It is fitting that PRWeek meets Sligo-raised Adrian Brady on St Patrick's Day. The craic is flowing at 100mph as he greets us on the stairs of his fashionable Soho office.
Once inside a glass-walled meeting room, the dapper chief executive of PR agency Eulogy enthusiastically attempts to offer up his employees for interview. 'It's as much about them as it is about me,' the 41-year-old urges in his comforting Irish brogue, before insisting we watch a three-minute showreel that conveys the youthful bonhomie of his consumer and b2b consultancy that was named the 2009 PRCA Agency of the Year.
As if on cue, Eulogy managing director Lara Leventhal pitches in with a candid assessment of her boss: 'He's very creative, charismatic and financially astute. He's less good on the process and operation side. Don't give him a document, because he won't read it. Give him three bullet points.'
It is clear that Brady puts his people first. Around the office he oozes self-deprecating charisma, acting out a well-practised role of the charming, but slightly clueless CEO that belies his obvious intelligence.
Brady explains his approach to employees: 'Everyone has the chance to work on any piece of business. You should not demotivate your people by giving them grunt-end work. I've got the most out of people by giving them exciting work, and you tend to find that commercial success comes out the other end.'
The agency's recent commercial successes have included winning briefs for Moneysupermarket and Santander. Eulogy then became PRCA Agency of the Year at an awards ceremony that was most notable for his team's rowdy behaviour.
As senior account director Anne Fuller says: 'Adrian ensures his staff can let their hair down when they go out.'
The agency now has plans to expand into Brazil and India, suggesting the recession was not too harmful to its coffers.
But Brady's career was nearly a story of dismal failure. Before heading to London, he thought he would make his fortune in the US in 1992: 'But I forgot it was a recession and presidential campaign year. So I got a brilliant job in an Irish pub.'
Despite this false start, Brady arrived in London in 1994 - the era of Cool Britannia and Britpop. Within 18 months of taking his first PR senior account executive job at RPPR, Brady had resigned and launched his own agency: 'I was driven by enthusiasm, ambition and no small amount of naivety. The marketplace in 1996 was very exciting. It was a great era, but that makes me sound like an old man. Ah, I remember Blur versus Oasis.'
The embryonic Eulogy - as named by Brady's then-girlfriend, now-wife - was set up in his kitchen, with an old computer.
By Christmas, Brady had appointed three people and by the end of the first year there were five. After 18 months, its size doubled.
These days, Brady keeps work and home life separate - he lives in Queen's Park with his wife, son and daughter. The agency, based in the Heals building off Tottenham Court Road, has expanded to 35 employees.
The agency showed less fear than many during the recession by avoiding redundancies, launching a graduate recruitment drive and hiring a marketing manager, just as many others were scaling back.
'We've taken the view that if you tell clients to invest in PR, we should be brave enough to do it ourselves. It's working, but we'll see the real benefits in 18 to 24 months,' predicts Brady.
Moneysupermarket director of comms Ian Williams, a Eulogy client for several years, says: 'He has put a great team together at Eulogy. Also, one of the reasons we work with him is he shares a pragmatic approach to PR. For all the fancy creative ideas, it comes down to what's going to work. They keep going at it until they succeed. Adrian has a never-say-die attitude.'
Brady often returns to one particular theme - the duty of the PR industry to treat its employees with friendship and respect. He advises PR workers to look elsewhere if they are not receiving the treatment they feel they deserve.
'I believe account executives should all challenge themselves and ask: "Do the top people care about me and, if not, should I find someone who does?" A lot of people might feel it's time to look around and they should be brave enough to do it.'
Brady still seems to retain the sense of hope and excitement he had as a naive 20-something making his way in the mid-1990s: 'There's still a huge opport-unity,' he says with a glint in his eye. 'The key thing that struck me is that PR is far more powerful than many of us gave ourselves credit for. We just have to believe in ourselves.'
ADRIAN BRADY'S TURNING POINTS
- What was your biggest career break?
Getting on the Royal Mail roster. It helped us to make sure we operated in a way that works for big brands. Since then, we have become much more focused on combining creativity, strategy and results, and delivering value for businesses.
- Have you had a notable mentor?
Tess, my wife, as she has provided great support over the years. She came up with the Eulogy name. She is always prepared to hear me ramble on about silly ideas. Without realising it, every member of your team who supports and helps becomes an invisible mentor. I do not feel that people appreciate how much they gain from colleagues every day.
- What advice would you give anyone climbing the career ladder?
Be brave. Always share your views and do not be afraid to target the real decision makers. If a junior person sent their CV to me, I would be very impressed. I believe you would have to admire their balls for giving it a go. No doubt my resolve will now be tested with oodles of CVs.
- What do you prize in new recruits?
Enthusiasm, creativity, ambition, honesty and fun.
1996: Chief executive, Eulogy
1994: Senior account director, RPPR
1993: Account executive, Conduit Communications