Asa part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Chetan Mathur, CEO of Next Pathway.
Chetan Mathur is the Chief Executive Officer of Next Pathway Inc., the Automated Cloud Migration company, named Canada’s hottest cloud start-up by the Globe and Mail in 2019. Mr. Mathur is responsible for providing senior leadership and counsel to ensure the company is at the forefront of the ever-changing technology landscape.
In addition to Next Pathway, Mr. Mathur has established and grown 2 other information technology firms. He founded Sage Information Consultants in 1992, an international technology integrator that specialized in complex financial services software. Mr. Mathur oversaw Sage’s growth to become a leading supplier of IT consulting services for global banking and financial institutions. He negotiated the sale of Sage in June 2000 to a NASDAQ listed company.
Mr. Mathur co-founded M Systems Group (M) in 2003. Under his direction, M grew to become a leading global provider of out-sourced managed email and directory services to global financial services organizations. Mr. Mathur coordinated the sale of M to Bell Canada in 2006.
Mr. Mathur is also involved in numerous charitable organizations. He is one of the Founding Patron’s and served on the Board of Directors for Luminato (www.luminato.com) for 10 years, Canada’s preeminent festival of Arts & Creativity. Mr. Mathur is a member of the Board of Directors for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and previously served on the Board of Governors for Roy Thomson/Massey Hall from 2010–2012.
In 2012, Mr. Mathur and his wife Clara, established the Berlin Mathur Charitable Fund to benefit Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children in Hawaii to provide financial support and care to Kapi’olani’s patients and families.
Mr. Mathur graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Computer Science.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for 30 years. I never really had a full-time job after graduating from university, where I majored in computer science and math. I found my way into the world of computer consulting and started my career as an independent consultant to the financial services sector, and expanded from there into starting a few companies.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Back in June of 2000, at the height of the dot.com bubble, I had the pleasure of selling my software consulting business. It was the wild, wild west and I was thrilled to have started something with passion, have it succeeded and then be acquired. Being able to sell it was an amazing event in our lives.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was first starting my career, I was learning how to market myself. There was a sponsored golf tournament and I invited one of our senior clients to play alongside me. He accepted my invitation to play and at one of the holes, there was a game where whoever got closest to the pin or a hole in one would win a prize. My client ended up winning — and he won big. He won a BMW SUV and he was so excited. After he won, he went back to his employer, which was a bank, and asked if he was allowed to keep the car. The bank said “yes,” but in return told him that he was not allowed to do business with me for three years! He very happily called me and said, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. I can keep the BMW, but I’m not allowed to do business with you.” At the time, it was not very funny. Now, looking back nearly 20 years, it’s very funny.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Back in the early nineties, when I was first starting out my company, there was a gentleman who was a VP at a Canadian bank. He heard me speaking at a software conference and asked to schedule a meeting. At the meeting, he sketched out his vision for electronic banking. Keep in mind, this was before the internet. He offered to give me $5,000 to build a prototype. It took me three months and I spent way more than $5,000, but didn’t charge him one penny more. Once I completed and presented the prototype, he told me to build it. That was the scariest moment of my life. But it gave me the opportunity to really launch my career and prove myself and my company.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
There are different skills that we all bring to the table and for me, having a diverse point of view is very important. There are many different ways to think about things as evidenced by my longtime business partner, who has an incredibly different view of a problem or situation than I do. I welcome her input tremendously.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
Keep in mind that while the technology world is a very small place, there are plenty of opportunities to ensure your company is inclusive and representative. The people we work with — both internal and external stakeholders — are a very diverse group. This diversity is also reflected in their education and training, which has benefited our company. We have fantastic global representation of talent, from Europe to Eastern Europe to India and Asia. Our global reach helps us to create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
As a CEO, one of my greatest responsibilities is to hire great talent. Surrounding yourself with people that are smarter than you and have the reins to succeed differentiates CEOs from other leaders. A CEO must provide clear job titles and roles, and then trust them to do their job. From a technology perspective, it’s incredibly important to have a vision and ensure the people around your o can help execute it.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
The big myth is that it’s easy and very luxurious at the top. If somebody could actually shadow me for a few days, they’d be very surprised as to the level of minutia that I get into. Paying attention to this level of detail is necessary to be a successful CEO.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I don’t think that there is a big difference. I understand what needs to be done as the owner, operator and CEO of a company. I do question myself as to how detailed and deep into the weeds I need to get. Some people may think that a CEO is just a traffic director, but to do my job effectively I need to get incredibly detailed
Presumably not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Tenacity is the most important trait to have to be a successful executive. You cannot get frustrated or upset with failure. You can’t get down when a client — or a potential client — says “no.” Successful executives continue to drive forward, innovate and are tenacious in their vision.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
The balance between playing hard and working hard is critical in our company. Many of the folks that work with us are not just employees and dedicated staff, but they are also friends. Creating the culture of a family fosters that extra effort, pushes colleagues to go the extra mile. They’re working hard all the time; when we do celebrate our wins, we celebrate heavily.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Clara Angotti, President of Next Pathway, and I are very philanthropic. We believe in our city of Toronto. We participate in many not-for-profit boards and we give our time and economic support to help with the causes we believe in. We try to mentor the next generation of executives and computer scientists.
Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Trust your gut — your instincts will always be right.
2) You don’t need to solve every problem, if you’ve hired the right people, you just need to provide good guidance and direction, and they will solve the problems on their own.
3) Articulate and communicate clearly and with conviction your company’s strategic path, then others will follow.
4) Everyone will demand your time; make sure you allocate time in your day for quiet reflection and planning.
5) Stay hungry, competitive and demand excellence of yourself and your team, everyday.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could start a movement, I would have healthcare universally available to everyone in the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, treat everyone like you want to be treated.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
I would have given anything to have lunch or dinner with Mahatma Gandhi. Everything he stood for in the rising of a nation and through his peaceful approach was just incredible.