Photo: (Left) Hans Knapp, Partner, Yaletown Partners and CVCA Awards Committee Chair and (Right) Jeff Parr, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Clairvest Group
Clairvest Vice Chairman and Managing Director Jeff Parr has been inspired by a saying from his late father about how to live an impactful life. “My Dad used to say, ‘plant as many helpful seeds as possible and forget about them. Nurture and assist the ones you can have an influence on. You never know when one will sprout and give you a return.’”
To date, Parr has helped nurture a number of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations to create meaning and fulfillment in his life — and the lives of others. “To my father, the most important thing was treating people as you would want them to treat you. It’s a good tenant in the world of business, as well as the world of philanthropy.”
Since he joined Clairvest in 1995, Parr has been a leading member of the team that has helped the firm grow from $40-million in capital under management to more than $2-billion. He has also donated time and money to many charitable organizations such as Parkinson Canada, Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto, The Shaw Festival and his alma mater, Western University.
It’s Parr’s contributions in business and beyond that earned him the CVCA’s 2019 Ted Anderson Community Leadership Award. The award recognizes leaders in the ecosystem who have given back to community by not only supporting Canada’s economic productivity, but also fostering strong corporate social responsibility as a foundation to building solid, vibrant communities.
Parr said he’s humbled to receive the honour, in particular after being nominated by a group of his peers, including leaders at the charities in which he’s involved.
Parr’s personal philanthropy
Jon Collins, associate director events and partnerships at Parkinson Canada, said Parr has not only donated to the organization and participated in the annual Pedaling for Parkinson’s Ride from 2012 to 2018, but also inspired others to take part and to donate, including his firm, Clairvest. Parr was inspired to donate time and money to Parkinson Canada after his father-in-law, a good friend and others close to his family were diagnosed with the disease.
“Jeff has exhibited a tremendous personal commitment to our cause and moreover a capacity to raise the profile of the organization within his network,” Collins wrote in his submission about Parr for the CVCA award. In an interview, Collins said Parkinson Canada is grateful for all of its supporters, although many simply write a cheque. Not Parr: “A supporter like Jeff who gives and inspires really helps to move the needle for organizations like ours,” Collins said.
Parr has also donated to Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto, a small charity that helps homeless people in the city. While Parr had no personal connection to the organization, a cousin of his chose to lead a homeless life, so he empathizes with the mental health issues that drive so many people to become homeless.
When a Sanctuary team member called him up, out of the blue and invited him to learn more, Parr arranged an onsite visit, caught the vision and offered his financial support, said Alan Beattie, executive director of the Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto. “He has an open mind and wanted to have his world of giving expanded,” Beattie said.
Parr also helped the organization by working with two others to donate and raise the funds to support the cost of a nurse practitioner for five years to help homeless men and women with any health issues.
“Since we were first introduced to Jeff in 2015, we have been tremendously grateful for his personal support as well as the leadership that he has shown on Sanctuary’s behalf,” Beattie wrote in nominating Parr for the CVCA award. “Through his personal giving as well as his financial support through Clairvest, Jeff has been a lead supporter of Sanctuary in these last five years. He has made it clear that he is in it with us for the long haul too and we are thrilled to have Jeff in our corner, championing the work that we do.”
Parr also introduced Sanctuary to another organization and together they are looking into developing a palliative care initiative for the homeless community in Toronto.
“In the short time that we have come to know Jeff, he has proven to be a man of his word and full of integrity and credibility with those in his circles,” Beattie wrote. “He appreciates the responsibility that comes with the success that he has enjoyed and is committed to discharging that responsibility with excellence.”
Building capacity through Clairvest
Clairvest was founded by Joe Rotman and a group of successful Canadian entrepreneurs with the purpose to give back to the next generation of business leaders by providing guidance and capital to assist in their development. “They all have also been incredible philanthropic leaders in the community,” said Parr, as well as an inspiration to him and his colleagues to continue with their vision and give back. The 24-plus year journey at Clairvest has been financially lucrative for Parr, who credits the company’s success to its philosophy of doing well by doing good.
“It’s a very rewarding personal experience when you help build equity value and enterprise, create jobs, economic inputs and growth in the economy, which is key to a successful society,” said Parr. “The mission is to assist in building great companies and business leaders. Success in the mission derives a very nice byproduct, which fulfills our mandate of making high returns on invested capital … It’s really about doing the right thing, giving back, helping people succeed and building success in partnership with others, not through them.”
When pressed about the biggest challenges Clairvest faces in business, Parr responded, “I think the hardest part of any business is building, maintaining and nurturing human capital. While we are faced with tough decisions, it is how you execute on those that’s important … If you treat people properly, then you’re building long-term friendship even if the business opportunity didn’t meet its objectives.” It goes back to what his father said about planting seeds and helping them grow, through all kinds of weather.