Aman Maharaj was born in South Africa. His family left South Africa and relocated to Canada during his childhood. Aman has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Western Ontario, a Master’s Degree and MBA in Finance from York University in Toronto, and a law degree from Queen’s University at Kingston. He worked in several corporate positions early in his career but soon discovered that his drive and passion would be better used in entrepreneurial leadership.
1. What does a typical day consist of for you?
There is no typical day as an entrepreneur. It consists of managing your team, looking at potential growth opportunities, managing your partners, suppliers, and for me, managing your family. But there is no start and stop to my day. I start when I wake up and my day goes until I go to sleep. As an entrepreneur, you have to appreciate that, recognize it, build your own life into it and not be scared of it. If it scares you, then this isn’t for you.
2. Who has been a role model to you and why?
My mother was my role model. When my family came from South Africa to Canada, we came here from nothing. We lived in Ontario subsidized housing. My mother was a doctor in South Africa but she had to redo all of her credentials to practice in Canada. She worked in a hospital where she grew from a doctor to management and ultimately became the President of the hospital. As a female of color, she was able to get to a point where she was the highest person in the hospital. She was a great example to me.
No one individual, but the collective people that I have met along the way who are entrepreneurs who have followed what they believe in their heart, have been role models to me. You must do what you believe in your heart.
3. How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
I am a family man, married with three kids. I tell the people in my organization that their personal health and family’s wellbeing is a priority. I will leave at 3:00 pm if I have to go watch my daughters sing in a play or event. But you have to be accountable and you have to be dependable to deliver. If you need to take four hours out of your afternoon for a dentist appointment or to drive your kid to something, that means you might have to do fours of work in the evening to be able to catch up so that you are able to be accountable and deliver. I maintain my work/life balance by surrounding myself with strong people who understand those two pillars and can also implement that into their own lives.
I lead by example so that people know that if I say I’m going to deliver something, I will be accountable for it and I will deliver it. If I am not in the office in the morning or if I have left early, it is because of some other priorities, but you have to make sure your priorities are balanced with your work.
I am a very nice guy. I always go the extra mile for anyone, but if you take advantage of me, you lose my trust and I have no problem telling them this isn’t working, here’s why, and I think you need to be part of a different group. I am not looking for people I have to micromanage. I am looking for people that are accountable and can deliver.
4. What traits do you possess that make you a successful leader?
I have been successful as a business leader because of my confidence and strong communication skills at every level. I can talk to the warehouse manager and his workers and at the same time talk to the CFO. Being able to communicate and relate to the people that I am dealing with has really allowed me to grow. I can have conversations at any level.
You must have passion for what you are doing. You have to want it. You have to be able to say, I want to build this company, and not look for another job. I want this to grow. If you don’t want it, it’s very easy for other people to see that.
5. What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
My name has been the hardest obstacle. Because of my name sometimes it is assumed that I am an immigrant that does not speak English properly. I have had people ask me if I would change my name, but I have refused. If that is an obstacle, then I’m willing to work twice as hard to make sure your people recognize me and see beyond my name. I’m going to be the best at what I can be and work as hard as I can.
There have been times when people have been less inclined to look at different leaders outside of what’s been traditional. Now it seems that leaders can come from different backgrounds.
6. What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
Learn from others. You’re never going to be the smartest person in the world. Even if it’s a person in a more junior position in a company, you can still learn something from them. Always keep your mind open to learn from others.
7. What is your biggest accomplishment?
When I was working in the solar industry, the solar company that hired me was based out of California and they were looking to get into Ontario. I was the person running the office. There were no employees. It was me and one other analyst. I was able to land 10 large contracts that had a net value of well over $250 million.
8. What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?
Follow your passion. Find people that you like and trust. Don’t be a jerk. No one wants to work with a jerk. You don’t have to be a jerk to obtain success or respect.
9. What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?
If you’re going to put your trust in someone, make sure they have earned your trust.
10. Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
My family is my priority. I take care of my health. I am active physically, and I believe that helps. People should have a balance on a personal level so that they can be strong when they are in the workplace. They also need their own personal time to do what is important to them.
11. Explain the proudest day of your professional life.
When I moved from one corporate job to another bank, I had two people who said to me, wherever you go, I want to come with you. They came up with me to three subsequent companies. Hearing that from people that were reporting to me, but also respected me was very reassuring to me that I was a good leader.