Live & Learn: Margot Micallef

The entrepreneur, lawyer and philanthropist on the Canadian broadcasting system, the CRTC and the joy of ranching.

I love the art of the deal. I love being able to conceive of an idea and then bring the people together to make the deal happen.

In a deal, there’s no obstacle that cannot be handled as long as you listen to the other side and are willing to be creative or flexible to accommodate what the other side is looking for.

You have to be patient. Sometimes, we might come to a conclusion a lot more rapidly than our investors do, our lenders do, the parties we’re negotiating with do, so we have to give them time.

Everything in life comes down to trust, which is why doing the honourable thing and being honourable in the way you manage and run your business is so important.

The business community — anywhere in the world, not just in Canada — is very small. Your word has to be your bond. I’m proud of the fact that I’m still doing deals today with people that I did deals with 25 years ago.

I was born in a little town called Valletta in Malta. I lived there until I was about four, and then we moved to Nelson, B.C. Then we moved to Portland, Ore., and then Vancouver, and that’s where we settled.

My grandfather was a politician, as was my dad. My grandfather was, in fact, in the very first parliament in Malta in 1924. He died just before the Second World War.

My father went into politics and held the same seat my grandfather held. When my father’s party was defeated after decades of being in power, we were so clearly from the opposing party, and Malta is such a small place, that there really wasn’t a lot of opportunity for my family at that point.

My dad was approached by a fellow recruiting for Notre Dame University in Nelson. He hired my dad on the spot. My dad was absolutely brilliant. He spoke nine languages, had multiple degrees in law, drama and philosophy.

I have a 1,000-acre ranch in Radium Hot Springs, B.C., called Firlands Ranch. I get to pitch in and be a cowgirl when I’m out there. It’s a lot of fun. We do everything on horseback. We raise our cattle all-natural, no hormones, no antibiotics, grass-fed. We sell some of our calves at auction, and we sell our best calves directly to the consumer. It’s the best beef you’ll ever have.

One of my favourite sayings is: You play the cards you’re dealt. Whatever circumstances life throws at you, you deal with it. You can’t change it. It is what it is, so you just move on.

We always were raised with a charitable spirit, even though I grew up in a family that didn’t have a lot. My father was extremely charitable. Often times, my dad used to come home without his coat. He would say: Somebody needed it more than I did.

My son, Christopher, and I have gone to Mexico to build homes, and we’ve done fundraising for an orphanage in Ethiopia. I’m fundraising for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Calgary is truly the land of opportunity in North America. People here accept each other without having to come from a particular background.

Whatever I accomplish in life, as long as they say she was a good mother, I will feel that I have succeeded. I feel almost silly saying that, but being a parent is not easy, and it’s extremely rewarding if you are one.

I was a bit nervous when I started Oliver Capital, but it never dawned on me that I couldn’t do something. Failure is never an option.

Life is a game of recovery. There is no perfect decision. If you wait to try to make the perfect decision, you won’t make any decision, and then life sort of takes its own course on you.

My attitude in life is aim in the general direction you want to go, jump in with both feet and then correct course as you go.

I’m a strong believer in the Canadian broadcasting system and in the media generally. I believe that we’re in a state of transition, and people need to be patient to allow the business to evolve. And I’m worried that lenders, investors, creditors and suppliers are getting impatient with the business, and that’s wrong.

The CRTC needs to understand that media is in a state of transition and needs to allow us to transition to the new paradigm. Now what that new paradigm is going to look like, I can’t tell you today that I exactly understand what it’s going to be. It’s going to be more interactive, more diverse.