CEO of a company that specializes in life-size wall graphics of your favorite athlete? Check. Part-owner of an NBA team? Check. What more could a sports-loving guy want except possibly to be that player on the wall? Pat McInnis, the CEO of Fathead and part-owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, admits it’s the next best thing to actually being a professional athlete. Yet, he takes nothing for granted. He continues to maintain a fierce work ethic that enabled him to become the president of Quicken Loans at the age of 35, while continuing to give back to the community that helped him in the past. A Flint native, McInnis, 45, lives on Union Lake with his wife and four children.
SCN: Before you reached the age of 40, you became the president of Quicken Loans/Rock Financial. To what do you attribute your success in rising so high in that company at such a young age?
PM: Actually, I became the president at the age of 35. And one of my philosophies has always been that I don’t necessarily look past the job that I’m in. So, for example, I never thought about being a president or a CEO. My philosophy was always just focus on the job at hand — the job that was in front of me. And No. 1, I believe in work ethic, so I always try to outwork everyone. With that, though, you also have to increase your knowledge. So I always tried to be the best that I could possibly be at the job that I was doing. What that did was just open up additional doors because everyone saw the work ethic which translated into the results. As that happened — as people saw the success — they just offered me new opportunities so doors kept opening along the way. But I never really thought about being the president until probably about a month before it actually happened, when they approached me.
SCN: You are now the CEO of Fathead. What prompted the switch from Quicken Loans to Fathead? What about the company drew you to them?
PM: In terms of the switch, what had happened was I’m an investor in Fathead, so when we originally bought the company in 2006 I was a financial investor. I have a sports background. I played football at Eastern Michigan University, and played sports throughout high school — football, basketball, and baseball — so I had a love for sports. I went in initially as an investor, and what happened was the company was doing OK but it wasn’t reaching the potential that we thought it could achieve. So as we were trying to figure out how to, in essence restructure the company, and bring in some new leadership, they said “Hey Pat, you’re a sports guy. You’re well connected with the coaching world, and with athletes, so do you want to try this opportunity?” And hands down at that moment I just said yes. So literally I walked across the parking lot because Quicken and Fathead were literally at the time within the same complex, so I just walked across the parking lot. It wasn’t a big change from a logistics standpoint, but certainly a new, exciting opportunity in sports and entertainment.
SCN: Please explain what an average work day is like for you.
PM: I typically get in around 6:30 or 7 in the morning. I use that quiet time to catch up on emails because I get about 350 emails a day. So between emails, and usually about 15 voicemails and of course text messages, I try to catch up on all my communication early in the day because it’s quiet and uninterrupted, and one of the things we believe in is responding to people with a sense of urgency. So I always try to get back to people within 24 hours. I spend that time just communicating with people — answering questions, setting up appointments, whatever has to happen. Then at approximately 9 o’clock we always have a team meeting. We call it the “team huddle” here at Fathead. What we do is we review the previous day’s numbers so that everybody in the company knows what’s going on from a financial perspective, because that’s an important piece of the report card to measure how we’re doing. And that usually takes anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes. Then at about, I’d say 10 o’clock, I usually have a series of meetings. I meet with every leader of each specific area once a week to make sure that our priorities and objectives are in line with what we need to accomplish. That usually will go from 10 to 3 or 4, possibly. Then we always have throughout the week people coming in from outside that have ideas that they want us to try to implement, ideas from other companies, and usually there will be one to three of those per day. Then … in between all that at certain points of the month, there’s financials that have to be reviewed, so I spend time doing that probably at least once a week in between all those meetings. So generally speaking it’s just meeting with my people, making sure that their priorities are right and objectives are right, and moving forward in the business.
SCN: What have you accomplished at Fathead that you are the most proud of?
PM: One of the things I’m very proud of this year is that — especially from a retail perspective — we grew our revenues 14 percent. Now, you may not think that’s a lot, but when you consider that we have a product that is a discretionary purchase — people don’t need a Fathead — it’s something that creates fun and excitement so it’s a want vs. a necessity and it’s $100. So that’s what I consider an expensive discretionary purchase. I’m proud of the fact that we have shown enough value that people have actually wanted a Fathead, but then again they don’t have to have it. It’s not a necessity to live on a daily basis. So us being able to grow our revenues over 14 percent this year was a huge accomplishment. And we increased the amount of orders we brought in the door by 200 percent, and that was another huge accomplishment. I think all that is just the end result of things we try to do on our web site to make it’s more user-friendly so that people can find the products that they’re looking for, making sure that we have the right price points that are affordable for people, and the end result was obviously the success from an order and financial standpoint.
SCN: Where do you hope to take Fathead next?
PM: What we have done very successfully is created a brand that is very recognizable in the sports and entertainment world. In fact, I would say that it’s in the top 10 for sure just in the sports world. We have athletes all the time that reach out to us and say “Hey, what do I have to do to be a Fathead?” So we’ve created this premium brand, and .. my goal is to take this brand to a much higher level because our brand is almost bigger than the financial piece of the company. So what I’d like to do just from a revenue standpoint is to get Fathead to become a $100 million company that certainly will continue to grow in terms of the brand recognition as being the ultimate destination for a professional athlete to become a wall graphic.
SCN: Which Fathead has been your ultimate favorite?
PM: My ultimate favorite Fathead I would have to say right now is Kid Rock.
SCN: Any particular reason?
