Macdonald Realty CEO Lynn Hsu: From humble beginnings to extraordinary success

Ms. Lynn Hsu (second from right), winner of the title Person of the Year in Chinese Business. Photo courtesy of Chinese Business Chamber of Canada

In 1985, while raising a young family, Lynn Hsu began her real estate career despite being a new immigrant with limited English and no social network.

From 1987 through 1989, Hsu was the number one salesperson for Western Canada at a large, national real estate firm. In 1990, Hsu bought Macdonald Realty; at the time a single office in Vancouver’s Westside. Fast forward 25 years and Hsu is heading Western Canada’s largest real estate brokerage firm, with over 1,000 realtors working in 20 offices across British Columbia and Alberta. Macdonald Realty’s reported figure for gross sales in 2010 was $4.7 billion.

Hsu has been honored many times for her achievements, including:

• 2008, 2009, 2010 - The largest company owned by a woman in British Columbia

(Business in Vancouver)

• 2007 - Person of the Year in Chinese-Canadian Business Award

• 2006 - Ranked 8th in the Canadian Business Canada’s Top 100 Women Entrepreneurs list

• 2004 - Ranked 11th in the Canadian Business Canada’s Top 100 Women Entrepreneurs list
• 2006 - Overseas Chinese Achievement Award
• 1993 - Top 40 Under 40 Achievement Award for Entrepreneurs in BC

“Self-made” is the phrase that comes to mind when I think of Lynn Hsu. Most of my small business consulting clients certainly aspire to achieve a success story like hers. On a more personal level, Hsu’s accomplishments as a female business owner absolutely dazzle me. Seeking insight into her success, I reached out to Hsu in hopes that she would share some of her personal and business tips:

Don’t accept the glass ceiling

One of the rare female top business executives in Canada, Hsu has never believed that a glass ceiling exists for women. “To succeed in business, one must put in time. Women traditionally have had less time to devote to career development, and this pattern holds true today,” said Hsu, who was never willing to accept that she would hit a glass ceiling. “If you begin to believe that it is impossible to move forward, you will stop looking for solutions to the hardships you face.”

Adversity builds character

Hsu named her mother as her inspiration because of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, hardships, and poverty she faced while raising seven children. “Instead of caving in and accepting it as her reality, [my mother] took on three or four jobs at a time and worked until midnight to provide for our family,” Hsu recalled. “She taught me, not so much by words but by example, that any obstacle, no matter how big or difficult, can be overcome if one has the strong desire and works hard enough.” 

Successful people are the product of their mistakes

When asked which of her attributes helped her succeed as an entrepreneur, Hsu pointed to her ability to quickly recover from mistakes. “I’m a risk taker and I’m not really afraid of failure, but I do make a conscious effort to learn from my mistakes.” Fear can be a paralyzing agent in business and in life. In order to grow, it’s important to be willing to risk making the occasional mistake and then be ready to use your ingenuity to rectify the situation.

Perseverance and hard work save the day  

Hsu’s colleagues would identify her boundless energy as her most valuable attribute. Her capacity to put in long hours and her tremendous appetite for problem solving have been indispensable both to the stakeholders of Macdonald Realty and to Hsu herself during the development of her entrepreneurial career. 

“By a combination of hard work, a supportive family and a bit of luck, I was able to overcome my challenges. I believe one can always find a solution to a problem.” 

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