Memorial Univerity’s 2013 alumnus of the year, Brendan Paddick, is the chairman and chief executive officer of Columbus International, a Barbados-based telecommunications company with operations in 42 countries in the Caribbean, Central American and Andean regions.
Paddick, who founded Columbus in 2005, has a bachelor of commerce degree and a master of business administration from Memorial University, and graduated from Harvard’s advanced management program in 2000, the same year he was named one of Canada’s Top 40 business leaders under 40 years old in the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, as president and CEO of Persona Communications, which provided cable, phone and Internet services in seven Canadian provinces. Before becoming a permanent resident of the Bahamas, Paddick was named one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 chief executive officers three times, and was named Memorial’s business faculty alumnus of the year in 2002. Three times he has been appointed as honorary consul for Canada to the Bahamas by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and in 2011 he was named Ernst & Young’s Atlantic Canadian entrepreneur of the year.
What is your full name?
Brendan John Paddick.
Where and when were you born?
In Grand Falls in February 1964. I am a leap-year baby and just over 12 years old.
Where is home today?
My wife, Renee, and I have lived in Freeport, Bahamas, for about 13 years.
What would you have thought if, while you attended classes at Memorial University, someone told you one day you’d be named Alumnus of the Year?
Ha! I worked at the Breezeway, so I likely would have cut them off and called them a cab.
What was one act of rebellion you committed as a youth?
Oh, there were so many … most of them you could not print. I can tell you that my dad was a school principal in Grand Falls and my parents wanted me to apply to Dalhousie. So he brought me home the university entrance application and I told them I applied for admission but I actually threw it out and only applied to Memorial. Guess that turned out OK in the end.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
I have been fortunate to have so much great advice from many mentors and friends, but the best advice I ever received was from my grandmother. She said, “Tell the truth, you don’t have to remember as much!” Think about it.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
Columbus has completed close to 40 acquisitions in our first eight years in business and with operations in 42 countries, more often than not my day starts or ends on a plane. I am a pretty hands-on guy, so I spend a lot of time visiting our operations and meeting with our team, our customers, our investors and our financial partners.
What do you like most about your job?
Man, there are so many things … the people I work with, the pace of technological change, the thrill of building a company from scratch. There are only four shareholders in Columbus, so I also like how we can make decisions quickly without a lot of red tape. But most of all, Columbus does business in the Caribbean and Latin America and I get to go to work every day in locations that most people would consider their dream vacation.
What’s the most stressful part of your job?
When we started Columbus in 2005, we only had a handful of team members, but fast-
forward to today and we have more than 2,500 employees. That means when you make decisions you have to think of the 10,000 or so employees and family members that rely on you to do the right thing. The days of simply rolling the dice on every decision are over. There’s a lot more at stake.
Who inspires you?
That’s a tough one, as so many people have touched our lives in a positive way. But in the end, I think I have to say my family. I know that’s more than one person, but Renee has been the rock that has kept our family life together despite my constant travelling ways. Our son, Gary, graduated from Memorial with a degree in mechanical engineering and is now in Helsinki, Finland, completing his master’s in engineering, while our daughter, Cayla, is excelling in her second year at the University of Toronto while holding down a part-time job. And our middle son, Ian, has his commercial pilot’s licence and recently graduated from the RCMP and is currently posted in Whitecourt, Alta. Collectively, they all inspire me.
What are five songs in your music library?
I am a huge music fan so only picking five is tough. How about I pick five special songs with a Newfoundland connection … “Boston to St. John’s” by Great Big Sea; Barry Canning’s cover of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic”; Andrew James O’Brien’s “We Were a Boat”; “Three Score and Ten” by Matthew Byrne and “Where I Belong” by my pal Alan Doyle.
What is your most treasured possession?
You know, I have been very fortunate in my career and my life and that has allowed my family to accumulate material items that could make for an easy answer. But our family has made a pact where we have promised to keep it real and appreciate how lucky we are. So instead of something like a piece of art, a gift or a photo, my family’s most treasured possession is a strong sense of where you come from. Newfoundland is a very special place on Earth and there is hardly a day goes by where the longing for home does not call.
What are you reading right now?
I spend 50 per cent of my day reading legal, transaction, industry or financing documents so, to be honest, I rarely read for enjoyment. In fact, I don’t think I have read a fictional book since University. Right now I am reading “Cable Cowboy.” It’s a book about Columbus’ newest shareholder, John Malone, and the rise of the modern cable business.
What’s the coolest thing you have ever done?
It’s probably a toss-up between snorkelling with penguins in the Galapagos or jet-skiing at the base of a glacier field in Greenland. Can I pick a third? Yeah? Last year I had the opportunity to join Team Broken Earth in Haiti to witness first-hand the incredible work these generous Newfoundlanders are doing for those so much less fortunate. I was one of the most proud moments of my life. What an inspiring group of talented and giving people.
Do you have a favourite movie?
You know, I am precisely the type of person that Blu-rays were invented for. I can never even remember if I have seen a movie, let alone how it ends. I would have to say my favourite movie is “Gladiator.” Despite having watched it about six or seven times, I still find myself biting my nails at the end wondering if Russell (Crowe) is going to make it.
What bugs you?
A couple of things — people who talk a lot but have nothing to say. And meetings. They are events where minutes are taken and hours are wasted.
What are your best and worst qualities?
Ha! Now that’s a no-win question. Can I take a pass? That one’s kind of like your wife asking if her new dress makes her look fat, or, “Would you get married again if I passed away?” There really is no right answer.
Do you have a personal motto?
Absolutely. You can never guarantee you will be the smartest person in the room, but there is no excuse for not being the most prepared.
Who is one person, living or deceased, you’d like to have lunch with?
Without a doubt, it would be Joey Smallwood. But if I was picking up the cheque and could invite a couple of modern-day buddies, I would ask Jake Doyle, Maurice Becker and Wolf Redmond to join me at The Duke. We could have an amazing conversation about two of Newfoundland’s prized traditions: the Republic of Newfoundland and “Republic of Doyle.”
If you were premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, what would be the first thing you’d try to do?
That’s a tough one. I think I would consider joining Canada through a stalemate referendum, sign an unfair deal with Quebec on our hydroelectricity assets, squander our natural resources, mismanage the fishery with the feds, invest in a hydroponic cucumber farm and build a nice oil refinery as a tourist attraction. Ah, damn, looks like somebody beat me to them all. Seriously, I would just try to instil a sense of trust and leadership … everything else would take care of itself.