Sheldon Barris

Always look for a win for all sides. Stay away from situations that don’t involve everyone around you winning as well.


Sheldon Barris is a Toronto financier and the President of Jorlee Holdings Ltd., a private mortgage lending corporation that provides financing and lending for all types of construction and development projects. He has over 30 years of experience leading in the financial services industry. Outside of his financial services business, Sheldon devotes a majority of his time to philanthropic endeavors, taking an active role as a high-level supporter of a number of charitable, faith-based and other worthy organizations and initiatives.

Where did the idea for Jorlee Holdings Ltd. come from?

I actually started out in my career as a lawyer and established my first solo practice not long after graduating from law school. Months after this, I was recruited by Sheldon Esbin, a senior partner at Toronto’s prestigious Spencer Romberg for a junior position at the firm. Realizing how great of an opportunity this was, I closed my practice and spent the next several years specializing in real estate, finance and corporate commercial law. In 1992, Spencer Romberg was dissolved and I decided to start my own lending company called Jorlee Holdings. As Jorlee began demanding more of my time, I ultimately devoted myself fully to construction financing. We work exclusively with clients who don’t qualify for funding from traditional lending institutions.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

What gets me out of bed in the morning is being in the business to make a difference in peoples’ lives. Although I value hard work and certainly work hard, I am not a workaholic. There has to be a balance and I make sure of that. I make sure to call my children every day as their well-being is the most important thing in my life.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I involve my team. I am a solution-oriented thinker so I like to present an obstacle to the team and then we brainstorm ideas to get to the best possible solution.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Charity work. I wouldn’t call it a trend persay, but I think it is our social responsibility to devote some time to helping good causes. I believe contributing to society, getting involved with charitable causes and helping people in general is the best route that people with resources should follow.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Each morning at the start of the day I go over all of my upcoming appointments with clients and scheduled team meetings so that I can mentally prepare for each one. I think productivity is a direct result of being organized and on top of your game.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Always look for a win for all sides. Stay away from situations that don’t involve everyone around you winning as well.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

That you should try out at least 2 different careers in your life.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

As a young lawyer I was recruited by Sheldon Esbin, an iconic partner at Spencer Romberg. Under his guidance, I worked side by side with Esbin learning all there was to know about real estate, finance and corporate commercial law. My advice to young entrepreneurs is to find a mentor and really make it a point to learn from them.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

For me, it has been going out on a limb and taking chances. In the lending business, that sort of mindset is what my clients rely on, and it pays off for all parties involved.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

For me, I feel like when my team isn’t completely on board with an idea, then I have failed. In my business, I do finance that provides a service for people where the goal is for them to become successful as well, not just me reaping the benefits.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A business that requires every employee to become involved with charity when they are offered the job.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I gave a homeless person on the street the hundred dollars as it is my opinion that we are all God’s children equally.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Google Calendar. As I said, productivity starts with organization.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia from Abraham to Zabar’s and Everything InBetween by Stephanie Butnick, Liel Leibowitz, and Mark Oppenheimer because I love my Jewish faith. I think this book, regardless if you are Jewish or not, is enjoyable for everyone.

What is your favorite quote?

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Key Learnings:

  • Try to make a difference
  • Stay organized and you’ll be productive as well
  • Give to charity
  • Take chances