Developer Ryan Beedie reflects on the advantages of a family business—and why he sees a psychologist
Real estate scion Ryan Beedie is in a confessional mood this afternoon.
Amid talk about his latest developments—including the much-touted new Mountain Equipment Co-op building (which, notably, added commercial rather than residential space close to downtown Vancouver)—our conversation seems freighted with a dissection of his own character and leadership of Beedie Development Group (BDG), the billion-dollar industrial, commercial and residential company established by his 89-year-old father, Keith, in 1954.
Beedie explains how he enjoys a drink to help with attention deficit issues (“when I have a little bit I’m able to focus better, as opposed to being all over the place, because that’s usually what my energy levels are like”); how he admits he’s “selfish” (“I don’t think you can be really great at something unless you are a little bit”); and how seeing a psychologist for the past five years helps (“I come out feeling good, so why not have someone to talk to? There’s no shame in it”).
“I’m very open,” adds the 47-year-old president of BDG, which has a sizeable footprint in both B.C. and Alberta. Completing 20 million square feet of industrial space in the past 25 years, the 200-employee company has developed mixed-use projects, including the Crown residential tower in Coquitlam and Station Square in Burnaby, and owns other spaces that include Kingsgate Mall and Parker Street Studios in East Vancouver. “I think a lot of people are uptight and don’t reveal themselves—maybe I reveal myself too much, but that’s who I am.” Indeed, judging by this two-hour-long lunch at Black+Blue (BDG owns 25 per cent of the Vancouver restaurant; Glowbal Group owns the rest), it’s little wonder that his shrink says he is “very self-aware.”
Just as he works on his physical side (Beedie is a spinner and runner, enjoying more intensity in workouts than, say, yoga—despite BDG also being an investor in close friend Terry McBride’s YYoga), the West Vancouver resident espouses the importance of this mental health “maintenance” on both the individual and community level. Beedie supported his wife Cindy’s capital campaign for the Powell Place shelter for women in the Downtown Eastside, while he and his father donated $22 million to Simon Fraser University in 2011, where the former graduated with a business degree in accounting and finance in 1991 (Ryan also holds an MBA in real estate from UBC) and met Cindy.
Beedie also became involved with the Canadian arm of Bono’s charity, the One Campaign, after being introduced to the Irish rocker. (A U2 fanatic, Beedie attended 10 shows in 2015 alone.) “The philanthropic side is just so huge to me,” he says, tucking into barbecued chicken salad. “I can’t wait to do more; it’s a big motivator for me moving forward in business.”
Discussing his business philosophy, the father of three touts how family enterprises trump public markets. Not needing to reveal meteoric quarterly financials, for example, helps with “thinking long-term,” and while he checks in with Keith (who still comes into the office most days), he revels in being his own boss. “If you’re in a luxurious position like I’m at where I don’t have to impress anybody but my dad and the mirror—and of course you want to lead your organization and inspire your employees—when it comes to making business decisions, we have a huge advantage.”
Sure, he makes the odd mistake, but there’s no time to languish, Ryan concludes. “You’ve got to keep going. I don’t think that could have happened if I’d had to consult on everything.”
Three things about Ryan Beedie
1. Instead of reading fiction, Beedie absorbs media on Canadian and U.S. politics, including CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room. “I’m a political junkie,” he says. “I probably know more about U.S. politics than, like, 95 per cent of Americans.”
2. He is obsessed by the sudoku puzzle but only at the “evil” level. Using his own process to complete it (he likes the National Post’s version), he says sudoku forces him to “slow down.”
3. Beedie’s an atheist and touts Sam Harris’s book The End of Faith as influential. While he says he usually keeps his thoughts to himself, he enjoys having “healthy debates and discussion” about organized religion.