- Amar S. Doman
Amar S. Doman
2023 Horatio Alger Award Winner — Founder & Sole Shareholder, The Futura Corporation
“From my father : The road to success is always under construction”
Amar Doman was born in Victoria, British Columbia – the province’s capital city, which sits on the southern end of Vancouver Island.
Amar’s grandparents immigrated from India in 1906, although Canada was not the intended destination. “My grandparents were supposed to go to London, England,” Amar says. “Of course, they couldn’t read any English at the time, so they ended up on a boat that landed in New Westminster, British Columbia.”
“They were simply seeking a better life,” Amar says. Penniless and with a significant language barrier, they moved to Vancouver Island and built that life from the ground up. His grandfather got a job as a logger, which became the family’s introduction to the forest products industry. They had 5 children after arrival.
“Their story really energized me,” says Amar. “They had nothing, and had to work hard to persevere. It taught me that we can do just about anything if we set our minds to it and work hard.”
Amar’s father would take him and his brother to work in the sawmills when they were very young children, which Amar found thrilling. “I just loved being around my father and the business. I really idolized him. He was my best friend and he certainly had the biggest influence on me as far as my interest in the business world.”
After high school, Amar simply couldn’t wait to start working on his own. His father, being a “tough, tough businessman” would not lend him any money, yet his mother agreed to give him a small loan to help him get started. The day after high school graduation, Amar opened a lumber remanufacturing business.
While he did not lack a hands-on education in the industry, having spent much of his childhood in the lumber industry and hands on, Amar wonders if a post-secondary education would have given him the business acumen to grow his company a little more quickly. In terms of running a business, Amar admits, “I went into it a little blind.” Initially, he had no understanding of how to meet payroll or even how to read a balance sheet.
His father had taught him early, “you can take any lesson in a small business and apply it to a big business, but you can’t do it the other way around.” Heeding this advice, Amar caught on very quickly. He continues to think like a small business, and treating his employees like family even as his company has grown far beyond what he could ever have imagined.
The company’s growth began with a small series of acquisitions, which then led to larger acquisitions, and eventually to the purchasing of CanWel Building Materials in 1999. The acquisition of a large-scale national business was a significant step for Amar and his company, and he recalls feeling like they had reached their peak. However, as he notes, they were just getting started. “It’s been one heck of a ride,” he says.
CanWel has since been renamed Doman Building Materials is now public, where Amar through Futura has controlling interest. It is now one of North America’s largest producers of pressure treated lumber and distributors of large-scale building materials.
Amar is also the largest shareholder and Executive Chairman of Tree Island Steel, headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia. And, as President and CEO of the privately held Futura Corporation, Amar invests, owns the above mentioned, and operates various enterprises including real estate, with the help of 3,500 employees, and over $3 billion in revenues.
What I’ve Learned
Success, for Amar, is not about the numbers. “That’s all been great,” he says. “But it comes down to integrity, honesty, hard work, and really, who you are as a person and how you treat people. I define that as success.”
He adds, “When you lay your head down at night, the questions you should be asking yourself are: Have you done things with Integrity? Have you treated people properly?”
Amar has learned the importance of surrounding himself with a great team. This was critical in the early stages, as he figured out the basics of running a business, and has proven to be even more essential as the company has grown.
What is the most important attribute in a prospective employee? For Amar, it’s “attitude and discipline.”
“We really want people who want to be with us,” he says. “You have to be happy at work. It’s where you spend most of your time, most of your life. We hire people who are determined, enthusiastic, honest and really want to show up and be a part of our vision.”
His advice for students? “I encourage kids (including my own) to continue to go after their dreams and never give up on them,” he says. “Everything is possible. Why can’t it be you?” You must be able to overcome adversity –get up after you are knocked down –because you will be knocked down, time after time and fight again for what your dream is. The only barrier is yourself.
He credits his work ethic and open-minded spirit for much of his success, as it has allowed him to paint a picture of where he wants to go and then follow it relentlessly. “That can take a lot of sacrifice,” he notes, admitting he likely works more hours than anyone in the company.
A strong believer in the importance and potential of a postsecondary education, Amar encourages students to “take that step.” However, he cautions against pursuing any degree with no specific plan or direction for the future. “Make sure you’ve got a map or just wait,” Amar suggests, “then get the post-secondary education you need and you can laser-beam it directly where you want to go in life.”
Amar is a noted philanthropist and a mentor to young British Columbian entrepreneurs. Horatio Alger is of particular importance to Amar “because it directly helps those who need it.” He finds many of the harrowing backgrounds extremely difficult to listen to, but is inspired by their perseverance and success stories after having gone through the scholarship process.
“The first thing these young people need is someone to believe in them. The second thing is financial assistance. The Horatio Alger Association of Canada provides both in spades,” he says. “It’s just a wonderful honour to be a part of it.”