Q&A: Get to know Sir Terry Matthews

Q&A: Get to know Sir Terry Matthews

Get to know one of Canada’s preeminent technology entrepreneurs in this Q&A interview, following his Principal’s Forum speech. Sir Terry offers lessons learned over a lifetime of entrepreneurship.

By Chris Moffatt Armes

October 15, 2015


Q: Was there any advice you wish someone had given you before you started your first company, or was entrepreneurship something you always aspired to?

[Sir Terry Matthews]

A: No, I think it was in my blood from the get-go. In the area I was brought up, there were engineering companies all around me. From a very young age, I could pull apart a machine, I could fix a radio, I could fix a vehicle, an engine, an axle. It was in the blood. So I think there’s something in the DNA. You have to choose people or give them the opportunity. Some people will have a go and make it, and some people just can’t because they’re just too risk averse.

Q: If you had to live your life over again, but becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t an option, is there anything else you would have liked to do as a career?

A: It’s such a pleasurable thing to put a team together to fight and grow and be successful. I don’t think I would want to have gone down a different track. I might have been an explorer of some kind, but it could not be passive. I’m not a passive person. Inherently, I’m able to take risks, judge what the risks are, and judge what I consider to be the worst case and the best case. I’ll go for the best case if I can live with the worst case. If I can’t live with the worst case, I won’t do it.

Q: What common traits have you noticed that highly-successful people seem to share?

A: It’s all over the map. Some people are very arrogant, but they wind up doing very well. Some people are dishonest and create an aura. Personally, I don’t like that. I think it’s good to be humble. I’d rather drive a half-ton, rusted truck than a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. If you set yourself up, you might be torn down.

Q: You have many different projects on the go. What do you do to relax?

A: That is what I do to relax. That’s my hobby. I like Business. If I retired… well actually, I am retired. I retired in 1978 when Mitel went public and my hobby is to create businesses. Enjoy what you do. If you don’t enjoy it, do something else!

Q: If you could only leave behind one lesson for the next generation of entrepreneurs, what would you want it to be?

A: Have a goal. Be brave enough to have a goal.