Goodstuph's founder Pat Law on how to communicate effectively and other tips for success: Leading Women #2

Goodstuph's founder Pat Law on how to communicate effectively and other tips for success: Leading Women #2

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Text: Tracy Phillips

Image: Pat Law

In my second installment of Leading Women, a column on career and financial advice from successful female leaders and bosses, we have Pat Law, founder of GOODSTUPH, Singapore's Social Marketing Agency of the Year for five consecutive years, and Campaign's Southeast Asia Social Media Agency of the Year 2017. A digital strategist at Ogilvy before founding Goodstuph in 2010, Law is known for speaking her mind in an industry that often sugar coats, which is why I knew we could count on her to tell it as it is and share what she's learned from being in advertising for almost two decades.


What's your favourite interview question, and why?
There is one question I ask, which reveals a candidate's train of thought, values, and real creativity. Unfortunately, if I am to reveal that question, I may not be getting the most honest answers in the future! My second most commonly asked interview question is "Now that you've heard about us, tell me how we'll disappoint you." Beyond skills, fit to the corporate culture matters, especially in a small agency like ours, where everyone functions like family.

Landing the job for you these days means nailing that client pitch. What's your pre-pitch routine?
These days, we seldom go for nationwide pitches where there'll be 50 other agencies because the odds aren't great. When we do pitch, it is because we already know the client and we know there is a basic amount of interest in the work that we do. Typically before a pitch, I review our deck and question "Will any other agency be presenting ideas like these? What makes us so special? Why should we be awarded the account? How will we lose?" The last question is important. If you know how you would lose, you would know how exactly to win.


Goodstuph works around the region as well. What do you think Singaporeans can do better as compared to outstanding talent overseas?
Our impatience is both a strength and a weakness. We are phenomenally efficient in our work, but we may not necessarily have the patience to deal with other countries' way of life. We want everything yesterday. Having said that though, we may be too direct and inflexible. I do think sometimes, we need to learn to break the rules.

Whether you're sending an email to a client or drafting a new campaign with colleagues, the way you deliver your message can make or break the outcome. Since you're in the business of effective messaging and communication, what advice would you have for those looking to become better communicators in the workplace?
It's a lot like dating. If you're going to deliver bad news, do it in person. Unless you write like Virginia Woolf, tonality is sacrificed in emails. It's important to have that conversation face-to-face. Also, the way you write certainly reveals your train of thought, and indirectly, your intelligence. I absolutely judge the way a person writes.

To be a better communicator in the workplace, you must first learn to listen. You must observe the recipient's level of comprehension, the person's attention span (I do not bother to write long emails to C-suite clients who travel three times a month), and the objective of your communication.


You went from working as a digital strategist at Ogilvy to founding Goodstuph. What lessons did you learn as an employee at your previous jobs that you've tried to make right at your own firm as a leader?
I have been in agencies where bonus was non-existent. While discretionary as always, bonus is ultimately, a token of appreciation for the year prior in service.

I spent half my life in network agencies battling headcount freeze and honestly, it gets very annoying. Today, I keep a very strict eye over cashflow so that we don't ever need to face a situation where we need to activate a headcount freeze.

I have never had my career road map drafted out for me ever in my former life as an employee. I had to go figure that out and pen it my own. That's how I came up with the habit of SWOTing myself every year. I do an audit on myself against my boss, to see how I can render him or her useless. Training was a scarcity too, and came with a one-year bond. There's certainly room for improvement but we have an in-house performance trainer in Goodstuph now coaching our people of all levels. Furthermore, upon one year of employment, they are not bound to any bond with the company.


You're known for your huge shoe collection. How have your spending habits changed over the years? Have you learned any financial lessons?
I used to live pay check to pay check for about ten years. Shameful, isn't it? I was lucky in that I never quite had a debt per se, but it's utterly shameful that I had zero savings after a decade of work. I should say at this point that I'm grateful for CPF. I would have been so screwed if the government didn't force me to save.

When Goodstuph was born, I was in a hurry to save as much money as I could, because my dad was then diagnosed with a brain tumour. I became quite a bit of a prude when it came to money. By doing so, I realised that actually, I don't need a lot of things in life. A new pair of fresh kicks will always put a smile on my face, but so would seeing an extra zero on my bank statement.

Here's how I manage my spending:

1. I shop every three months only.

2. I pre-pay my credit card so that I don't have a credit limit. I then use my credit card to make big ticket purchases.

3. I'll never buy anything that I can make on my own  so no, I won't be spending $500 on a T-shirt.

Look through your bills and receipts from last month. What's one thing that you regret purchasing and one thing that you're glad that you got your hands on?
I've purchased the new iPhone that I didn't really need, but it's green and matches my car. I also bought a few original paintings from a Cuban artist on a recent trip, and I'm basically waiting for him to die so that the value of the paintings will go up.

Check out Goodstuph here.