Lunch with Amar Doman

Amar Doman, Futura Corp. | BCBusiness

Futura president and CEO Amar Doman comes from a long line of lumbermen—and carries on the entrepreneurial spirit today

He may be the founder and sole shareholder of a holding company with more than $1 billion in annual revenue, but Amar Doman pays little attention to the top line of The Futura Corp.’s accounting statements.

“I run on fear all the time,” he admits, while sipping a Pinot Grigio in Shangri-La’s Market restaurant. “There’s always something in the back of my mind that says it could all be gone tomorrow.”

Of course, the 43-year-old past Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner is sharing the anxiety that galvanizes most entrepreneurs, and reels off a work regime that’s in keeping. The president and CEO of the asset management and investment firm (focusing on the building materials industry) rises at 4:30 a.m., attends a flurry of twice-monthly cross-country meetings (via a corporate jet) and makes it into his Vancouver headquarters for a few hours every Sunday.

“I do it religiously,” he says of the Sunday office visits, adding the two-decade-old discipline is an opportunity for vision planning and to review goals without interruptions. “It’s like my own personal report card.”

Doman is also the CEO of CanWel Building Materials Group Ltd., and his drive is fuelled as much by his heritage as his entrepreneurial spirit. His immigrant grandfather worked as a logger on Vancouver Island, and the next generation of sons followed him into lumber: Doman’s father, Ted, worked with brothers Herb and Gordon to form Doman Industries Ltd., in the 1950s, which blossomed into a multi-billion-dollar firm (which was restructured under bankruptcy protection in 2002, to re-emerge in 2004 as Western Forest Products). In the 1970s, Ted also started Futura Building Materials, from which Doman derived his company’s name.

At 18, he passed on university to start his first company, First Class Lumber Remanufacturing, with a loan of $10,000 from his mother, Jaswant. “I had my secondary education at the dinner table; I just wanted to get into business,” says Doman. “It took my grandparents a big effort to leave India and come here, so it’s my duty to the family to push, to keep growing and to leave a legacy.”

Part of that legacy will come from his penchant for buying turnaround companies (Futura has made more than 20 acquisitions since forming in 1999). “Buy something that’s in trouble, and you’re going to learn how to fix it if you have the desire,” the West Vancouver resident comments while eating his steelhead dish. “Buy something at the top of the stairwell and you can go tumbling down pretty easy, and you might not get up again.”

The analogy undoubtedly dovetails with his love of business-oriented autobiographies, especially ones that delve into “how people made something out of nothing.” His current read? Phil Jackson’s Eleven Rings. It’s a pastime he catches up on at his holiday home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, where he often heads with his interior-designer wife, Natallie, their three-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. (They were expecting a third at the time of our lunch.) “We’re building the tribe out,” he says with a laugh.

It’s a tribe that he clearly wants to know about not just the importance of “giving back” (Doman is national board director for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, to which he recently donated $250,000), but also the philosophy he absorbed around the dinner table growing up.

“Everyone has their own way of raising children,” he says. “Ours was if you want something, you have to work for it. You have food and shelter, but the rest is up to you. And that’s just that.”

Amar Doman’s Favourites

1. “For a special dinner, Cioppino’s (1133 Hamilton St., Vancouver; is hands down one of the best in town. I always follow chef Pino Posteraro’s lead and choose something off his fresh selections; he creates something unique every time.”

2. “I tend to favour Hawks-worth (801 W. Georgia St., Vancouver; for great lunches and after-work drinks including its Reflections bar. It’s dangerously close to my office, which is key as time is always a premium for me. I certainly like French reds such as Bordeaux.”

3. “My favourite place for a smart casual meal is the Cactus Club (various B.C. locations; They are always reinventing, and at the same time keeping consistent with classics. It’s a great place to bring the family or to enjoy the scene. The new Coal Harbour spot is stunning—a must-see.”