An entrepreneur at heart: Meet our President, Joe Peters

GCI Canada’s President Joe Peters likes to say, “you’re an entrepreneur or you’re not an entrepreneur,” and it’s as simple as that. They call it entrepreneurial spirit for a reason—it’s an instinct to innovate, a love of leading, that you feel in your bones or you never feel at all. And Joe? Joe’s an entrepreneur. At age 30, Joe started a company that was eventually sold to the WPP family—an unforgettable career experience.

“Starting and growing a company takes energy, and no one hands you anything,” Joe recalls.

“You’ve got to be hungry. Go out, meet people, make proposals, always be thinking about the competition, how you price, where you waste time. There are lots of jobs where you show up and work comes to you—being an entrepreneur means going out and making it happen.”

Joe first felt the entrepreneurial itch amid his MBA at the University of Ottawa in the 1990’s. It was a hypercompetitive space, with a particularly hypercompetitive cohort—but that energy was matched with a waterfall of ideas. Joe was looking for a real business opportunity, from which his company Ascentum emerged. Initially conceived as a software company, Ascentum’s real selling point was its professional services as a research firm using online and social approaches to engage audiences in conversation—and it eventually grew into a global force.

Joe brought that deep bench strength for engaging audiences as he entered the WPP family after the acquisition.

“One of the things I found out quickly is that there are a lot of parallels between integrated communications consulting and management consulting.  Knowing how to pitch, building compelling approaches to meeting client objectives, understanding the evolving world of digital, social and technology in general.”

But there was one shining star that crossed over from Joe’s former life to agency world: an instinct for innovation. It’s the elemental ingredient in entrepreneurism, and to Joe, it all starts with intellectual curiosity.

“I’ve always been curious. I’ve always wanted to deeply understand how things work. Through that understanding you can extrapolate the solution to other contexts, and from there build new services that serve a client need.”

Before joining GCI Canada, Joe led innovation as Chief Strategy Officer of a major WPP agency. It dovetailed perfectly with his entrepreneurship—after all, if there has been a consistent theme in Joe’s life, it’s been the creation and execution of ideas. He remembers fondly one trail-blazing project for Canada Post, where Joe helped the company successfully convert from door-to-door delivery to community mailboxes. It began as a deeply controversial political football—but through a radical and comprehensive plan for research and engaging the public, Joe helped turn that hot potato into a game-changer. In fact, Canada Post has now skyrocketed to one of the top ten trusted brands in the country.

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Enter Joe in his new role at GCI Canada, where he is now delivering his arsenal of experience and energy—a place where the team takes pride in its identity as idea architects.

“Idea architecture is the notion of building ideas—having a brilliant idea, building momentum around that idea, thinking strategically about the idea’s impact, and then matching its brilliance with brilliant execution. To me, that’s architecture.”

And it’s the craftsmanship that separates GCI Canada from its competitors. Agency world is an idea battlefield, after all: do you have great ideas and can you execute those great ideas?

“There’s a magic sweet spot in idea architecture, where an idea is built to be beautiful, solid, and useful—essentially, where an idea meets an objective while expressing elegance in its execution,” Joe adds.

When it comes to creating magic, Joe can’t get enough of the team at GCI Canada. He’s been blown away by the ideas that are built here—award-winning, energetic, satisfying and surprising clients everytime, with a big future ahead.

And Joe? He’ll remain an entrepreneur at heart, as GCI Canada writes a new chapter in an already storied history.