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Peaks and Valleys: Three investors tell us their best and worst investments

Find out what Holger Petersen, Perry Kinkaide and Kathy Sendall think were their best and worst investments.

Feb 4, 2014

Holger Petersen

Radio host, co-owner of Stony Plain Records

Holger Petersen, best known nationally as the host of CBC Radio’s Saturday Night Blues and within the province for his 40-plus years as host of Natch’l Blues on CKUA Radio, takes a holistic approach to the notion of best investment.

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Holger Petersen in Stony Plain’s Edmonton office
Photograph Ryan Girard

BEST
“Considering the investment of time in one’s life, I believe the two years I spent taking the radio and television arts course at NAIT were well spent,” he says. “It led to my radio career at CKUA and CBC and to an interest in music production which still keeps me busy at Stony Plain Records.”

WORST
For a time, Stony Plain, which focuses on roots, folk and blues music, worked with an American distributor. When it went belly up, its assets, including the Stony Plain inventory, were purchased by a liquidator. “We ended up buying back our inventory, for which we hadn’t been paid in the first place, to prevent it from falling into the hands of another distributor,” Petersen says. “They could then potentially have returned it to our next distributor for full credit.”

Perry Kinkaide

Founder and past president, Alberta Council of Technologies; former managing partner, KPMG Consulting

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Perry Kinkaide

After a long and successful career split between the civil service and business consultancy, Perry Kinkaide thought he was ready for what he calls the geriatric Gs: golf, gardening and grandchildren. But he retained his fascination with startups and decided to get involved as an angel investor. “I’d watch these companies as one does a garden,” he says of his initial plan. “I’d be close to them to mitigate the risk and capitalize on [the investment].” So he limited his search to tech startups he liked within 100 kilometres of his hometown of Edmonton. Then he started to invest – and to learn his lessons.

WORST
Kinkaide asks that we not use the company’s name, but it was a manufacturing business. The entrepreneur was passionate and had a great idea, but she did not mesh well with the business partner he set her up with. “I spent most of the time counselling the two on how to communicate and get along with one another,” he says. “One was focused on growing the business and the other couldn’t get past the colour of the logo.”

He says the lesson he learned then, and which has been reinforced many times over, is that the character and reputation of an entrepreneur are paramount. “I’d get enamoured with the technology without doing a lot of assessing of who’s talking, figuring I could get through that with teamwork and management,” he says. “I became aware of how relevant reputation is to an assessment of whether or not you really want to do business with someone.”

BEST
General Credit Services
General Credit Services began with a husband and wife team in Edmonton. “She brought the administrative moxie and he the product focus,” Kinkaide says. “That combination proved a good one.” Again, much of his early work involved personal relationships. “Often when we sat down I would ask them about their marriage,” he says, “knowing the stresses that they might often face when growing a small company.” General Credit is now a national operation head-officed in Vancouver, and Kinkaide says he got 10 times his investment back.

Kathy Sendall

Corporate director

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Kathy Sendall

Kathy Sendall was a senior vice-president with Petro-Canada and has had a distinguished career as a corporate director and board member for a variety of not-for-profits. She says her list of bad investments is “embarrassingly long,” but agreed to narrow it down to just three.

WORST

1. Principal Group, which went bankrupt in 1987
“We were newly married, not flush with cash or assets and heavily invested. A true nail-biting experience.”

2. Art investment co-op
“It supported Canadian female contemporary artists and gave the opportunity to hang the pieces, on a rotating basis, on the walls of our home. The only catch was that the collection was housed in Toronto and anyone wishing to borrow a piece had to pay for both transportation and insurance. Suffice to say that the Toronto-based members have enjoyed beautiful works of art in their homes for many years and we have never seen one (except online!). The collection is now being liquidated and it appears that, after 10 years, we may barely recover our original investment.”

3. Costa Rican condo
“Dazzled by the sand and surf, we temporarily lost our minds and invested in a condo development in Costa Rica, and even paid a premium down payment to secure a choice unit. Today, the developer is bankrupt, the building is a concrete shell and we have recovered about 20 cents on the dollar. We haven’t visited the place since!”

BEST
“Our best investment is our home on Vancouver Island. We went out there one weekend to look for property on which to build an edgy, West Coast-contemporary architectural masterpiece (I already had it designed in my head). What we found was a traditional oceanside home up-island that we fell in love with. I have no idea of its appreciation in financial value but it has already paid off in spades in the creation of wonderful memories of marvelous times with family and friends.”

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