BY ZARA DURRANI
“You only have one life to live. You are on this earth for a purpose, and you want to make sure when you leave, you do so with a positive contribution. Do whatever you can to make things better for the people around you. Try to leave nobody behind if you can.”
It is impossible not to leave feeling inspired after a conversation with Balraj Mann. I was prompted to advise him to write a book at the end of our chat. Balraj embodies all the positive traits we read about in self-help books for success in life and business—humility, dedication, community participation, leadership, presence, kindness, the list goes on. This is a man who intensely hopes to leave a positive impact on his community, not from an ego-based perspective, but with a genuine love for his fellow man. We conducted this interview a few weeks before Canada celebrated her 150th anniversary and you could sense his pride.
Balraj Mann has a 30-year history in consulting, land development, construction and corporate management in British Columbia. He is the CEO and Chairman of BM Group of Companies, comprising of a diverse portfolio of structural restoration, waterproofing, construction management, material supply, and real estate related businesses. BM Group has expanded operations to other parts of Canada, the US as well as South Asia. An impressive feat from someone who started his Canadian journey with humble beginnings.
He is also a proud member of the Vancouver & Surrey Board of Trade, Greater Vancouver Homebuilders Association, American Concrete Institute, Association of Professional Engineers and GeoScientists. If you’re looking for someone who is defining the Canadian dream, look no further. This inspirational and remarkable entrepreneur has made his mark and continues to impact the community through his many philanthropic efforts. You may be familiar with some of the lower mainland landmarks BM Group has worked on Canada Place, Fairmont Hotel, Simon Fraser University, the list goes on.
Balraj moved in the early 80s to New Westminster from a small village in Punjab, India at 15. That can be a tough age for any teenager, adding the move to a foreign country oceans away from
his native land, with new customs and language, can make a hard transition for anyone. But, certainly, destiny had bigger plans for this extraordinary teen. He kept his chin up and heart set on bigger dreams.
“I was used to waking up early in the morning at the farm in Punjab, to look after cattle and help wherever I can. So when we moved to Canada, my family was familiar with farm work, and that’s what we did.”
Straight from high school, Mann made his way to Douglas College for the Construction Management diploma and later received his Civil Engineering Diploma from Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
How does a man who has so much on the go, create balance in his life?
“I have to say credit goes to my wife. We made a strategic decision to put our family first, to always be present for our children, at least one parent. I make time for my kids, whether it’s university, sports events, etc. I don’t have many personal hobbies, but I tailor my life around my family. I make time for family vacations, and make sure not to miss that part of my life.”
While speaking with Balraj, his passion for humanitarian work and making efforts to support his community are quite apparent. Currently, he serves as the Director for Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation and Surrey Board of Trade. For several years BM group has been supporting Children’s Hospital, Ride to Conquer Cancer, Make a Wish Foundation, among others.
What would you say is your philosophy in life?
“You only have one life to live. You are on this earth for a purpose, and you want to make sure when you leave, you do so with a positive contribution. Do whatever you can to make things better for the people around you. Try to leave nobody behind if you can. We are lucky to have this opportunity to immigrate to this beautiful country and to call Canada home. It’s inspiring for me to see people who have started with nothing and making something of themselves.”
BM Group represents an alliance of companies within the construction sector that complement and support each other to deliver outstanding service, highly specialized skills, and exceptional quality control from start to finish. Manorlane Homes, PENMAT, PolyCrete, Yard-At-A-Time Concrete, Mann Testing Laboratories, Contech Services, Urban Sewing and Scanning, TEK Roofing, RMX Logistix, and Dallas Watt Demo.
How does one create loyalty amongst staff and employees when managing several companies and hundreds of employees?
“Part of our corporate culture is to attend events as a team, whether they are sporting events or fundraising galas. We also sponsor some of our employees’ kids hockey and sports teams. Right now, I have quite a few businesses that I manage. And I’m working more on the business than in the business. We have given opportunities to people to grow within the company rather than getting someone who is unfamiliar with our values. I make sure I give opportunities to BM employees who have been with us for a long time, for management. That formula seems to have worked for us and created a loyal and happy staff. Each company that we have acquired strategically we make an effort to keep the culture as it was. Most of the time companies reach out to us wanting to be a part of the BM group.”
The first company BM Group acquired was PolyCrete restoration. Mr. Mann used to do consulting for them, and when the owners were looking to retire, they reached out to him. Later, I heard one of the technicians in this warehouse has been in this company for over 35 years. That’s quite impressive.
What life advice do you give to your children?
“I make sure to impress upon my kids the importance of not taking anything for granted. I always remind them it’s the journey that matters and not the destination. It’s important for me to share with them my struggles and the lessons I have learned along the way. It’s our job to make Canada look good. By the grace of God, we should do whatever we can. Instead of focusing on the negative I believe in taking action and doing something to help those that are not as fortunate.”
Listening to Balraj speaking passionately about community work you can sense he is someone whose efforts are for non-selfish reasons, not for the glory or more publicity—but from a place of genuine love and compassion.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?
“Try to do your best at whatever it is you’re doing. Working a little extra always gets you noticed. Put in that extra effort. Have a genuine curiosity to learn and grow. Being an immigrant and a visible minority, I believe we have to prove that we are capable. You have to do more than the people around you. Whether it’s your employer or your customer, your wife or your kids. It also gives you personal satisfaction. Even in joint ventures and partnerships, I make sure the other party is getting more value from the relationship.”
What advice would you give to new immigrants starting their life in Canada?
“Canada is a great country. You made the right decision. Put your head down, focus and work hard. There are a lot of resources and people here to support and help you along the way. Be patient. Invest in yourself. Don’t let setbacks hold you back. Get educated. Do your part of becoming a part of your community.”
What do you do to get inspired?
“I get inspired by reading success stories. I do read a lot, whether it is books or magazines. I learn from everyone around me. For example, when I was in India last, watching a man sell fruit on a cart inspires me. How he talks to his customers, the smile on his face, his attitude. I get my inspiration from everywhere around me. Education and personal development, in my opinion, is a must.”
I left my conversation with Balraj Mann with an extra pep in my step, feeling motivated to give more in my life. I’m sure it is his positive outlook on life, dedication to giving back, and doing more than what is necessary that has brought him much respect and admiration along with success.