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Management Justus Parmar on starting something from scratch and watching it grow

Justus Parmar, managing director of Fortuna Investment Corp., in Vancouver on Nov. 28, 2018.

DARRYL DYCK/Globe and Mail

Justus Parmar, 36, is an entrepreneur and the managing director of Fortuna Investments, a Vancouver-based venture-capital firm. He also created and funds the Justus Parmar Group Scholarship Foundation, which awards scholarship funds to finance students at the University of British Columbia, and is an active board member and fundraiser for Face of Today, a charity working to end the stigma of mental health issues impacting youth.

I was born and raised in Duncan, B.C., a small town on Vancouver Island, and have been living in Vancouver for the past 14 years. My mother was a nurse and my father had a small import-export business.

My parents instilled in me the value of hard work. They both immigrated to Canada from India at a young age and had to work very hard for everything they had. I always admired my father’s resourcefulness and how he was able to run a small, successful business on his own. He put a suit on every day, had an office downtown and drove a Cadillac. He also travelled a lot on business trips to places like Europe. I was enamoured by it all. It made me think of becoming a businessman myself one day. My mother also inspires me. She is very passionate about people and family means everything to her.

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Unfortunately, my dad passed away when I was 13 years old. As the oldest son in the family, I felt that it was up to me to support my mother and younger brother going forward. It propelled me to become the smartest, most successful version of myself. I vowed to always ensure that my family would be safe and secure financially. To this day, I put my family first and carry these same strong family values while building my company, Fortuna Investments.

I got a business degree from the University of Victoria. I wanted to study in Victoria, B.C., because it was close to my family. After university, I moved to Vancouver and was working in a junior position at CIBC when I met a businessman, a regular customer, who encouraged me to consider doing what he was doing, which was work as a stockbroker and investment adviser. I applied to a few different places and took a job as an investment adviser at a smaller company called Global Securities, which is now PI Financial. I then moved to a bigger firm, Macquarie Private Wealth, before jumping back to a smaller firm, Jordan Capital Markets, where I came on as a partner. We grew the company and eventually sold it to Mackie Research. From there, I went on to start Fortuna Investments in 2015.

I take great pleasure in starting something from scratch and watching it grow. I also try to make sure people around me are doing well. I think it’s important to empower the people around me. I want to give them the tools and resources and responsibilities to do their jobs well.

I like to delegate a lot. I trust my employees. Throughout my career, I’ve seen the inverse of that. I’ve seen people hog the ball, try to do everything themselves and take all the credit and it doesn’t work. If you’re truly trying to build something, you have to let people think and have free rein with their ideas. If people around you are empowered to grow, the firm and its investments should be a consequence of that.

To me, there’s no need to be greedy in business. Money comes and goes. There’s always enough to go around. It’s always better to overcompensate people than under-compensate. There’s no fun in eating dinner alone. I hate it when people are very cynical and say, ‘You can’t do that.’ It’s easy to criticize or poke holes in something. I think the inverse, that you can do things. We’re in the solutions business. Believe in yourself, believe that you can. It’s not always easy. The way I see it, I’m investing in people. I believe in people.

Of course, not everything in business will go your way. There will always be problems. It’s about your mindset and expectations. It's how do you work through the challenges that is most important.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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