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My First Achiever

"Paul Durish"

Paul Durish is the first person featured in this book because Paul is the first Canadian Achiever I recall ever working with. Although at the time you would hardly call him an achiever. We first met in 1951 when we worked together on the S.S. Imperial Fredericton, an oil tanker hauling crude oil from Venezuela to Brazil, Argentina, and other South American and Caribbean countries. Paul was an assistant cook, I was a deck hand. We were both 17 years old. We formed a friendship then that continues today. Over the years I've stood on the sidelines and watched Paul risk it all time and time again as he's moved onward and upward through the boardrooms of Bay Street, and other financial centers.

Son of an immigrant Slovak fur trapper from Hunta, Ontario, Paul ran away from home to work the oil tankers.

"I was too small to be a deckhand, so] lied a lot and they made me an assistant cook.

Back in Canada, his next job was a clerk for the Yale Lock Company, he quit when he was refused a raise from $27. a week. His boss told him: "You are a good man, but you have an insatiable lust for money."

If Paul had such a lust, he kept it under wraps, because the obvious qualities projected by him are charm and trust. Those traits, plus one of the oldest forms of doing business, led to his quick climb to the top of the very competitive advertising, printing and farm implement businesses.

After leaving the lock company he worked his way up the Studebaker Corporation ladder until he became International Advertising Manager. Studebaker ceased production and Durish was unemployed. He'd learned a lot about advertising and decided to start his own firm.

He rejected offers to go to work for other corporations even though he was strapped with a mortgage, wife and three young kids. Instead, at 28, he struck out on his own. With very little capital and a two month lease on a tiny downtown Toronto office, Durish & Associates was launched. His first client was Peugeot Canada. He promised to provide the French car manufacturer with creative commercials for prime time radio and television advertising. The difference from other agencies was that Durish was willing to take payment in cars, not cash.

The scheme worked very well. Peugeot was not putting out any cash, which comes out of profits. "If they owed me $3,500, they'd pay me one car, which in actual fact was worth $7,000 retail.

Paul then approached many of Canada's largest radio and television stations and bartered the cars for advertising. "They could use the cars for news cruisers or for promotions and prizes, he said.

Within ten years Durish had acquired real estate, farm equipment, printing and publishing companies. He was a success. At the age of 38, when most people are looking 30 years ahead to their pension, Paul Durish, with assets of over $10 million, announced his retirement. He was going to sit back, spend time on his 52 foot yacht which he kept in the Caribbean, and enjoy the fruits of his labour. Those of us who knew him knew it wouldn't last. Paul was adamant it would. In actual fact it lasted about a year.

During that time Paul liquidated everything except his extensive land holdings. While visiting Kenya in 1978, he saw animals allowed to roam freely to the delight of the visitors watching. He decided to establish his own private game farm.

The Klahanie Wildlife Sanctuary is now home to hundreds of deer (five varieties), timber wolves, llamas, yak, buffalo, wild geese, ducks, peacocks and eight stocked fish ponds. The only fence at the 150-acre site just north of Erin, Ontario, is the one surrounding the property. The Durish family may look out of the windows of their sumptuous converted bam home and see dozens of animals intermingling in the wild.

"One day we counted eleven peacocks. We don't operate it as a zoo. Only select, invited groups come here: seniors, disabled children, school groups. We give them a tour of the animals, a chance to fish, and lunch at the house."

Durish's own formal education consisted of school at South Porcupine, St. Catharines, and Meriton in Ontario, and Millard Fillmore College in the United States. He considers ambition and innovation at least as important as formal education.

Although Paul claims he is semi-retired, he still puts in a full day's work.

"I'm really trying to slow down, I can't see spending your entire life just chasing the buck."

What advice does he have for other entrepreneurs who would like to match his success?

"The barter system can still be used. And with Third World Countries who haven't the cash, it should be used. Our profits in the advertising business were enormous compared with the usual 15% earned by agencies using money.

"Also, learn to delegate authority. I never had an office in any of my companies. I had a secretary check every day and phone me. I made visits, but mainly I hired good people and left them alone.

"I think the banking industry is smart to lend money to small business. Banks now acknowledge that entrepreneurs are the backbone of this country's business future."

"When I started out, entrepreneurism was a bad word. Now it is THE word.

"Look for opportunity out of chaos. Then run with it."

Paul Durish is proof positive that in Canada you can achieve ... no matter what your background is.

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