Don Mal (the chief executive of Vena Solutions) in “The Corner Office”

Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Don Mal, the chief executive of Vena Solutions, says he asks job candidates about sacrifices they would be willing to make to meet their goal. To read the complete interview, check out other articles, and obtain subscription information, please click here.

Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

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What were your early years like?

I was born in India and moved to Prince Edward Island in Canada when I was 7. We went from mangoes to potatoes overnight.

My mom was a nurse, and Canada was looking for nurses and teachers at the time. This was the Pierre Trudeau era, when immigration was pretty strong in Canada, so we were able to move there. My parents wanted a better life for us.

And your father?

My dad has always been a serial entrepreneur. He’s owned retail and wholesale businesses. I saw a lot of what it takes to start businesses, and to go in and out of them.

What were you doing outside of class?

I played a lot of sports and delivered newspapers, but I also worked a lot for my father. One summer, I sold insurance to fishermen. I would drive down to the docks to sell them injury and illness insurance.

I learned that you have to have a really positive attitude because you were getting a lot of rejection. Every day, no matter how badly you get beat up, you have to get up again and just keep going.

How have your parents influenced your leadership style?

I’ve learned a lot from my father, probably more about what not to do. I respect him and learned a lot about work ethic.

But my father was a bit more of an old-school entrepreneur, with less planning. I learned I needed to be much more organized. In anything I do now, I’m continuously planning, because you have to manage risk. You have to have a Plan B.

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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews of hundreds of business leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.

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