Larry Law’s Living Water: Business as a Mission (Part I)

[NOTE: Larry Law will be a speaker at this year’s ELO National Forum on Nov 30, 2021.]

This is the first of two blog posts. 

Larry Law’s life and career reflect the value of playing the long game. His entrepreneurial expression has been a 30-year process, a long-term commitment, investing millions, buying the failed dream of a previous owner out of receivership, and surviving financial challenges along the way.

In 1992 he purchased what was then known as "Cranberry Resort" in Collingwood, a two hours’ drive north of Toronto, for $17 million. The project consisted mainly of an inn and 700 acres of property on Georgian Bay. Larry got wind of the opportunity and purchased it within one week.

The first few years required millions of dollars of investment in the property. Fortunately, he had other profitable property development projects which allowed him to keep the resort afloat to make it work. His original partner lost interest. He persisted. He was resilient. It required both a big picture vision and big pockets to match—and staying power.

Long-term thinking has been critical to his success. He has truly poured his heart and soul into the undertaking. Now, after almost 30 years of ownership, the “Living Water Resort & Spa” with 500 staff encompasses a hotel, time share, fractional ownership, golf course, restaurants, and a marina.

Who is Larry Law?  He was born in China and grew up in Hong Kong. He studied architecture in the US and then worked for a firm in California in 1977. He wistfully recounts how he got fired after just 10 days on the job. Why?  “You ask far too many questions!”  While a challenging experience, he subsequently realized that questions needed to be balanced with performance. His mantra since then has been practicality and to strive for operational efficiency.

After his California stint, he returned to Hong Kong. He developed thirty property development projects with his family company in Hong Kong over a seven-year period. He then moved to Toronto. He was an architect from 1984 to 1988. Then, in 1988, he led a group of companies to build more than 2,000 homes across Ontario including the most prominent project called “Cornell” in Markham, a master planned community of 1,200 acres and 35,000 people.

His development career provided a great platform for his focus on this resort which is an outlet for both his professional creativity and his faith. He counts himself blessed to be able to have his faith and business interests align so that he can make a difference. While he is always aware that he must be profitable to do good, he is inspired by that fact that he can live out business as mission. He is very clear that his faith must be reflected in his action. He doesn’t focus on proselytizing; rather he will simply live out his faith and share his story with those who are interested.

He believes in ongoing improvement and always coming up with new ideas. He is planning a leadership centre to invite people from around the world to the property to share with them the ways of doing business that is focused on loving and caring for people. Giving them a sense of meaning and purpose in their daily tasks, beyond simply earning a living. 

Larry stresses that his most prized asset is his 500 staff. He has worked hard to create a fun and carrying community—and that is manifested in terms of how guests are treated. 

Larry not only wishes to treat his team well, but also to be part of the local community. He has received several local awards, such as from the Rotary Club and from City Hall. He has also received recognition from regional groups such as the Association of Chinese Canadian Entrepreneurs. For Larry, this simply gives him a platform to share his leadership style and approach to work.