When he was eleven, Ken Sim arbitraged collectible comic books from his neighbourhood comic book store.
His natural genius with numbers led him down the path of accounting, investment banking, multiple entrepreneurial opportunities, and finally, set him up as a mayoral candidate for the City of Vancouver. This week, we had the pleasure to sit down with Ken to chat about how all his past experience has prepared him for his new challenge to manage a city.
Ken’s first business began seventeen years ago, with the purpose of ‘making lives better’.
It all began when Ken quit his investment banking job, and his pregnant wife had quit her job at the same time. They started a search for caregivers, and were surprised by how little the caregivers knew about the job, much less cared about it. This experience spurred Ken and his co-founders to write a business plan, raise the funding within a span of nine months in October, 2001, and launch Nurse Next Door, a caregiving service that allows seniors to age with dignity.
Ken says the business operates with four core values, aka ‘non-negotiable laws of the organization’, which are: Find a better way, admire people, wild customer experience, and passionate about making a difference. He stresses the importance of these values, and shares how the team had fired a client that made up 80 percent of their revenue when it conflicted with their core values. Today, Nurse Next Door has over 5000 employees and 200 locations around the world, and Ken’s role has evolved from being Co-CEO to being a Board of Director.
With his newfound time, he partnered with one of his long-time friends to create Rosemary Rocksalt, a bagel bakery with the purpose of cultivating a better world, creating the next generation of leaders.
In his spare time, Ken generously shares his business expertise with newcomers through mentoring the next generation because he is inspired to give back by his own mentors, who gave him the time of day when he never thought they would. He is ‘paying it forward’ to the next generation of entrepreneurial hopefuls, hoping some day they would do the same to help those who come after them.
With such a full life already, Ken decided to take on the challenge of running for Mayor of the City of Vancouver earlier this year, and we asked why he would want to tackle this challenge. He shared that his life values are family, friends, and to live life full out, and this has guided his decision, when he saw his friends and family all leaving Vancouver because they could no longer afford to live in the city with its rising real estate prices and stagnant wages. Even his eldest son, who will turn 17 this year, has expressed to Ken that he believes he may have better prospects elsewhere.
His motivation is simple: he wants to create a City of Vancouver where his friends and family would want to stay.
When asked what makes him a better mayoral candidate for the City of Vancouver over every other option, Ken points to his accounting background; Ken started his career as a Chartered Accountant, then moved into I-banking where he worked 16-hour days, 6 days a week; his financial background allows him to understand how the numbers work. His entrepreneurial expertise garnered from the past 17 years running a large-scale, complex organization gives him the knowledge and business acumen necessary to manage the behemoth that is the City of Vancouver.
While other candidates have made extravagant promises of building 8,500 housing units per year (which is virtually unattainable given a project one-eighth the size took several years to complete), Ken gets back to the basics, proposing secondary suites in homes, which could immediately open up 40,000 housing opportunities in the city without the wait, which would drive downtown pressure on the rising rents in the city. Succinct and to the point, Ken knows what will work and speaks with determination.
When Ken looks ahead to five years down the road, he envisions a revitalized Vancouver where it gets back to the basics, where the city is bringing in more revenue than it is spending, and the residents of Vancouver can afford to live, have a great career, and enjoy everything Vancouver has to offer.
People tend to over-complicate things, and we applaud Ken Sim for having the courage to take the simple approach, which he recognizes will still take a long time but will eventually turn the city around. We wish him the best of luck in the City of Vancouver’s mayoral race, and look forward to the refreshing approach he will use to shape the city into one where all residents can thrive.
Photos courtesy of NPA Ken Sim’s team.