Article on Brett Hickey in the book 'Creating the Life You Really Want'


My Path to Prosperity

Brett Hickey | New York, NY

Brett Hickey was born and raised in north western Canada, the son of two school teachers living in a small town. At the age of six, Brett lost his Mother to breast cancer, and could have lost his Aunt to the same disease had it not been for the treatments that saved her life. These defining moments, combined with the love and coaching from his then single Father (a principal of a French-immersion middle school who later stepped down to become a high school math and science teacher in order to spend more time with his son) created an awareness and passion for helping others. Brett’s drive and passion combined with his early life experiences inspired a form of social entrepreneurship and innovation with a profound belief that strong, profitable businesses can best be built with soul, spirit and scale.

Graduating with a dual diploma in French and English, Brett was exposed to other cultures generally not afforded to small town kids. Brett was determined to not have “can’t afford it” as a reason why he couldn’t do or have things. Having worked nearly a dozen odd jobs from shoveling the snow off roofs to pumping gas, Brett went to work on oil drilling rigs – the highest paying job available after graduating from high school. In one year, he rose the ranks quickly earning an annualized $150k salary at the age of 18. After saving enough money working for twelve months, while also having experienced the loss of two friends being killed on the rigs, Brett decided to head back to school in pursuit of a better life.

Always driven, Brett set Canadian speed skating records, winning a Canadian gold medal and North American bronze medal. While skating on the national training team in Calgary, Alberta, Brett co-founded an on-line work placement agency in the health care industry. During this phase, he was injured in a cycling accident, and abandoned his dreams to skate in the Olympics to focus on business and his college education with aspirations of making it into Canada’s top international school, McGill University. He was accepted and was also able to live with his Aunt, another deeply important influence in his life. “Was I disappointed about not heading to the Olympics? Of course, after making it so far, but my life has always been a constant quest to live the most successful and happy life possible, striving and pushing myself to new limits, though often redirected by outside circumstances,” Brett said. “The successful people I’ve met and admired are those who understand it is not what happens that matters, it’s how we respond and that we continually strive to improve.”

Brett Hickey graduated with honors from McGill with a major in finance and a concentration in accounting. In the very difficult 2001 recruiting year, he was awarded a position at Salomon Smith Barney (then the investment banking division of the largest financial institution in the world.) “As with many entrepreneurial endeavors, we do our research but always face obstacles along the way. For example, when I moved to New York, I realized that with no U.S. credit history I could not rent an apartment so I found two guys I’d met during recruiting and created a bedroom by building a temporary wall in their living room,” Brett said. “While the hundred-hour work weeks were challenging and it was very hard to have any balance in life, my time in investment banking was incredibly rewarding. Institutional training and experiences from top tier investment banking teaches people how to execute quickly and precisely with extreme attention to detail and the need to multi-task in order to survive. One of the more exciting transactions, I prepared the financial model and analysis on was the $16 billion, front page of the Wall Street Journal, reverse triangle merger of Travelers and St. Paul insurance companies with Nuveen asset management.”

While working at Salomon Smith Barney, Brett’s creative and entrepreneurial passions took over as he developed an investment thesis where he raised his first private equity fund of just over $20 million (at just twenty-five years old). Over the next four years, Brett raised a number of other funds, was involved in bank formations and invested in over 50 small and medium-sized businesses ranging from controlling stake acquisitions to senior secured loans giving him exposure and learning to all types of investment structures.

“That was an awesome couple of years. We had a sound investment thesis, but until documents are signed and money transfers hands, nothing is a done deal.” Developing and growing the initial funds was a lot of hard and creative work with limited resources. While the businesses grew rapidly and a substantial amount of value was created, Brett realized there was something missing. “There was one thing I had little training in, and that was around building cultures. I also realized that I wanted to do more than just make money and that I passionately pursued many of my humanitarian endeavors but found they often conflicted.”

Through exposure to organizations such as the Clinton Global Initiative, Brett realized that entrepreneurship, investing and benefiting society could co-exist with synergy. He joined the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), and embarked upon a three year program for distinguished business owners at Harvard Business School (HBS) in order to spend time with as many business owners as possible and maximize learning around operations and culture to supplement his entrepreneurial and investing experiences.

“Today I am still very actively involved as the Chairman of Networks for the New York City Chapter of YPO and graduated this year from Harvard Business School. They have been two of the most rewarding experiences of my life both personally and professionally.” In an incubator-type fashion, Brett used his time and resources to construct a new platform combining social good with building businesses in a way that improves financial outcomes instead of the old way of thinking that benefiting society has to come at a financial cost. Thus, Availor Group was born.

Availor is a word created as a derivative of the word “Avail” which broadly means to help. Despite a long journey ahead to accomplish all he wishes, Brett now has a platform and culture united to make a meaningful difference in the world while creating substantial financial wealth in a way that awakens him with excitement and drive. For those who know Brett, they know he is full of energy which has only increased with this new awakening and mission.

On “having it all” and finding true prosperity, Brett hopes one day he will start a family and raise children who will benefit from a healthier, happier and more balanced world. “I’m in a really good place, in my early thirties, because I love what I do and the people I work with.”

As for advice to others seeking true prosperity? “Create a dream and then build it. Don’t be consumed with people telling you how difficult everything will be. If I had listened to some, I’d still be on the oil drilling rigs. Richard Branson was a large inspiration to me as someone who relentlessly pursued his passions, overcame many obstacles and now lives an amazing life personally and professionally, while substantially giving back to humanity.”

Another piece of advice Brett passes along is to be very selective about the people you spend your time with. “Do your diligence on the type of people they are. Everybody is good at receiving money, but few make the right decisions in challenging times which may negatively affect them. I now ensure everyone I do business with is involved with and passionate about humanity in one way or another. This, to me, says they care with their actions, not just their words. If you are reading this you are likely in a position to make a substantial change in the world. It might not happen overnight, but it is possible! Imagine the impact we can all create!”


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