Mark Nathan (C.E.O. of Zipari) 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 Mark Nathan, C.E.O. of Zipari, a health insurance software company. He says he has learned the most from managers who told him what he didn’t want to hear. 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 grew up in a small town, Delmar, outside of Albany, N.Y. I was always building stuff, like forts and BMX trails. They were big projects. We would spend weeks building a trail, or forts with two or three stories. It would always take a bunch of people to get them done.

I was pretty industrious as a kid. When I was around 10 years old, I would take a wheelbarrow and wagon and go door to door to collect people’s old newspapers. This was back before people recycled in their homes, but there was an industrial market for recycling newsprint.

I had my whole garage filled up with newspapers tied into bundles. And I put them in the back of our station wagon to take them to the port. I’d get about $15 per carload, which was a lot of money back in 1978.

I then created a company when I was 16, selling high-end stereos directly to people. I’d deliver them, set them up, and people would still pay 30 percent less than they would in a store.

My core values come from my mother and father. My father was a brilliant man, and could have been a doctor or lawyer or anything. But he wanted to work 9 to 5 for the state so he could be home more with his family. They both were involved in all sorts of charities. My mom really taught us about networking. She can talk to anybody.

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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 nytimes.com 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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