Posted on December 02, 2011

The Beedie Goes On

His sentences tumble over each other as he explains how the Beedie Development Group remains true to the original concept of his father, Keith Beedie, whose company was incorporated in 1954. 

When Keith started concentrating on industrial development in the 1960s he quickly learned that he did not want to be just a contractor building for developers or end users, he wanted to be a contractor AND a developer. His approach was to say '"I've got the land, I'll design your building, I'll build it for you, and if it's a lease, I'll own it and I'll manage it for you. I'm not going to sell it out as a merchant developer,"' says Ryan. "So his model, the integrated structure, is genius. It's the foundation of our whole company. I took this idea that he'd been using for years, and just revved it up. I said, 'Well, okay, this is great-why don't we do more, and bigger?"'

"More and bigger" has turned out to be his mantra. The Beedie Development Group's revenues have leapt by 600 per cent since Ryan took over responsibility for development in the mid 1990s, prior to his assuming the mantle of president from his father in 200I. When he started working for the company in the early 1990s, it owned and managed 2 million square feet of industrial space; that number has grown to more than 7.5 million. The Beedie Development Group is now the largest landlord of industrial space in the province of BC. Its assets are worth more than a billion dollars.
 
Its projects' dimensions have also blossomed. Until a few years ago, the company had never built anything larger than 200,000 square feet; last year it developed 400,000 square feet for Home Depot, and is presently developing a 500,000-square-foot facility for Kruger Products in New Westminster-the largest single-floor warehouse constructed in BC. 

The Beedie Development Group recently crossed the border into southern Alberta, where it is developing the Highland Industrial Park in the town of Airdrie (just north of Calgary), and has completed a 200,000-square-foot facility for TransCanada Turbines. Witnessing this kind of relentless push, one can imagine a gimlet-eyed rival saying gloomily of Ryan, "First he'll take Alberta, then he 'II take Berlin." 

Concurrently, Ryan has the company expanding into large-bay industrial strata projects and residential property. It is no wonder that in 2009 he was named the overall Pacific Region Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young. 

It seems Like new business schemes latch onto his constantly gliding form like remora to sharks. Not that he has a shark's dead eyes or iffy temperament. Ryan appears to be a perfectly affable fellow, with the disarming friendliness and charm of an archerypal surfer dude. 

The 600 bottles in the cellars and wine fridges at his West Vancouver and Whistler homes, the passion he expresses for Italian food, and the more than I00 friends he has got listed on his Blackberry Messenger (BBM), are testaments to his ability to relax. As a matter of fact, one of his favourite lyrics comes from a song by The Kings called This Beat Goes On/ Switchin' to Glide-"(I) can mobilize some laughs with just one call." It might be a BBM call, Ryan says, but he loves the fact that these days, he can "make tons of stuff happen within three or four minutes." 

Over the years, however, he has learned to pause, reflect and appreciate what he already has in his personal life rather than constantly pushing for more. In that arena, he takes as his motto a line from U2's song Gone-"What you thought was freedom is just greed."

 Still, "more and bigger" prevails when it comes to business. Where some high-performing entrepreneurs savour their opportunities to unwind, Ryan stays busy. At family getaways in Whistler, he waves the kids and sometimes his wife, Cindy, off to the slopes, preferring to socialize with family and friends at night and spend the day by himself beside the fire, laptop ablaze with work. "'I'd feel really stressed if I were disconnected." 

If relaxation is on the agenda, he is eas-ily bored. When the family is on one of its frequent short holidays in Europe, Hawaii or Las Vegas, he craves business correspondence. He even welcomed it when the self-described "music nut" was following U2 around two continents on I0 dates of its tour last year. "When I land somewhere, I want the number of emails to be as big as possible." He's clearly his father's son. At 85, Keith cheque it sends out, and expects to be contacted on business matters while on vacation. 

"He's a real presence," says the junior Beedie of the senior. "I really love working with him. He gave me a lot of authority at a young age. I took it." Keith Beedie says he spotted the entrepreneur in his youngest son when Ryan was about nine. The boy had a game he wanted to sell and he'd put an ad in the paper. When a potential buyer came by, Keith said he could show the man the game, but Ryan wanted to handle it himself. The pair went into the basement, had a chat, and Ryan made the sale. Beedie remembers saying to himself. "I think I know where he's going to end up."

