Debbie McGrath is an award-winning business strategy and marketing and communications expert with deep experience in professional services, financial services, real estate services and consumer retail industries. Best described as a visionary and architect of winning marketing campaigns and developer of client-first business initiatives this University of Western Ontario graduate and three-time RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award nominee is now Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Client Officer at Echelon Wealth Partners. While the Director of Marketing for Chestnut Park Real Estate, Debbie’s efforts were acknowledged by the prestigious Christie’s International Real Estate’s Affiliate of the Year Award in 2016. Debbie is a member of the Board at the HART Foundation, a Canadian not-for-profit that raises awareness and funding to provide housing and rehabilitation services for sex-trafficked women.
My first job ever was… as a camp counselor at Camp Onondaga, however, my first in-office role was during university as summer staff working in the file room at Thomson Rogers law firm. I was also a receptionist in my early days.
I chose my career path because… it satisfies my insatiable appetite to build and improve without limits.
My proudest accomplishment is… my children — for their infectious glow, independent spirit and determination in pursuit of their dreams.
My boldest move to date was… starting my own company, especially when my children were so young. My husband and I didn’t have financial elasticity to allow for failure and it was in an industry I didn’t have any experience in. What this demonstrated was my risk tolerance, which has been a great gift both in my career and for the personal financial decisions my husband and I have made.
I surprise people when I tell them… I played competitive badminton. My husband laughed and commented that it was a “backyard game” until I took him out on the court to change that perception. It’s the fastest sport in the world, most people don’t know that or believe it. A shuttlecock moves at 493km/hr. Google it!
My best advice to people starting their career is… be curious about everything.
My best advice from a mentor was… “There is no such thing as failure, you’re gaining experience.” I received this at a particularly dark time in my life and wasn’t emotionally available to receive it. With time comes distance, and upon reflection, those failures taught me incomparably valuable life lessons and I am ultimately thankful for them – with no desire to redo them, of course.
“A setback is simply a challenge with the potential for growth.”
I would tell my 20-year old self… trust your gut, it’s amazing how on-point our instincts are.
My biggest setback was…There have been a lot of perceived setbacks in my career and personal life, but I prefer to think of them as pivotal moments with opportunity. I believe anything is possible for anyone; the road might be challenging along the way, but if you’re determined to succeed, you’ll find a way around them. A setback is simply a challenge with the potential for growth.
I overcame it by… perseverance. Certainly, there have been days or weeks when I would’ve preferred to stay in bed and shutout the world, however, I didn’t (and still don’t) have that option. I have children who need me and a business that needs me. I have a commitment to financial security with my family. At times I’ve been forced to dig deep to find my motivation — but it’s always rewarding in the end.
If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… spend it with my children and husband doing an activity together, biking, playing tennis or golf.
The last book I read was…Isadore Sharp’s Four Seasons, The Story of a Business Philosophy. I bought all the available copies of this book from the publisher and recently distributed it to our company on our corporate retreat. His theory of trust, culture, brand and customer service was inspiring and he is a wonderful example of a Canadian entrepreneurial success story.
I stay inspired by… the limitlessness of what’s possible! The evolution of relationships and connections is amazing. I have had the good fortune of having worked for extraordinary people who are now business partners, despite the fact we no longer work for the same organization. One of the special qualities about Canadians is their interest in connecting people and I think that’s one of our greatest assets, our ability to network.
The future excites me because… a wave of change is coming. I feel as though a seismic shift is on its way, for women, for our daughters and for future generations. Doors that were closed are now opening, transparency is being demanded and expected and increased opportunity will hopefully be the result. #Metoo has been an unbelievable movement and its impact has been felt across every industry and at all levels of the corporate world.
My next step is… educating women and girls on the value of investing. To have control over your money is incredibly empowering and understanding the tools to generate and preserve wealth is a further step forward. Over 90% of women will have control of the household finances at some point in their life, however, only 40% of women have a financial advisor. Their hesitancy to participate in wealth preservation is due to a lack of trust and fear of the system. I’d like to bridge this gap to build a better future of financial independence for women.