And then Tatham would stop his pacing and he'd face the audience and say, speaking in italics: "That's bullshit. We work for money. We work because...we...need...money."
The point, Tatham says, was that young entrepreneurs should remember, when they're drafting their business strategies, that the ultimate metric of company performance is profit.
But Tatham has recently discovered that, for all these years, he's been misleading the students.
Tatham used to dream about not having to work. The pace of his working life was insane; two years ago he was 40 pounds heavier and strung out from building his company into the world leader in its niche, customer relationship management software. Because Janna Systems catered to large financial institutions, such as investment banks, Tatham typically spent one day a week in New York, and another in Chicago; he usually had to work weekends. A good thing his Toronto place was just a block and a half from the Janna headquarters. "It was a very drop-out-of-society sort of lifestyle," says Tatham. "I'd like to think most days I made it home in time to kiss my kids goodnight. But my wife would tell a different story."
For 16 consecutive quarters between 1997 and 2001, Tatham led Janna to improved results for quarter-on-quarter revenue. Staff levels grew 100% annually. By the beginning of 2000, Janna had stomped its main competitor, Siebel Systems Inc., for clients on Wall Street. In turn, Siebel paid Janna the ultimate compliment: It pitched Tatham on a takeover. "The value was far larger than I had ever set as a target," he recalls. When the deal closed on Nov. 15, 2000, Tatham's 3.1 million Janna shares were worth approximately $240 million.
Over the seven months that he spent managing the transition, Tatham diversified his holdings. "I never wanted to have to work again," he says. He bought a cottage on Muskoka's Little Lake Joseph and a Ferrari. He began construction on a house in Toronto with a massive garage. Tatham spent the summer of 2001 at his new cottage; lots of family time. That September, he returned to Toronto to get the kids ready for school. His wife then returned to her city routine.
And Tatham smacked into an identity crisis.
He had achieved the fantasy that motivated most of the suits on Bay Street, on Wall Street. Still, he slept poorly and was restless when he was awake.
Tatham's problem ran deeper than a lack of hobbies. His career as Janna's CEO had made him proud. He also had a reputation as one of the tech sector's best crisis jockeys. Now he'd gone and sold his horse.
Tatham talked to the rest of his executive team from Janna and found many of them felt the same way. They decided to pool their capital to create a private investment firm and came up with a funky name-XJ Partners Inc. (as in ex-Janna); seeing an opportunity, they focused on providing capital for health-related tech companies. And they set themselves a grand goal: The companies they backed must not only be profitable; they must also make the world a better place.
One day this spring, Tatham sits in his Sharper Image back-massage chair, simultaneously fiddling with the controller and evaluating the first 18 months of XJ. He has realized that what he used to tell the young entrepreneurs was a lie. He doesn't work for the money. "I realized that that's bullshit," he says.
"There's a fulfillment from work, one I'm not sure you can get any other way," he says. "What else in life gives you that sense of fulfillment? Do you do it as a power thing? Naw, it's more than that. It's creating something.
"And I like that."