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Jim Estill

Philanthropist & CEO Leading Billion-Dollar Growth

Jim Estill has been an entrepreneur for his entire life. Growing a technology distribution business from the trunk of his car to more than $2 Billion in sales, some could say he’s got a knack for it. He’s received a great deal of praise for his financial generosity and ongoing efforts to provide refuge to families fleeing from the civil war in Syria.

Guelph, Ontario, Canada


From Zero to $2billion – Success Habits
Based on his TEDx talk of the same name, Estill shares lessons learned from his time running 2 multimillion dollar companies. Estill has codified his life into a set of his “success habits.” He believes in small changes that can make a big difference – like spend 20 minutes outside every day, no matter the weather, and have a “creative oasis” where you can do your best thinking. Others are broader, like ‘do the right thing’— which can be seen in his actions to sponsor Syrian refugees.

How to use the Secrets of Leadership for Time Management
One of the reasons that time management is not enough is because time is not about quantity. Time is about quality.  Take a moment to think about your highly productive hours or days over the last year. You probably accomplished more in those short periods of time than over weeks or even months of less productive work. The key to time leadership is to maximize your number of quality hours. Leadership allows you to establish your priorities.  Estill shares his experience in learning to master not only efficiency skills, but also effectiveness skills.

The Business of Philanthropy
In this presentation, Estill shares insights as on how to bring a business mindset to the philanthropic world. He believes there are lessons learned that can be shared from business to social enterprises/volunteer organizations and vice versa: “My organization has 800 volunteers. If you can run a business with 800 employees, you can run an 800-person volunteer organization.”


Order of Canada

Global Hope Coalition Award | Everyday Hero

Order of Ontario

University of Waterloo | Engineering Alumni Award

Canada's Top 40 Under 40

  • He turned out to be exactly the kind of business person you want designing the systems that help people thrive.

    - Fortune Magazine

Summary Profile

Jim Estill’s not your typical big-city CEO. With a home base in Guelph, he brings a humble, pragmatic and driven approach to business. Jim’s successfully built 2 companies worth hundreds of millions, and shares some of the success habits he’s developed in doing so with audiences around the world.

When Jim Estill decided to sponsor 50 Syrian refugee families, the death toll in Syria had reached a quarter of a million people, while another four million had fled the country. As he watched the news, Estill got worked up. “I didn’t want to be 80 years old and know that I did nothing during the greatest humanitarian crisis of my time,” he says. 

Self-described as “a regular person doing a tiny bit and even doing that imperfectly,” Estill’s style is humble, pragmatic and driven. 

Estill was a young entrepreneur who got his start reselling computers out of the trunk of his car in the late ’70s in Waterloo. Fast forward to today where he’s since built and run multimillion dollar companies.  Estill became one of the first members of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 and is a former director of Research in Motion/Blackberry. He founded EMJ Data, sold to Synnex when it was doing $350,000,000 and was CEO of Synnex Canada for 5 years – driving sales from $800,000,000 to  $2 billion  Now, he is the CEO of Danby Appliances.

One of his success tenets is to ‘do the right thing.’   In the case of sponsoring Syrian refugees, he wants to show other wealthy businesspeople across the country how they can front the money, set volunteers in motion and use their professional networks to find jobs for refugees. “If you can run a company with 800 employees, then you can run an organization with 800 volunteers,” he says. He has a clear definition of success for the program: 50 families who work, pay taxes, buy their own groceries and speak English. “We’re not encouraging them to be dependent on us,” he told me. “You’re not doing anyone any favours if you just hand them cheques.”

"People who succeed have momentum. The more they succeed, the more they want to succeed, and the more they find a w… https://t.co/iRADoCrY8Q (2019-10-23 12:02:17)
"All progress takes place outside the comfort zone." -- Michael John Bobak (2019-10-22 12:01:46)
"Do one thing every day that scares you." -- Anonymous (2019-10-21 12:01:42)