- Canadian Dividend Investing
- Canada's Billionaires and Timeless Tips to Get Wealthy
Canada's Billionaires and Timeless Tips to Get Wealthy
It turns out the wealthiest Canadians have some pretty important characteristics in common
I spent much of my career in the grocery business.
One thing you do in that business is you visit a lot of stores. Grocers can’t help it, they really do like checking out stores.
Your author, who has since retired from the business, is still a fan of this activity. I’ll go out of my way to see stores whenever I travel, loitering in aisles for an embarrassingly long time as I check out a random Rewe (Germany), Tesco (England), or Maruetsu (Japan) supermarket. I even linger in local stores when I shop, silently critiquing their merchandising standards, store layout, or cleanliness, all while searching for weird and unusual products I’ve never seen before.
Yeah, that’s right. I do that shit for free now.
It’s gotten to be such a problem my wife often refuses to go into a grocery store with me anymore. She’ll just wait in the car. And when she does come in with me she’ll often drag me along, especially after I start getting a little excited about something.
When I first started doing store visits I was young, naïve, and incredibly negative. I’d judge the offending store harshly, comparing it to the tranquil paradise of the store I worked in. My inherent bias in such a conclusion was ignored, for obvious reasons.
And then I read Sam Walton’s biography, and my attitude changed.
For those of you unaware, Walton was the entrepreneur who started Walmart in rural Arkansas, turning it from a single store in a small town to the United States’ top retailer, all in a span of about 30 years.
Walton was famous for a few things — his tenacious work ethic, his down-to-earth lifestyle and his early acceptance of both technology and using aircraft to help choose store sites come to mind — but the one I want to highlight is how he would unapologetically steal ideas from his competitors while visiting their stores.
Sam Walton wasn’t walking around looking for the things the local Kmart did wrong, and immediately after reading that, neither was I. I focused on what these stores were doing right and immediately started getting way more out of these visits.
In the years since, I’ve taken this advice one step further. I try to learn from every single person I meet, and I firmly have the attitude that everyone can teach me something.
If one is going to go through life shamelessly ripping off the more successful, then why not start at the top?
The simple lesson I learned studying billionaires
Although there’s a ton to be learned from each of these billionaires individually, today we’ll look at the 25 richest folks in Canada as a group.
Here’s the list, pulled straight from the latest Forbes rankings.
Even though there are definitely a few folks who made billions investing in some crazy new tech idea or risky venture capital business, most of the billionaires on this list got here investing in boring, old-school industries.
The Thomson family made their fortune in newspapers before pivoting into business information services
Jim Pattison took a single car dealership and turned it into an empire of grocery stores, billboards, automotive and agricultural equipment, forestry products, and entertainment assets
Darryl Katz and the Coutu family made it into the top 25 by owning and running pharmacies
Alain Bouchard and Jacques D’Amours (and a few other partners) took a tiny Quebec-based convenience store chain and turned it into a worldwide powerhouse. Alimentation Couche-Tard now has nearly 15,000 stores spread across 25 countries and territories
The Saputo empire started with the founder delivering cheese on a freakin’ bicycle in 1954 and grew into a multinational dairy empire with operations on four different continents
The interesting part of the list is it doesn’t include a few of my favourite rich folks. The Weston family was a perennial top five in most of these lists until the patriarch Galen Weston Sr. passed away and his wealth was passed down. Still, the family continues to operate under the same principles that made previous generations very successful — they invest in non-sexy industries (grocery and real estate, mostly) and take a long-term attitude.
Another of my favourite rich people is Mitch Goldhar, the Chairman, CEO, and largest shareholder of Smartcentres REIT. Mitch was a mid-tier real estate developer who convinced Walmart to trust him to build out the real estate they needed to expand into Canada. The rest is history; these days Goldhar’s net worth is more than US$2B and SmartCentres is one of the country’s largest developers and holders of Walmart-anchored real estate.
Yes, investing in some sexy new start-up or literally inventing a new kind of pants are legitimate paths to wealth, but they aren’t very likely for guys like you and me. Those types of success stories take special people, who usually stumble upon their opportunity almost at random, and get lucky by picking the right investment in a crowded field. This is not an easy formula to replicate. It’s much easier to ride the coattails of the Thomson, Bouchard, or Saputo families, especially since they give you the opportunity to invest right alongside them.
God, I love capitalism.
Wealthy folks, almost without exception, have one thing in common. They’re owners. Many own businesses, whether they’re a large part of a private business or a small part of a many publicly traded ones. Others made their fortune in real estate, owning a small (or a not-so-small) empire of bricks and drywall.
These are easily repeated paths to wealth that even the average Joe can follow. These billionaires — and a whole bunch of millionaires — have laid out the path. So why reinvent the wheel? Just do what Sam Walton recommended — steal your way to success.
Because just like in sports, all that matters is you win the game. That’s why we’re all here, isn’t it? Besides, stealing here is pretty much a victimless crime. It’s not like you walked into a grocery store, filled up your cart, and strolled out without paying. The people we steal investment ideas from win even more than we win. A great stock pick might net a retail investor $100,000 over 20 years. It’ll net an already-billionaire billions more. These guys aren’t losing any sleep about retail investors coat tailing them.
The bottom line
This post isn’t really about copying billionaires. This post is about not reinventing the wheel.
So many folks on Twitter, or YouTube, or wherever, will tell you the world of finance is incredibly complex. They’ll discuss the tiniest minutiae of their favourite stock, convinced this is the detail that’s going to matter. Spoiler alert: it almost never is. They’re the first to decry a simple investing strategy because they benefit from making it complex.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t advocate folks go from learning what a balance sheet is to investing in individual stocks the next day. But I do firmly believe that most people with a reasonable amount of business education can follow a relatively easy DIY strategy of owning solid blue chip stocks and end up doing just fine.
So don’t overthink it. Countless people have laid out the path to getting wealthy. All you need to do is follow it and not get into any trouble on the way.
That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with the premium version of this newsletter, to take the guesswork out of trying to pick quality dividend stocks. The paid version of this newsletter does exactly that. It includes:
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