What I Learned From Working With A Billionaire

When I was a teenager, I played saxophone and clarinet in an old-fashioned church orchestra. This rag-tag group was at my home church, Glad Tidings, in Vancouver, Canada. A local millionaire (later he became a billionaire and one of  Canada’s richest people) named Jimmy Pattison, attended our church and was asked to come and direct our very unpolished group of musicians for a season.

Jim Pattison

His leadership changed everything! Mr. Pattison was, and is, a fantastic motivator. First, he didn’t tolerate people being late. If you were one minute late, then don’t bother coming. Suddenly, everyone was early for rehearsal. 

Secondly, Mr. Pattison knew how to bring fun and passion to a rehearsal. We didn’t have proper orchestration and written out parts like I write out for people now. We just winged it. He would photocopy some upbeat hymn and we learned to transpose our parts ‘on the fly’ . Then he would suddenly point at someone during our rehearsal and you were expected to stand up and play a solo.

If your solo bombed, you were out. But if your solo had potential than he would let you play it in the live church service that night in front of 800-1000 people. It got so I was always thinking ahead about what I would play, when and if he pointed at me. I bombed a few times, but for the most part I got better and better at improvising a solo on the spot. It was fun!

That ‘play it well’ or ‘bomb under pressure’ got to be a great challenge. There were a number of us who became regular soloists. He would point to a strong violinist, or ask for a drum solo, or point to an accordion, piano, sax or trumpet player. It was always fun to see who would rise to the occasion and who would bomb. You would get some friendly ribbing if you bombed. It was all part of the fun and excitement of playing with Mr. Pattison.

I also learned about generosity from Mr. Pattison. His giving is legendary. One Sunday morning, when we were raising money to build a new church. He came to the front and gave his personal testimony on giving, and then he donated a half a million dollars. His donation was matched by another family in the church and together they challenged the rest of the church to match their donations. The total pledges that morning were over 2.7 million dollars.

When Glad Tidings had it’s 75th Anniversary. I was asked to come back home and lead worship. Later on in the service, I introduced Mr. Pattison to do a trumpet solo. Earlier in the service, there had been an offering taken to put a new roof on the church. I believe the goal was to raise $125,000. When Mr. Pattison came up to play, he told the chairman of the board that he would top off whatever didn’t come in that offering. Off the top of his head, he probably donated $50,000-$70,000. Wow!

I remember his testimony about talking to his chief financial officer when his business was in a slump. He wanted to find out how much they had been giving. He realized that his success came from the Lord. He didn’t want to get behind in his giving.

My children and family benefited immensely from Mr. Pattison’s generosity and vision. He built and funded Pacific Academy, one of the premier Christian schools in Canada. I have no idea how many millions he poured into that institution, but my kids reaped the benefits of a world-class Christian education in a world-class facility. Thank you, Mr. Pattison. You are an inspiration!

Question: What people have influenced and motivated you? Do you believe in the power of giving?

Check out my new book.. Leading Worship ~ Notes from a Grand Adventure available in Kindle or Soft Cover Editions.  This is a great gift for the musician or worshipper in your life.

This entry was posted in Church, God Adventures, Leadership, Music and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What I Learned From Working With A Billionaire

  1. Dave Hensman says:

    Great Story Mark. I had one meeting with Mr. Patterson I learned more in one half hour with him than a semester in college. He gave me his book and signed it ” David my very best for your life – and God bless your life even more than He’s blessed mine. – Jimmy” As I look back over two very sucessful business ventures and current minstry ventures that are bearing much fruit and kids all serving Jesus Jimmys’ generosity and encouragement played directive role in some of my decisions. Blessings to you

  2. Pingback: My Top 10 Blogs of 2014 | Following God: The Grand Adventure

  3. Pingback: Celebrating 30,000 Views: My Top 10 Blogs | Following God: The Grand Adventure

  4. I think it is far to easy to be impressed by how much a billionaire gives. What impressed Jesus was how much a poor person gives in fact he draws attention to it. Everyone marvelled at how much the rich gave….but Jesus marvelled at how much the poor widower gave. Anyone can give out of abundance….

    • Mark Cole says:

      True.. giving is important for all of us.. rich and poor..
      Although.. I was actually more impressed and learned more from Mr. Pattison’s motivational and leadership skills.
      I also remember him going around a restaurant with over 100 of us there.. He talked to each table individually.
      His ability to connect with people personally was amazing..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *