Ron Joyce

Dec 26th, 2013 | By | Category: Joyce Biographies

Co-Founder, Tim Hortons/Chairman Emeritus, Tim Horton Children’s Foundation

Ron Joyce was born in 1930 in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia. In 1951, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy where he specialized in the Communications field. His tour of duty took him around the world, serving off the coast of Korea and Japan in 1954-55.

In 1956, Mr. Joyce moved to Hamilton, Ontario and took up a full-time career with the Hamilton Police force. In 1965, his entrepreneurial spirit had come to the fore and he took over the fledgling Tim Horton Donut Shop on Ottawa Street in Hamilton. By 1967, after he had opened up two more restaurants, he and Tim Horton became full partners in the business.

Upon Tim Horton’s death in an automobile accident in February of 1974, Mr. Joyce purchased Tim’s shares from Tim’s wife and took over as sole owner of the chain, which then consisted of 40 restaurants.

Shortly after Tim Horton’s death, Mr. Joyce was instrumental in setting up the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation, created in line with Tim Horton’s love of children and desire to help those less fortunate. The Foundation, which is a non-profit, charitable organization, operates camps for economically disadvantaged children from communities in which Tim Hortons stores operate.

In 1989, Mr. Joyce was honoured for his success in the foodservice industry by being made a Fellow of the Hostelry Institute. He was selected as the recipient of the Ontario Hostelry Institute Gold Award as Chain Restaurant Operator of 1992. Mr. Joyce also served as the 1992 Honorary Chairman of the Ireland Fund, an organization which assists in setting up educational and community programs to promote and foster peace and harmony within all parts of Ireland.

Mr. Joyce’s dedication and commitment to the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation earned him the Gary Wright Humanitarian Award in 1991, presented periodically in recognition of the outstanding contributions to the betterment of community life throughout Canada. In recognition primarily for his work with the Foundation, he received an appointment to the Order of Canada, with the official presentation taking place on October 21, 1992 in Ottawa.

In May 1993, Mr. Joyce proudly accepted an Honorary Doctorate of Commerce from St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 1994, he received the McGill University Management Achievement Award. He also holds honourary degrees from Mount Allison University and McMaster University. In November 1996, Mr. Joyce became only the second person to ever receive the Canadian Franchise Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

In April 1999, he was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame, alongside other well-known Canadian business moguls and in October of the same year, he was named Entrepreneur of the Year® for Ontario and Canada.

In June 2005, Mr. Joyce generously donated $10 million towards the construction of a new sports stadium at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. In November 2005, Mr. Joyce was honoured as the 2005 Humanitarian Award Recipient by the Canadian Red Cross, Nova Scotia Region for his work with the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation and for his continued support of education and health organizations across the world. Today, Mr. Joyce serves as Chairman Emeritus of the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation and sits on the Board of Directors of Sobey’s and Shaw Communications.

The father of six sons and one daughter, Mr. Joyce resides in Calgary, Alberta, and enjoys flying, golfing, sailing and fishing.

The Donut King: The Early Years of Ron Joyce

He grew up in rural Nova Scotia in a house without plumbing and a wood stove for heating. Today, he has eight cars, owns a $60 million golf club resort, and has so much money he has even offered to fly people on trips anywhere in the world if they can help improve his golf swing. How did Ron Joyce get to where he is today? He did it by building a tiny coffee shop by the name of Tim Horton’s into one of Canada’s most beloved and successful brands.

Dollars for Doughnuts: Joyce Sweetens Things Up at Tim Hortons

It was 1967 and two men had just signed the franchise agreement that would forever change not only their own lives, but also the entire landscape of Canadian business and culture. The two friends thought that with Joyce’s business savvy and Horton’s famous name, they could make their coffee shop a success. By the end of the year, the duo had opened up two more Tim Horton’s stores and they were full partners in the business.

Lesson #1: Expect But Do Not Accept Your Regrets

“In many ways I guess if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have sold it,” says Joyce upon reflection of his 35 year career building one of the most successful businesses in Canadian history. “I would have stayed with it. But that is hindsight.”

Lesson #2: Winning Does Not Matter When You Love The Game

“When you find the niche you love, that becomes your passion,” says Joyce. “For me it was Tim Hortons. It was my world.”

Lesson #3: Create a Fresh Focus For Your Company

The moment Joyce assumed ownership control of Tim Hortons, he knew something had to change. His hockey star partner had a good idea in the coffee shop, but its success – or lack thereof – was speaking for itself. Joyce did everything he could to turn things around, from expanding the food menu to include sandwiches and altering the doughnut recipes, to adding iced cappuccinos to the drink list. But it was not until Joyce stumbled upon a unique business practice that the chain would begin to take off. The company’s new motto? “Always Fresh.”

Lesson #4: Build A Brand That Can Stand On Its Own

In both 2004 and 2005, Canadian Business magazine named Tim Hortons the best-managed brand in Canada. Joyce may no longer be with the company, but that honour is in no small part due to the successful marketing strategy that he initiated in the company’s early years. With a focus on grassroots and Canadian culture, Joyce created a brand that has inspired a nation’s pride and has stood the test of time.

Lesson #5: Learn The Fundamentals of Franchising

Joyce was Tim Hortons’ original franchisee, but it would not be for long. After working under Horton for a few short weeks, Joyce immediately realized that he was on his own. “It was clear that he didn’t know the business all that well and couldn’t help me with any of the problems we were having,” says Joyce. “Tim had no expertise whatsoever, so the burden fell squarely on me.” As a franchisee who had little support from Horton, Joyce began to understand exactly what it would take to run a successful franchise. And, that is exactly what he set out to do after Horton’s death.

Getting The Hole Story: How Joyce Came To Dominate The Donut

Thanks to Joyce, Canada has been called by some the “Timbit Nation.” Even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have an unofficial radio code for Tim Hortons, as 10-99 or “Tango Hotel.” Every single day, for a product that costs just pennies to make, Tim Hortons brings in revenues of over $2 billion. How was this young boy from rural Nova Scotia who grew up on welfare able to become one of Canada’s most celebrated and successful businessmen?

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