What strikes you the most when you look at the evolution of the firm?
Oh gosh, how do you reflect on a lifetime? Quite literally. When I joined Argyle, I was a baby in my career, with my own little baby (Sarah was just five months old). I had a modest amount of self-confidence and had the distinct challenge and pleasure of working for my dad. A lifetime later, I am most taken by the incredible talent, confidence, and opportunity I’m seeing among our junior colleagues. Where I was unsure, my younger colleagues today are brave and have so many opportunities to share their ideas, insights, and build things. They have a willing ear. This is what I believe Argyle – and today’s business world offers. A place where great ideas and initiative can thrive.
We’re in a service business. What wisdom can you offer when it comes to building enduring client relationships?
I think if the world were to apply an empathy lens to relationship building, rather than coming at it from a scarcity position, we’d all be better off. Think of the best retail, restaurant, or professional service you’ve recently received. You’ve been treated with kindness, genuinely, by someone who cares to do good work. It’s simple really. Treat clients like you’d want to be treated – in the best possible way. I always like to ask, “what would I expect/need/want if I were my client.” Great work is table stakes. Great relationships are the differentiator.
You bear the company’s name – what is most precious to you about your father’s legacy?
That we care about our people. And doing business ethically. When Ray founded the business – right through to the day he retired – he wanted to create a place where people would be cared for. Where they could do great work guided by an ethical compass. In one of my earliest memories discussing business with my dad, he proudly proclaimed that he would never work for a tobacco company. That caring to do good work, with and for good people, is part of our ethos today. (And we’ve never worked for a tobacco company).
From a work perspective, what moments in the last 25 years are forever etched in your mind?
The transformational client wins that helped build our business. The time I took a sabbatical because I simply could not keep up with raising two young children. The crazy business travel, including the time the whole company was trapped in the Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto for the entire day due to fog. My friendships. Kelly’s beer cart. Our hilarious end-of-year SPOO awards program – which is OOPS spelled backwards – where we poke fun at ourselves. And the trust my colleagues put in me, every step of the way, that gave me space to learn, grow, and lead. I’m incredibly grateful.
You’ve recently taken on new responsibilities as EVP, what are your aspirations for the role of PR in business and society?
Save the hardest question for last, right?! Seriously, though. This might be the easiest. Communicators have a natural ability to build bridges, to bring people together, and to find clarity in complexity. I think this is where the opportunity lies – as long as we remember that public relations is about relationships first and foremost. Not “spin” or falsehoods, or exaggerated claims. PR will contribute to business and society by helping find meaning and purpose, and tell stories sensibly, in the way that people and communities need and deserve. Remember, it all comes down to centering our work in empathy – a characteristic I wish the world had more of today.