Charles Kim, Winner

The 2010 Business-to-Business Products and Services Entrepreneur of the Year? is Charles Kim, President and CEO, Trans-Pac Group of Companies.


The 2010 Business-to-Business Products and Services Entrepreneur of the Year
 is Charles Kim, President and CEO, Trans-Pac Group of Companies.

Classical violin plays quietly in the reception area of Trans-Pac’s penthouse office in Vancouver’s financial district. A treadmill, tucked in a corner by the boardroom table, is barely visible from the leather couches where Charles Kim sits, drinking a Coke on ice. The machine hints at Kim’s athletic pursuits, most of which are spent immersed in the forests that make his 21-year-old log and lumber export company one of the strongest in B.C.

Kim hiked the Grouse Grind again today at 5 a.m. – the best cure for jet lag, he says. He should know. With 10 offices around the world, more than 100 employees and headquarters in Vancouver, Trans-Pac has kept Kim on an ambitious international travel schedule for decades, building business relationships with forest industry leaders from across the field.

Four Questions

What was your first real job?

Selling lumber to sawmills in Quebec and New Brunswick.

What was your first big break in your current business?

Transforming from a trading company to a harvesting company.

Who was your role model/mentor?

I thought I was the smartest kid! I read a lot about people’s success stories – they never agreed with me. I thought I was lucky. I was very vulnerable because of my optimism.

If I wasn’t doing this, I’d like to be . . .

Travelling with my wife, playing golf, skiing, hiking. Those are my passions.

Under Kim’s guidance, Trans-Pac has not only become one of the largest private coastal log exporters to Asia but it has expanded operations to include log harvesting, wood products manufacturing and distribution, and commercial real estate. Annual revenue today is approximately $100 million.

At 57, Kim only now shows signs of slowing down. “I’m getting older,” he says, smiling. “Until I hit 55, I didn’t think I would ever get old.” He plans to work for five more years in his current position before finding a replacement. 

“That’s the toughest challenge: finding the right people,” he says. Filling Kim’s shoes will be no easy task. An unusual hybrid of soft-spoken gentleman and reckless pioneer, his major professional breaks came from going where “nobody wanted to go.”

Kim’s trailblazing spirit took him from Korea to Hong Kong, then Toronto and finally Vancouver, with a stop in Saudi Arabia to work for a French oven manufacturer before entering the forest industry. The same impetus spurred Kim to take Trans-Pac’s timber harvesting operations to northern Alaska eight years ago. 

“There are moments when you look back and say, ‘Gee, was I ever vulnerable then.’ It makes you think. I think it’s fate, a lot,” Kim says. “I took chances. I made it good. Then I’d make mistakes, but I’d make better decisions.”