Jim Pattison is one of the richest Canadian, with an estimated net worth of $5.7B. Pattison started with one car dealership in 1961 and now oversees a worldwide privately held conglomerate, doing business in more than 85 countries, surpassing $10-billion in revenue and with more than 45,000 employees.

Jim Pattison Group holdings are diverse, including: Guinness World Records; Ripley’s Believe It or Not; Great Wolf Lodge; Sun-Rype fruit beverages; the Save-On-Foods supermarket chain and other grocery stores; Jim Pattison Auto Group; packaging manufacturing; a broadcasting unit with more than 40 radio stations; and through various entities, Mr. Pattison holds large stakes in forestry firm Canfor Corp. and coal-exporting facility Westshore Terminals Investment Corp.

Pattison started from humble beginnings, born during the Great Depression and his family moving in Vancouver when he was 6. He bought his first Pontiac Buick dealership with a $40,000 Royal Bank of Canada loan after persuading the local manager to exceed the branch's lending limit fivefold. Dubbed the Warren Buffett of Canada, he built that dealership into a global business empire over the next five decades, completing hundred of acquisitions to create one of Canada's largest private companies.

1. On his management and reporting structure: "the very size and complexity of the Jim Pattison Group has forced it to develop a management and reporting structure adept at encouraging divisional initiative while still providing adequate oversight. A system of quarterly meetings sees every division report on what it’s doing, with metrics that allow comparisons across the company. If you owe the bank enough money, you decide what you have to do to pay your bills. It was trial and error. We’re car dealers, and then as we struck out into new things, they didn’t manage themselves. So we evolved a process that worked for us”

2. On his recipe for success: "He's very good at reading and understanding people. Second, he’s a great buyer. When examining an acquisition, he’s very patient; he never overpays. Third, except for a couple of recent forays into the commodity business, Pattison has concentrated almost exclusively on businesses that are cash-flow oriented and management sensitive. And the management style we had was well suited to most of them. Pattison gives his divisions a lot of leeway to do what they like as long as they meet targets, believing that his role extends, explicitly at least, only to the hiring and firing of the president. Finally, Pattison has been effective at retaining talent. That’s impressive, since no equity carrots are dangled and he is a hard taskmaster. Very hard. He pushed hard, and if you broke, you didn’t belong. But once proven, you were allowed to make mistakes.”

3. On his preference for private markets: “Being a private company has advantages. You don’t have to tell anybody your business, including your competition. Your access to capital is not nearly as good, but that hasn’t been an issue for years.”

4. On their deal making process: "Pattison’s conservative estimate of the number of deals he looks at every year runs between 300 and 400. Some are not very big. They’re opportunities where we can make our minds up pretty quick, we have a team of about three people who look at these things. We’ll buy eight or 10 a year, and maybe they’re just extensions.”

5. On the importance of rigour: “There is a rigour,” he says of the dozens of Pattison managers and executives he has dealt with. “They’re disciplined and accountable. And they are very results focused.”

6. On adapting to change: “If you don’t, you’re going to be eventually out of business – because there’s always change and at least in my opinion, it’s important to embrace the change and try to figure out how you can take advantage of the changes because there always seems be change. And today, the speed of the change is what’s different than what I’ve ever experienced before.”

7. On loving what you do: “If you like your work, it’s not a chore. I like what I do. There’s always something to do – put it that way.”

8. On learning from everybody: "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."

9. On what is required to be a good salesperson: "Pattison 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."

10. On reputation as the 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.

11. On the importance of giving back: “I was always taught – even when we didn’t have much money – to give back and support people that weren’t as fortunate as we are.”

12. On what he learned from his mother: Julia Pattison visited her son’s Pontiac/Buick dealership on the opening day in 1961 in Vancouver. “My mother came to my office. She said, ‘Jimmy, we don’t have a lot of money as you know and I can’t give you a nice present.’ But she gave me this. This is important.”

In part, it reads: “Life is a sheet of paper white, whereon each one of us may write.”


  1. The Good Faith Work of Jimmy Pattison
  2. On the road with 90-year-old Jim Pattison, 'Canada's Warren Buffett'
  3. On the road with Jimmy Pattison, “Canada’s Warren Buffett”
  4. 'I am no Warren Buffett': One-on-one with Canadian billionaire Jim Pattison
  5. As he turns 90, Jim Pattison is still fine-tuning his business empire
  6. Exceptional Advising and Assisting--Interview with Maureen Chant, Jim Pattison's Executive Assistant
  7. He's 91 and worth billions. Now Jimmy Pattison is hunting deals
  8. 90-Year-Old Billionaire Jimmy Pattison Says These Are the 7 Secrets to His Success