The digital marketing and advertising maestro and founder of social media agency Goodstuph talks about her career path, philosophies and the future
Meet the Tribe is an eight-part series introducing a few of the 122 industry leaders across Asia who helped us select the Gen.T List 2019—a panel of experts we call The Tatler Tribe. Pat Law is a member of The Tribe in Singapore, representing the Media, Marketing & Advertising category.
Pat Law realised early on that advertising was her calling. Setting out to pursue it as a career, she quickly rose up the ranks, moving through Publicis, Arc Worldwide, TBWA and Ogilvy as she checked off the agencies under some of the industry’s largest companies.
However, in 2010, while she was at Ogilvy, her father was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Driven by filial duty yet lacking a salary that would pay the steep medical bills she knew would inevitably follow, she felt forced to resign in order to find a way to make more money fast.
Pat decided to bet on herself. She took a loan from Irene Ang of Fly Entertainment, a leading Singapore talent agency, to start her own firm, Goodstuph. Within three months, she had paid Ang back. Her risk was reaping rewards. Today Goodstuph’s clients include the likes of Changi Airport Singapore, HP, Nike, UOB and SingTel, to name a few, and her company has been named Southeast Asia’s Social Media Agency of the Year by Campaign Asia for the past seven years running.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to pursue a career in advertising and marketing?
The pivotal moment came when I was 15. Wimbledon was airing in the wee hours of the night. I had just had dinner. A KFC commercial came on and I watched fried chicken falling from mid-air in slow-motion. I felt hungry instantly, but also awed by the power of advertising. The rest, as they say, is history.
What are your proudest accomplishments to date?
I view life’s challenges as opportunities to become wiser, rather than burdens. Each battle scar is a certificate of survival. In the same vein, I would say that starting Goodstuph, given the circumstances, would be my proudest accomplishment.
Are there any Gen.T honourees you have your eye on in particular?
I have a soft spot for the “self-made, self-paid” person. By that I mean that you do not have daddy’s bank account or network to fall back on, nor a billionaire husband you claim has nothing to do with your success. There are two young leaders in particular who I respect very much, for their guts, grit, grace and glory: Rachel Lim, co-founder of Love, Bonito and Shigga Shay.
What does Gen.T mean to you?
It’s a tribe of paragons representing different houses of passion that present the faces of Singapore.
Sweet is not sweet without the bitter
What are the most useful resources—books, podcasts or anything else—you would recommend to someone looking to gain perspective on becoming a better leader?
I’m generally not a fan of self-help books, unless the author has earned the right to teach, for example, he or she is an entrepreneur with years of experience. However, I do like reading books on how various businesses operate, in terms of culture and business models. I recently finished Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, by the co-creator of the Netflix Culture Deck, Patty McCord.
Leadership is both an art and a science. With regard to the former, understanding philosophical thinking and the history of philosophy is important. For that, I recommend Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder.
How do you foster creative and innovative thinking as a leader?
At Goodstuph, I encourage everyone to moonlight when the opportunity arises, so long as it's a non-conflict client. I don’t own my people, and it’s good for them to build their portfolios up as long as they know how to balance their time.
We have a concept at Goodstuph called JASON, which is named after our courier man. It’s a service that offers the same-day delivery of ideas. These time-sensitive ideas ride on the day’s trends, and are conceived in such a way that they must be able to be produced quickly. For each JASON idea that goes out, the team receives a token SG$100 in cash.
What are the most important traits of a successful leader?
Guts, grit, grace and the clear focus to lead the team to glory. I also believe you should earn the right to speak, teach and lead. Winning is easy; coming back from a failure is not. I personally would follow a leader who has had several failures and came back stronger each time. That’s a leader with knowledge I can learn from.
The one thing no one can take away from you is your integrity. Protect it and don’t put a price on it
Which leader do you admire and why?
My godmother of advertising, Linda Locke. She came from an era where female leaders were a rarity. Her mind is razor-sharp, and her thoughts move at a 300km/h. It’s hard to keep up, but those of us who do, are currently in the industry leading the race. She was never one to congratulate me for participation and she does not celebrate short-term success. She pushes me constantly to think long-term and to know that there is no finish line in this race. If I’m lucky, I may get a little pat on the back at my 10,000km mark. In the many years I have known Linda, her fierce sense of integrity has never wavered for anyone, nor anything. Excellence is not an act, but a habit, as Aristotle said. I can safely say I am where I am because of her.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken professionally?
Starting Goodstuph. We may be nearly ten years old now, with about 50 people in Singapore and Jakarta and we have won the Social Media Agency of the Year for seven consecutive years, but the reality is, we started with nothing but a table in a friend’s studio and $10,000 of debt.
When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how do you determine who to hire?
I evaluate a candidate by two key traits: character and competence. You can be a nice guy, but if you are bad at your job, you have to go; I don’t run a charity. At the same time, you can produce top-notch work but play mind games with your juniors, which doesn’t work for me either. The selection of candidates also goes beyond what’s on paper, especially in my industry. The candidate’s reputation counts and we do heaps of background checks and social media audits.
If you could give one piece of advice to Gen.T honourees, what would it be?
In life, everything can be taken away from you—your wife, your mother, your career, that Porsche 911 you just bought. The one thing no one can take away from you is your integrity. Protect it and don’t put a price on it.
If you could go back in time and start your career again, would you do anything differently?
No. Sweet is not sweet without the bitter.