KC Irving was born 5 minutes from my living room.
His family still has a cottage there.
There’s a private airstrip to the back door.
Kenneth Colin Irving was the patriarch of his family’s fortune. As one of the richest families in Canada, the Irving family has created a private dynasty based mostly on oil, pulp and paper, transportation, and newspapers.
The family’s current net worth is more than 12 billion dollars.
Legend has it, KC publicly chastised his son, Jim, for buying a Cadillac.
The family-owned a few Ford dealerships.
Company cars were blue Fords.
Not only did Jim break the company rules, he broke a family one.
KC didn’t want his family to be seen as rich by Joe Public.
His fear was customers would resent his wealth.
Looking at KC’s cottage on Google Maps, you’d never guess a billionaire family uses it as a weekend hideaway.
My eyes know something Google Maps doesn’t.
Private Jets descend over my backyard to the airstrip on summery Saturday mornings.
Although KC died more than 30 years ago, his family continues to hide their wealth. Although still a family-run business, never would you guess the family’s leaders dine with Persian princes and European presidents all while driving their simple blue Fords.
Some of you dream of sexy cars, royal estates, and fancy toys. And when your business affords those luxuries, you buy them because you deserve them.
Of course you deserve them.
Never forget the one lesson Jim Irving was taught by his father. Your customers and your employees are watching.
Like a teenager, they become jealous of your success.
They think your success is not possible without their efforts.
Some of them will hate you for it.
If you are not careful, you will lose some of them because of your desire for nice things.
Another example that reminds me of KC Irving is Carl.
Carl owned a franchised pizza shop.
He worked hard, grew his pot of money, and invested in real estate.
One night over too many beers, he confided privately he was a multi-millionaire.
I asked him why he drove a Ford Ranger.
He sounded exactly like KC Irving.
“I love BMW. But the local Ford dealer is a good customer, and people would hate me if they knew how rich they made me.”
Carl took four vacations each year. He liked to rent the fanciest car available.
In the fall of 2004, Carl called me while vacationing in Toronto.
He rented a Lamborghini.
Knowing Carl liked basketball, I made a phone call to a friend and got him two tickets to an NBA game.
He pulled up to the stadium in the Lambo and picked up his tickets at will-call.
His tickets were courtside.
During the game, he called me. With the noise of the crowd and bad reception, he muffled that he was having the best time of his life.
He had just high-fived Vince Carter.
Two kings on one court.
Carl sold his businesses 15 years ago.
He’s now the mayor of his town.
Although wealthy beyond his dreams, he never wanted anyone to think he was better than them.
The way you celebrate your wealth can create jealousy.
Think about that as you enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Carl serves the community he worked in. KC did the same.
They worked hard, made plane-loads of money, but never showed it off.
You may consider this to be a tragedy.
I prefer to see it as a lesson in good business.