Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Pacific Region) – 2001
Entrepreneur of the Year: Lifetime Achievement Award — 2010
Peter’s acceptance speech…
I would like to thank Ernst & Young and their sponsors for this recognition in particular but, more generally, for their dedication in recognizing entrepreneurs in over fifty countries worldwide in such a first class manner. I have always felt that there is not enough support given our entrepreneurs, who are the engine of growth, and this seems particularly true of Canada. It is my impression that Canadians have always been too conservative to be comfortable with their risk takers.
I have been in business for fifty years and forty two years ago I founded Canaccord Financial. In that period of time, even a monkey had to achieve something… So, while I am grateful to Ernst & Young, I think this might properly be considered a “prize for persistence”.
When I look at my life I have been very lucky and I would rather be lucky than good because good only works sometimes. I was fortunate to be born a third generation British Columbian into a family who instilled in me a passion for the place we live in. At the same time, I was fortunate early in my career to come under the influence of people who instilled in me an equal passion for the world of investment. To be passionate about what you do and about the place you do it in makes all of the day to day drudgery in a normal career seem insignificant. I have learned that business for the most part is a series of small steps rather than big ones – some forward, some back – passion is what keeps us putting one foot in front of the other. It raises the bar and standards of excellence and, most importantly, passion is contagious and affects those around us helping to create the goals and team work that are necessary for success as no man succeeds without a team.
E.M. forester once wrote “one man with passion is worth more than forty people merely interested.”
Like I said I have always considered myself to be very fortunate but that may not be so true for all of you tonight because I have been instructed to speak for the next seven to nine minutes.
I started in the investment business in September 1960 with a firm called Greenshields and spent a short time in New York and Toronto, finished with five wonderful years in Montreal leading up to Expo 67. Montreal is still second to Vancouver as my favorite city but I lived there in its best days. It was alive, cosmopolitan and people referred to it as a global city along with Paris, London and New York – something that Toronto has never been able to attain. Douglas Coupland, the well-known Vancouver author, once said “Toronto is the Yellow Pages in 3D. It is a state of mind rather than a place.” In those days Montreal was an equal financial centre to Toronto with the head offices of the Bank of Montreal and Royal Bank, Royal Trust and Montreal Trust, Sunlife and CP/CN Pension Funds. It was a more venturesome and creative capital market centre than Toronto. That aspect of Montreal is gone, as a result of a quiet revolution that was well deserved, but Canada was better served when we had two financial centres competing with each other.
In 1968 I returned to Vancouver to join Ted Turton who had purchased 51% of H.H. Hemsworth for $23,000 and a year later we purchased the other 49% for $140,000 and this was the beginning of Canaccord Financial. We decided to focus on small to mid-cap resource and industrial stocks which were fractured markets and badly understood in Canada and with drive, luck and smoke and mirrors we became the biggest venture capital financier in the country.
In 1990, when our industry was threatened with rising costs and brutal bank domination, we decided that we would scale up and set our sights on becoming Canada’s largest non-bank owned full service broker taking venture capital from “the” product to “a” product. From 1991 we have gone from 270 employees in four offices to 1700 employees in 38 offices. We have grown our equity capital from $40 million to $500 million and completed nine acquisitions.
Today we are the largest independent dealer by every measure and we are proud of the fact that twice we set our target to dominate a sector of the Canadian capital markets and both times we delivered.
Personally, I take the most pride in our corporate culture and the longevity of the service of our staff. Over 130 of the 290 employees who were with me in the mid 90’s are still with Canaccord and in Canaccord’s lifetime I have 34 employees who have stayed with me for more than 30 years led by Ken MacPherson who is still with me after 42 years – clearly Kenny was either desperate for a job or a poor judge of character but he is a great partner and great friend and he is here tonight.
I came to the investment business by fluke and can honestly say I have enjoyed every minute of it including the challenges and the reversals. As I look back I note that most of our growth in market share occurred in the cyclical corrections because we always believed that in a business life success would be more affected by how we managed the tough times than how we would react in fair weather when everybody hits home runs. Maybe we were just too ambitious to be cautious.
I would repeat that I find myself so very fortunate to have been able to pursue a career that I am so passionate about in this wonderful place we live in. In addition, I have learned through my community service that the better we serve our customers, associates, employees and community the more they will tend to serve our own objectives and interests. Those donors who are really committed are very often the beneficiaries. Loyalty is a two way street and the only way I know to get it is to give it but, once earned, it may be our most valuable asset. The loyalty of my partners and employees at Canaccord is by far the most cherished aspect of my business life. Equally, I am grateful for the loyalty and support of Joanne, my wife of forty-six years, a great family and many good friends who have contributed so much to helping me set my compass so I could get the best out of my life.
I would like to congratulate all of the finalists who are being recognized this evening. You have all had the passion for what you do and the ability to take responsibility for your destiny. You are the best of the free enterprise system and great contributors to your province and your country. Again, I would like to thank Ernst & Young for the recognition they give entrepreneurs around the world and I would like to thank all of the participants tonight for their achievements and entrepreneurial spirit.
In closing I would like to give you my favorite and often used quote by Teddy Roosevelt, the turn of the century independent US president, who was our kind of guy and which to me is totally appropriate to the spirit of entrepreneurship.
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Thank you for listening and for your patience.
Peter M. Brown
Sept 28, 2010