Beck Gold & Diamond Brokers gives new meaning to the idea of family business
Clinton Beck isn’t like most people in the business of buying and selling precious metals
by Max Fawcett
Beck Gold & Diamond Brokers
#35 on the Fast Growth 50
Head office: Edmonton
Industry: Wholesale & Retail Trade
2011 gross annual sales: $1,877,976
2010 gross annual sales: $552,284
Photograph Ashley Champagne
You’d think someone running a business that buys and sells gold would be bullish on, or at the very least interested in, the future of the price of the commodity.
And you’d think that would be particularly true when the business in question tripled its revenues in large part due to the spike in the price of gold and the sudden flood of interest in buying and selling it. But Clinton Beck isn’t like most people in the business of buying and selling precious metals, and that’s apparent almost from the first moment you walk into – or, OK, get buzzed into – his Edmonton store.
“I don’t really care,” Beck says of the price of gold and silver. “And no matter what we hope will happen, it never seems to go that way anyways. I don’t try to get caught up in why people are buying or selling – I like the stories, and everyone has their own beliefs about the markets and why things are happening – but our main concern is whether the customer has a positive experience, no matter how crazy their idea is.”
Growing up, Beck actually wanted to become a veterinarian, but he quickly realized that he had a different calling. “By the time I was 16 years old, I realized that I wasn’t smart enough to be a veterinarian. Science wasn’t my thing – I was good at sales.” His grandmother worked at a jewelry store on Vancouver’s East Hastings Street, and he’d often hang out there on weekends learning from her and the other people who worked there. By the time he was 18 he’d opened up his own shop buying and selling jewelry at the Vancouver Flea Market, and it went well enough that he transferred the business to a more permanent location in Surrey. He moved to Edmonton 12 years ago, and he’s been there ever since.
And while three-quarters of Beck’s revenues come from buying and selling gold, silver and diamonds, he says he’s far more interested in the antiques (which range from vintage cuckoo clocks and historical artifacts to Second World War memorabilia and cultural curiosities like a shrunken monkey head) that he collects and sells at his shop. “You never know what’s going to happen on a daily basis,” he says. “Every day there’s somebody bringing in something unusual and interesting, and you get to hear the stories of where they came from.” He wonders if he shouldn’t start writing down the best stories.“I’d probably have a best-seller,” he says. And if it isn’t publishing, well, it might just be television one day. “We’ve considered it, because we always say our store is way more interesting than some of the ones that are on TV.”
Beck isn’t the only one who hears the stories, either. He works with his wife, who is the in-house gemologist, and his two sons. While that might seem unusual, given the merchandise that they trade in and the security risks that can come with it, Beck says it’s a natural fit. “It’s the perfect business for a family business, because there’s a lot of trust involved,” he says. “And I like seeing my family every day, so it’s nice to work together.”
His dream, he says, is to one day pass the business down to one of his two sons.
But therein lies one of the limitations for Beck when it comes to the future of his business. It’s difficult to scale up an operation like his, and while he’s open to the possibility of having one of his sons open up a second location the idea clearly gives him pause. “We’re actually talking about opening up in Saskatoon or Regina, where they don’t have anything like this,” he says. “But then we can’t all see each other and have dinner together, so there are pros and cons.”