Kurian Mathew Tharakan

Q&A with Kurian Mathew Tharakan, '86 BCom and past BAA board member.

Kurian Mathew Tharakan ('86 BCom) is a bestselling author and the Founder and Managing Director of strategic marketing firm StrategyPeak Sales and Marketing Advisors. Kurian has remained actively involved in the Business Alumni Association (BAA) throughout his career. He shares with us some insight into his BAA experiences, his business, and his book!

Kurian Tharakan

BAA: Tell us about your involvement with the Business Alumni Association.

Kurian: In 1990, a friend of mine, Larry Jenkinson, called me to see if I wanted to join him at the first fall board meeting of the recently minted Business Alumni Association. Larry had been involved with the BAA since its inception in 1988 and thought that I might enjoy it. What ensued was a rich involvement with the School, its students, and its faculty and staff that continues right up until today. During that time, I’ve served on all of the BAA’s sub-committees, was its Vice-President twice (ask me about the coup d’etat that led to my exile to the back ranks next time you see me), and eventually as its President. When I’ve given the BAA welcome address to grad classes, I tell them that some of my best friendships, best business relationships, and even my first wife have come as a direct result of my involvement with the association. (For those of you wondering, there is a small fee associated with the introduction service.) Becoming involved with the BAA was one of my life’s crucial inflection points. Funny how that works when you think you are merely joining a friend to attend a small meeting of a new alumni association.

BAA: What are some of your most memorable BAA moments?

Kurian: Going with our executive to the Duncan and Craig Law Offices after hours to crank out the newsletter on an IBM Selectric typewriter.

Several years after graduating, having to tell an angry classmate that the reason he wasn’t receiving the BAA newsletter mailout was not because of any incompetence in the Alumni Relations Office, but because he didn’t actually graduate from the School; he was three credits shy. His response, “My mom will be very disappointed.” He eventually went back and got his extra credits.

Having former Premier Peter Lougheed speak at our Annual Dinner, which resulted in a record 515 people attending.

Attending many, many meetings after the meetings, at Earl’s on Campus.

Connecting with hundreds upon hundreds of accomplished people who had a genuine interest in a continued relationship with the School. I keep in touch with many of them to this day!

BAA: Can you share a bit about your business, StrategyPeak? What kind of work do you do?

Kurian: StrategyPeak is a sales and marketing consultancy that helps companies create go-to-market strategies for their new products and services. I started it in 2009, and since then, the company has been involved with hundreds of start-ups and scale-ups, many of whom are part of the burgeoning Edmonton high-technology scene. Entrepreneurs are fascinating; their journey takes courage, resolve, belief, and often a blind leap. That’s good because Alberta is going to be reliant on this next generation of entrepreneurs to transform our economy for the challenges of the next 100 years as we transition to the low-carbon economy. Through StrategyPeak and TEC Edmonton, where I am an executive in residence, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many of these entrepreneurs. There are some very cool businesses and technology coming out of this city.

BAA: You are also the author of the Amazon bestseller, "The Seven Essential Stories Charismatic Leaders Tell"! Can you tell us a bit about the book? What inspired you to write it?

Kurian: I had always wanted to write a book but did not have any idea of what that meant in terms of sheer effort and time until I started putting keyboard to screen in the Fall of 2017. Two years later, I finished my first draft, which was finally launched on Amazon in January 2020. As it sometimes happens, the book I started to write isn’t the book I ended up writing. There were many starts and stops. But then I had a moment of inspiration. A few years ago, I had a realization that can be summed up as follows: “When someone loses their way, it is almost always because they have lost their story. When they regain their story, they will regain their way.” Companies are the same way.

Businesses fail when their stories fail. Businesses thrive when their stories thrive. These stories must provide a vivid, resonant narrative that employees, suppliers, customers, and investors can find meaning within. If this is true, the very first thing anyone buys from your company are its stories; your firm’s products and services are the fulfillment of the promises contained within those stories. If your customer doesn’t buy your story, they won’t buy your products. This is why the company’s narrative is such a powerful component of their brand. When I looked around, I saw many resources to help leaders tell stories, but not many on what stories to tell. The second insight I was struck by was the enormous power a firm’s culture had on its ability to create or destroy their future. Famed management guru Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and anyone who has led an organization can quickly relate to the wisdom in these words. But prior to five years ago, I could not have accurately given you a definition of culture. To advise my clients properly, I needed to nail this definition down and then be able to present it in a simple, relatable form. The book is a result of the merger of these two concepts, identifying the seven pillars of your culture and then infusing this structure with the seven essential story categories to drive your people and business forward.

BAA: Any last words of wisdom for our readers?

Kurian: Get involved with the BAA, especially if you are just beginning your career. It will be one of the most rewarding things you will do.