He is a superstar entrepreneur and according to Forbes, is worth $5.8 billion. Jim Pattison has come a long way from growing up in poverty and watching his family struggle to make ends meet.

He bought a car dealership in Vancouver, got into leasing and then moved on to media, the food industry and other ventures.

Today, the Jim Pattison Group is Canada’s third largest privately owned company, but when I ask him to share his story he stops me quickly.

“At our company we don’t talk about ourselves,” he says quietly. “We’re not fancy and we didn’t do much different. We just worked hard.”

 

After much cajoling, I finally convince him to talk about business and the affable billionaire is willing to share his thoughts on how to survive in a challenging economy.

“When there’s lots of change in the world there’s also lots of opportunity. You have to follow up on the opportunities. If you stick with what you believe in you’ll be successful.

But it’s all about hard work and timing.

There’s no sense in bashing your head against the wall if it’s not going anywhere.

There are a lot of people with good ideas but if it’s not commercially viable there’s no sense sticking with something that isn’t going well.”

Pattison cautions everyone to be realistic in an economic downturn and to realize that every situation is unique.

What works in Newfoundland may not fly in B.C.

What’s the bottom line from one of the best entrepreneurs ever to emerge from Canada?

“If you work hard and be honest then you’ll be successful and that’s about as simple as it gets.”

Jim Pattison’s 10 tips for surviving a downturn

1. Out of adversity and change comes opportunity for something new.

2. Be alert and keep your eyes open.

3. Find the resources to make it happen.

4. Have the best price and quality to be competitive on a world wide basis.

5. Conduct yourself with integrity.

6. Don’t worry about things you can’t control.

7. If timing is on your side you have a chance

8. Treat people the way you want to be treated.

9. We all make mistakes but the key is not to “live” with your mistakes.

10. Know when it’s time to move on.

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