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Pat McNamara, chief executive officer of APEX Public Relations and founder of Ignite Capital, which was launched this past May.
Pat McNamara, chief executive officer of APEX Public Relations and founder of Ignite Capital, which was launched this past May.

My Career

A love of cultivating people led to a new venture Add to ...

What is your full name and title? And how long have you been in this role?

Pat McNamara, chief executive officer of APEX Public Relations since founding it in 1998, and founder of Ignite Capital, which was launched this past May.

What exactly do you do?

As the founder and CEO of APEX Public Relations I oversee the operations of APEX. However, I am now more involved in philanthropic initiatives including running my new non-profit initiative, Ignite Capital (www.ignitecapital.ca) which helps aspiring Canadian entrepreneurs who do not have access to capital through traditional means. Applicants have the opportunity to compete for a $20,000 grant.

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Describe what you do on any given day.

Every day is different. It might include having an executive meeting at APEX to review our strategic direction, reviewing the financials and plans for our upcoming office move, a meeting with the Ignite Capital advisory board, reviewing and approving entrants for the Ignite competition, reaching out to associations who Ignite could partner with and advising on communications initiatives for one of my other philanthropic commitments. I also teach at Humber College at their School of Media Studies and Information Technology, so I am either prepping for class or marking assignments.

What’s your background and education?

I studied political science at Western University and then journalism at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. My first job was with a boutique PR agency and I worked at three other PR firms before founding APEX in 1998. My responsibilities included everything from organizing events to writing speeches to pitching media organizations on a story idea for one of our clients.

How did you get to your position? Give us some details about the path that has led you to your current role.

I loved working in a PR agency from the minute I had my first job. My focus has always been on consumer marketing and I have had the opportunity to work with the most amazing brands and people including counselling well-known corporations such as Adobe, BMO, Coca-Cola, Molson, Nike, Samsung and UPS. I have always had an interest in entrepreneurialism and that’s what helped me succeed. Not only was I focused on doing the best possible work for clients, but I also understood the importance of making their business – and the agency’s business – successful. This combination helped me move up in the firms I worked in and to found my own agency.

Along the way, I was always involved in some type of volunteer commitment, including starting a foundation at APEX. I have a commitment to giving back because of the help that has been given to me and because I strongly believe in sharing the good fortune that we have had. That interest, as well as wanting to help other entrepreneurs succeed, led me to found Ignite Capital and to act as a director and adviser for a few non-profits focused on entrepreneurism.

What’s the best part of your job? And what do you like best about it?

Managing and cultivating people is exciting. There is nothing better than helping people you work with grow and succeed. This touches all aspects of my differing roles. I have watched our current president of APEX, Linda Andross, step into my shoes and take APEX to new levels. And now I am helping aspiring entrepreneurs do the same thing. It is truly inspiring and fulfilling.

What’s the worst part of your job? Be honest.

Having to deal with too much e-mail particularly because now my work is so diverse. I have a love-hate relationship with it as it is very efficient. But I find it distracting and time consuming.

What are your strengths in this role? Or, what do you need to be able to do to handle your job?

Vision, flexibility and a high level of commitment have been the most important characteristics of helping me succeed. You need the vision to get over the hurdles, see past the details and give your people a path that they want to follow. You need the flexibility to know that things are constantly going to change, that you will be dealing with a variety of personalities and that you are going to have to adapt to a multitude of situations. And you just can’t make it happen if you don’t feel passionate about what you do and are willing to commit a great deal of time and energy to make your organization succeed.

What are your weaknesses?

I am impatient. I want things to happen quickly and not everyone else operates that way. And, you do need to take time to consult, let people provide their input and consider your options. I hate filing.

What has been your best career move?

Starting my own firm. It is a lot of work and not for everyone as you can’t just be passionate about what you offer, you have to like the behind-the-scenes commitment of running a business. The combination of these two things has been “the perfect storm” for me. It is an incredible amount of responsibility, but you also have the control over how the business will operate. I have had an amazing group of people work with me and the business would not have been successful without them.

What has been your worst career move?

I have been very lucky – I don’t have any regrets about the various jobs and positions I have held. I guess my worse career move was working at a PR firm that didn’t mesh well with my background and skills. That job only lasted 10 months, but it was still a good learning experience.

What’s your next big job goal?

To grow Ignite Capital. To help as many aspiring Canadian entrepreneurs as possible. This year we are providing one $20,000 grant and interested applicants can go to www.ignitecapital.ca to get additional info. I would like to see that grow to 10 or even 100 recipients in the coming years.

What’s your best advice to others who might want to follow in your footsteps?

Build a strong network of mentors and advisers who can teach and guide you in the areas where you need developing or where you just don’t have the expertise. You may be smart and resourceful, but it is impossible to know everything. And don’t forget the payback – help others with your own expertise – you will be surprised how that will help you succeed in your career.

 

Do you know an executive or leader who has an interesting career story for My Career or My Career Abroad? E-mail mycareer@globeandmail.com

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