CEO, Shamin Diamonds Ltd.

My education. Investing the time and money to pursue my passion at the most specialized school I could find, Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California
– Ian Grais, founder, Rethink

The education of my children through frequent, adventurous and culturally diverse global travel
– Marco Romero, president and CEO, Euro Manganese Inc.

Joining YPO so that I have my own personal board of directors via the YPO forum experience to help me balance and manage business, family and personal challenges, and opportunities
– Derek Spratt, chairman, Turnium Technology Group

The three-year time, social and emotional investment made to obtain the Chartered Financial Analyst designation
– Brent Charleton, president and CEO, EnWave Corp.

Myself. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve though reading, sharing ideas, networking, working out and be in the moment. I have found by investing in myself, I’ve been able to fulfill all my ambitions, objectives and goals. Sometimes they’re not exactly what I had hoped, but I course correct along the way and this helps me to get very close
– Richard Lowy, CEO, Branded Experiences Inc.

Taking time out to sail around the South Pacific instead of jumping into the next thing. Gave me a whole new perspective on what to value as important in life
– Scott Brownlee, co-founder, Middlespot

Believing in and investing in myself created the lowest risk for growth and has produced the best ROI. Our family now has multiple income streams. As a result, our life is highly curated and exceptionally fun
– Nicole Parmar, founder and managing partner, JNJ Business Strategies Inc.

I truly believe the best investment you can make is in yourself. My best decision was to leave a job with a comfortable salary and invest in the next stage of my career – building my own book of business and clients at Odlum Brown Ltd. 
– Carly Monahan, associate portfolio manager, Odlum Brown Ltd.

I joined a peer learning forum for business owners and executives
– Matthew Lewis, president, Braidy Corp.

My investment in our team. The more voices at the table and perspectives we gain,  the better we can serve our customers
– Ashley Freeborn, co-founder and managing director, Smash + Tess

Investing the time to understand sustainability and how it relates to my business and industry, then using that understanding to drive our innovation, creativity and purpose
– Toby Barazzuol, dream leader, Eclipse Awards

A shorter version of this article was first published in BIV Magazine, which can be read here.