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It’s all about people – Mitchell Goldhar: The Giver

I’m building this unique luxury tent and cave resort concept in the Caribbean, and as most of my friends and family will attest, I live, breath, and sleep it.  My days are spent inspiring people. One day it’s our engineer who is designing the hydraulic system that will support our tents (and fold them up in case of hurricane), and on another it is our architect who has to figure out a design that will keep our cave units dry and bright.  And almost every day I work to inspire investors to believe in me and my concept of a luxury cultural “safari”, where affluent guests can stay in a peaceful natural setting, yet still access golf, fine dining, shopping, movie theatres, and all the urban amenities they love.  

I’ve never had to search for investors before. In the past, I’ve relied on bank loans and my own funds to build my businesses. So when I started out, I made some mistakes. I learned from them and carried on.  

One of my first investment pitches was to Mitchell Goldhar.  His background can be intimidating.  At the age of 28, Walmart recruited him to secure locations for their warehouse club division in Canada. He believed that expensive landlords were driving up the cost of goods and he was determined to bring fair prices to Canadians by building facilities with lower rents. But, Walmart changed their strategy and decided to go to Mexico instead. Goldhar, like most passionate entrepreneurs, refused to give up. He continued for almost a year, bringing together more properties and leaving voice messages for his Walmart contact – messages that didn’t get returned. Sure enough, almost a year later, Walmart finally called him back to say they had reconsidered.  Goldhar became their development partner and led conversion of 122 Woolco locations into Walmarts.

Through his company, Smart Centres, he has developed more than 200 shopping centres across the country. His enterprise was founded on his desire to give back to the world by creating conditions that help the average family get better prices on the goods they purchase.  He understands the power spaces  have to shape habits and actions. He’s a community builder. Needless to say, I was very nervous going into my meeting with him.

But, Mitch came into the room in jeans and a t-shirt, he put his phone on the table face down and asked me about my background, my history, my family. He put me at ease. In hindsight, I wonder if he could tell how nervous I was and wanted to help me find my footing before giving my pitch.

Over the years, I’ve begun identifying people, putting them into two different categories. I call them the “takers” and the “givers.”  The takers are people who are driven by status and shackled by fear.  They build walls around themselves pretending to know everything, but their lack of real engagement in the world shelters them from the mistakes and harsh realities that build wisdom. They tend to undermine anyone with a strong spirit, anyone who might challenge or question them.  They are easy to identify – they avoid direct, intimate conversation, and in meetings they check their cell phones every five minutes to avoid real engagement. They take from those around them, and waste their opportunity to significantly contribute to the world. I try to avoid these people as much as I can.

Then, there are the “Givers.” These are people who are driven to do things that will make the world better. Mitchell Goldhar is a giver – he believes in people and isn’t afraid to show it. Mitch understands how just a little bit of encouragement can go a long way. His encouragement and interest in my concept is something I hold on to whenever I come up against negativity.

Mitch is a true leader, but he is also very humble. He doesn’t place himself above those pitching to him, but listens intently and thoroughly.  This is perhaps the key to his success.  He heard everything I said in my pitch, and the questions he asked filled in the information I hadn’t yet given him. His ability to understand and intuitively pick up on my vision was startling.  

Givers draw strength and confidence from their actions and interactions. They have courage and engage with the world. They make mistakes and learn from them, and this produces confidence. Mitch exudes confidence, he is wise, but not too wise.

My father used to say that courage is about facing life and all its adversity with honour. And being honourable is about living up to a moral code that protects and enhances civil society.  Mitchell Goldhar has a lot of courage, and I’m looking forward to working with him in the very near future.