This article originally appeared in Moneyville. By Emily Mathieu.
Steve Gupta is the president and chief executive officer of Easton’s Group of Hotels Inc. As part of our series on the financial habits of notable Canadians, Gupta shares what he learned selling life insurance, why you should always bank cash for a rainy day, and why he has no plans to retire.
How did your family influence your attitude toward money?
I came to Canada with very little and learned quickly to appreciate the value of a dollar. Work extremely hard. Respect money. Save, invest and don’t waste it. These are important values I’ve taught my family.
What is the best financial advice you ever received?
Sometimes the best investment is the one you didn’t make. Never invest all your cash in real estate or other business ventures. Bank it for a rainy day.
Describe your first job; what did it teach you?
Selling life insurance; taught me to accept failure. But I also realized failure does not mean success is denied, it only means success is delayed. So, I didn’t give up. It also taught me that each customer is different and so I learned how to address their individual needs.
What was the first item you purchased with your own money?
I spent $1,200 for a four-year old Toyota in 1974.
What has been your savviest investment?
There have been four: three in Toronto and one in Port Hope, Ont. We purchased the former RCMP building at 200 Dundas St. E. from the federal government, the development of Marriott Residence Inn and the just-released King Blue condominium project at 355 King St. W. And a highway truck stop/service centre in Port Hope.
What is one thing you wish someone had told you when you got into business?
Always have contingency plans and contingency plans for contingency plans. As an entrepreneur who started my own business, many of my decisions were dependent on others. Over the years, for example, I came to understand that deadlines may be postponed or plans may not always go as I had planned, so being nimble to address ever-changing business conditions has been an important lesson learned.
What is your worst spending habit?
Buying expensive cars and clothes.
What hard financial lessons have you learned?
Work harder than others around me, believe in myself, never give up and follow excellence. I have seen four financial downturns in the past 40 years. As a hotelier, I turned difficult times into opportunities and worked much harder to stay ahead of the competition. And now entering the condo market for the first time, it is an exciting foray into a new world, but one which we fully understand.
Do you bank online?
No. My wife manages my personal financial affairs and all bills are paid monthly at the bank.
What is your retirement plan?
I have no plans to retire and expect to work as long as I am able. I have a passion for an active working life, balanced with care and concern for family time, which gives me a feeling of daily satisfaction.
Are money and success the same thing?
Not at all. Money cannot buy health, happiness or success. Some measure success in dollars and cents. I don’t. I believe success means doing things that are valuable to me, my family and the community. It is a continuous journey, not just a destination. I like to build businesses that create jobs that help support my fellow Canadians. I prefer to give back to the community and help others and am happy if I can make even one person happy. That’s my definition of success.