With his older brother Colin on the construction side, Ryan started of at the company by leasing buildings, dealing vvith brokers and listing agents, and helping show the structures the Beedie Development Group built. Then he heard about an opportuniry to buy 60 acres of land in the Tilbury area of Delta. The Group had already completed its first industrial park in Port Coquitlam.

"'(That's) a great model-it's worked very well,'" he recals pointing out. "But here's a chance to build in Delta - why not?It complements that land, it's cheap, and it's land inventory for us to build on, why wouldn't we do it?' My dad's saying, 'Grr, grr, they want too much money'-but he was 65, he didn't have the energy, he didn't want to do this. But I came in-I was still in graduate school-quite hungry for deals. So we bought the land, and we built a second industrial park."

Ryan quickly realized that it wasn't leasing that captivated him. Some of his dates with Cindy, whom he had met in the first week of his Business Administration program at Simon Fraser University, when he was 17 and she was 18, consisted of taking her to watch some of the dredging operations at the project in Delta.

"Here it is, you're taking this piece of land and creating something from what was just a bunch of grass before," Ryan recalls, explaining his excitement. "Now it's a filled site, you're putting roads in, you're building buildings. It was the most rewarding, wonderful, fun experience. It was 'Forget me doing leasing, I want to be doing that."'

Cindy, a one-time developer who is currently at home with their three children 17-year-old son, and daughters aged 15 and 12 now calls Ryan a "buildaholic." He thrives on the wheeler-dealer aspect of overseeing the Beedie Development Group, but says it is the structures that matter most to him.

"Some of these buildings will last 100 years, 200 years. You're making a pretty much permanent imprint. You're leaving your mark." Ultimately, for him, the power of con-structing a building lies in its creativity. "It's a vision and an idea that ends up becoming something." Ryan is the youngest of Keith's children, the sole scion of a second marriage and the only one to remain an employee.

"I always knew at some point I'd end up here," he says. When he was young, he and his parents would go for Sunday drives and, steered by Keith, would find themselves at his construction sites, looking at projects. Ryan couldn't help but be impressed by these edifices. "You think 'Wow, that looks like fun. That's interesting.' So it becomes ingrained in you." 

"We've got this great energy here, and I don't need to roll the dice and risk what we've got going, so it's steady she goes. You hope things work out, and 95 per cent of the time they do." 

After toying with the idea of becoming a Chartered Accountant, Ryan signed on full-time with the Beedie Development Group after graduate school. He had chosen the Sauder School, in part, because it was local and allowed him to take an accelerated program, so he could still work at Beedie.

 His father appreciated the effort. " I didn't finish high school, so I respected the fact that he got an MBA," says Keith. Now, he adds, "He's leading the troops. If it weren't for him, all this would not have happened. He's been a godsend." 

Naturally, Keith influenced Ryan in other ways. Beedie Senior financially supports many worthy causes through the Keith and Betty Beedie Foundation. Ryan has been involved with the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation and recently helped it raise $700,000 toward the $8.5 million, 15,000-square-foot North Shore Hospice, the North Shore's first freestanding palliative care centre. 

In 2011, Keith and Ryan Beedie donated $22 million to the Simon Fraser University business school, which was renamed the Beedie School of Business in honour of the largest gift that SFU had ever received. Beedie says at this stage in the Beedie Development Group's life, it is time to be more generous, and more structured about where and how it donates. 

As an individual, he says, "There's only so much you need for your lifestyle. A successful business gives you an opportunity to generate income so you can give it away-tl1ere are so many wortl1y causes-and make a difference in your community and the world." 

As for the future of the Beedie Development Group, it is dazzling, as far as Ryan's concerned. "We've got this great energy here, and I don't need to roll the dice and risk what we've got going, so it's steady she goes. You hope things work om, and 95 per cent of the time they do." 

He likes to keep things percolating. Even in his time off, says Ryan, "I always have options. When I'm going out for dinner, I'll have reservations at four places. I'll cancel the other ones with plenty of notice, but I want to have flexibility. It drives my wife nuts." Cindy sometimes tells him, tongue in cheek, that she's a "passenger on the Ryan bus." He's not offended. After all, says Ryan Beedie, "It's a pretty fun bus. The music's good and we're going places."