Interview with Brett Wilson

High-profile Canadian businessman, philanthropist and television celebrity.


Home base

Calgary, AB

Professional cred

Wilson co-founded FirstEnergy Capital Corp. in 1993, a Canadian brokerage firm that has participated in projects worth more than $250 billion. Chairman of Canoe Financial, a privately owned investment management firm with about $2 billion in assets, he is also chairman of Prairie Merchant Corp., a private merchant bank. Retiring earlier this year from the Gemini Award-winning TV show, Dragons’ Den, Wilson now stars in a high-risk investment show called Risky Business on Slice. Last June, Wilson was also appointed a member of the Order of Canada.

Days spent on the road

“I am on an airplane every two to three days, so I have systems and processes for every major airport in Canada. I usually work on the plane using my MacBook Air. With a seven-hour battery, I can get four hours worth of emails read on a Calgary–Toronto flight and still watch half a movie in the background.”

Where do you like to vacation?

“I’ve visited more than 40 countries in the past 10 years, and there’s no one place for vacationing. I have a lake cabin in Windermere, BC, that I love to visit. I go to the Muskokas in Ontario for a few weekends a year with friends. During the winter, I travel to Palm Springs for a golf trip and I visit my parents in Phoenix. This year, my son and I trekked through Bhutan in the Himalayas and it was amazing.”

Best power breakfast

“In Toronto, it’s the Soho Metropolitan Hotel and, in Calgary, it’s the Petroleum Club. My standard breakfast is two poached eggs with brown toast and ham.”

Free time between meetings

“I stay wired and connected. I’ll work on a WestJet flight in Calgary and sometimes can even still get wireless transmitting from the airport on the plane as they are loading. I work as soon as I land. In Vancouver, I go straight to the Starbucks in the middle of the WestJet terminal, open my laptop, order my coffee and I’m back online.”

Favourite dinner restaurants

“In Calgary, I love Charcut and Jaroblue. In Toronto, it’s Jacob’s Steakhouse and Blowfish.”

Business advice

“Don’t be afraid of getting help. I use a personal coach and I still spend a couple of times a year with a psychologist because I don’t know everything. First impressions are really important. As a business and life tip, I think people underestimate the value of marketing. Know the value of goodwill and understand brand.”

Passionate projects

“Aside from philanthropy work, my new television show, Risky Business, is very exciting. I’m also writing a book with a working title of Redefining Success in a Wealth-Obsessed World. Many people are chasing this illusory, wealth-based definition of success. But think of success in the context of happiness. In Bhutan, they have a Gross National Happiness Quotient, a concept of measuring success by the size of the smile.”

Related links:

Paul Brandt on his record label, business advice, and favourite places to travel

Funny Business: Interview with Russell Peters

Interview with The Tea Party

Interview with Todd Perrin of Top Chef Canada

WestJet Banner