Paul Sobey offers lessons on networking, education, and community

By Greg Duck Posted: October 17, 2019 5:00 p.m.

Paul Sobey is the keynote speaker at the 46th annual Hill Dinner, taking place tonight at the Delta Hotel.
Paul Sobey is the keynote speaker at the 46th annual Hill Dinner, taking place tonight at the Delta Hotel. Photo: U of R Photography

Paul Hill and Paul Sobey meet with students from the Faculty of Business Administration.

Networking can be a daunting task for students, but one annual U of R event has offered students a way to ease into things, while gaining valuable career knowledge – for 46 years.

The Hill Dinner has grown to become one of the province’s premiere networking events, bringing together nearly 700 students, business people, members of government, and community leaders. Hosted by the Hill Business Students’ Society, students are paired with professionals to network, and to learn a little more about what life may be like after graduation.

Each year, a keynote speaker is invited to give an impactful address at the Dinner and to offer educational opportunities for business students. Recent keynotes have been delivered by CEOs from companies including Coca-Cola, WestJet, Home Depot, and Sony. Last year’s keynote was delivered by Dominic Barton, managing partner of McKinsey & Company – the world’s largest consulting firm.

This year’s dinner welcomes Paul Sobey, former President & CEO and current Director of the Board of Directors of Empire Company Limited – the holding company of Sobeys Inc., a $25.1 billion company with more than 1,500 corporate and franchise stores across Canada. Paul Hill – local businessman, philanthropist, and name sake of the University of Regina’s Paul J. Hill School of Business – invited Paul Sobey to be this year’s inspiring voice. The two had met through networking, and have maintained contact over the years.

“Networking is very important in your whole life. Life is a process of learning, and you learn a lot from other people. It is a lifelong habit and a very important one!” said Hill.

We sat down with Paul Sobey in advance of his speech at tonight’s Hill Dinner.

What is your connection to the University of Regina and to Paul Hill?

I have known Paul Hill for quite a while! A couple of years ago we were at a function together and got to talking about a number of things that he was involved with around Regina and he wanted me to see for myself. I had no comprehension of just how big the involvement was. Quite frankly, it absolutely blew my mind!

How have you spent your time here in advance of the Hill Dinner?

It has been a really fantastic experience so far. I had the opportunity to speak at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame yesterday, and got to learn all about the artifacts and history there. We met with the Chamber of Commerce to discuss some different views on business and had some great conversation. Had dinner at Paul [Hill]’s place and got to hear about all of the amazing work the Hill family does. This morning we visited Mother Theresa Middle School to learn about Paul’s One Life Makes a Difference Charity. I commend Paul and the Hill Family for all of the things they do. It is absolutely stunning and I’m sure the community really appreciates what they do. We also had the opportunity to meet with some student leaders from the Hill School of Business. They asked some amazing questions!

You and Paul Hill are clearly committed to enhancing education. Why?

It is very important to get as much out of the educational experience as you can – whatever endeavour you choose. The world is changing fast, and students have so many opportunities to be engaged.

What will be the messages you share during your keynote?

I will discuss a little about the history of our family business and how things have changed over the years, and our family’s foundation and everything that guides what we do. I also want to put emphasis on the interactions and the information we exchange and how very important networking and building relationships will always be. Great people know more than you do! Whenever possible, give back to enhance the community. It doesn’t have to be dollars either – give whatever you can!

You will also be receiving the Hill Award tonight. What does an award like this mean to you?

I am very grateful to receive the award, but like any accomplishment I have, I will accept it on behalf of my family, the management of our company, and our employees because they are the ones who make it happen every single day.