PM: Yes, he is actually a very good friend. And he certainly embodies what Detroit’s all about. So from that perspective, you know, I definitely have an affinity towards him. So that’s my all-time favorite. My second favorite would be Troy Polamalu. He’s always been a top-seller here, and he’s a great guy. He does a lot of work for us from a marketing standpoint. So that’s my second favorite.
SCN: You are also a minority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. What made you decide that you wanted to be a part owner of a professional sports team? And why did you choose the Cavs?
PM: I had a dream of becoming a professional athlete, and I went to Eastern Michigan and played football. When I realized that dream wasn’t going to become a reality, I had been searching for a way to be involved in professional sports. So it wasn’t going to be as a professional athlete — I was too slow. But the Cleveland Cavaliers opportunity came around in 2005. Actually the previous owner had owned the team for, like, 30 years, and he had just drafted a young man named LeBron James. So that was an exciting opportunity for a group of us at Quicken Loans. When that opportunity came up — and obviously that was the next best thing to being a professional athlete — and I was afforded the chance to be a part of it, I leaped at the chance. That’s how it came about. Actually we were trying to buy a baseball team, and that fell through and then this came into the picture.
SCN: How do feel things are going in Cleveland after LeBron James left?
SCN: Certainly it was very disappointing to a lot — I would say to most — Cleveland sports fans. But I will tell you this, they have been just absolutely phenomenal. They have rallied behind us as an ownership group, and they keep coming to the arena even though we are having a tough year, because we have shown them over the last seven years that we have the ability to put a winning team on the court. And we made so many improvements not only in the Cavaliers and the Quicken Loans arena, but also in the community. We have done a lot of things in the community that have helped move metro Cleveland forward. So we have a lot of fan support, and that’s the most encouraging piece — that they have a belief that we will get things turned around.
SCN: Not only do you run a company that is known for its sports wall graphics and are a part-owner of an NBA team, but you also played college football at Eastern Michigan University. It seems that a good portion of your life revolves around sports. What kind of impact has sports had on your life?
PM: Certainly, I would tell you that sports has helped shaped who I am. It’s not necessarily from playing the sport itself, but it’s from all the lessons that come from sports. One is hard work. You know, playing a sport at a high school and collegiate level is very demanding — especially at the collegiate level, it’s almost like a job. So you have to have discipline, and you have to be willing to sacrifice social things that you want to do for advancing the team and advancing your personal career. I think it certainly teaches you discipline and time management, and it also teaches you the value of teamwork. It certainly brings to light the fact that … if you want to move forward as a team and you want to be a winning team, it’s not going to be just you. You have to embrace your teammates, and you have to help them succeed, as well. So, those very same lessons of discipline, time management, and team work are things that have followed me for a lifetime and certainly have helped me within the business world, because those same principles are the things that elevated my career and they are the very things that I try to pass down to the people that work for me.
SCN: The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint just established a Community Hero Award in honor of you. Please explain your involvement with the Boys and Girls Club.
PM: What I’ve tried to do with the Boys and Girls Club is help create funds for them that will allow them to get the things that they need to help better the lives of young children who don’t have a lot of support at home. One of the things I’m probably most proud of is we were able to raise $100,000 to build a technology center within the Boys and Girls Club that in essence gets them off the streets. Flint has fallen on some tough times, and there is plenty of opportunity to go out and do things that are not acceptable in society. Crime is rampant in Flint. So I think the biggest thing you need to do with kids is get them off the streets, get them interested in things that will help them as an individual both personally and from an educational and business standpoint, and have great people around them to mentor them and give them the direction they need to be successful in life. And that’s what the Boys and Girls Club does. It does it through the educational piece of it, but also they have great people at the Boys and Girls Club that are willing to mentor kids, take them off the street, and help them. And that is what I have done, as well — not only raise funds to help put together things they need from an educational standpoint, but also I’ve dedicated my time to taking kids under my wing and try to help them through their issues they’re faced with and the environment they’re growing up with, and give them opportunity.
SCN: What does it mean to you to have this award established in your honor?
PM: It’s very humbling in one sense. I was telling someone the other day, to hear my name attached to an award, I get kind of embarrassed because what I do, I don’t do it for recognition. I do it just because people helped me along the way, and I’m a big believer in the more you give, the more you get. So I do it just from the standpoint that I want to give and help people, but having the award is something — I’m blown away by it, because it’s something that hopefully will last for years to come, and it’s something my kids can look at and be proud of and also look at it as hopefully something that guides them through life. It’s always a reminder of being willing to give to the people that have given to you.
SCN: You’ve lived on Union Lake for 14 years. What do you enjoy the most about being a part of the lake community? How have you seen the lakes area change over the years?
PM: Certainly, living on a lake is like being on a vacation every day. I grew up in Flint, so I grew up in a concrete city. Everywhere you go it’s concrete. There’s not much water, so Union Lake opened me up to a whole other world, and it’s 45 minutes away from where I grew up. So again, every day when I wake up and look out at the lake, I just think “Wow, I’m very fortunate.” It’s just such a beautiful, serene setting. And of course, I love to boat, I love to ski, I love to go on the pontoon, I love to bring friends out and enjoy it with me and take them on the pontoon and just talk and have that camaraderie with people. I think it breaks down barriers because … when you live on the lake you meet so many different people, and it’s that common bond of being on the lake that creates friends that you otherwise wouldn’t create just on a daily basis. So that’s certainly a few of things that I enjoy the most.
In terms of the changes, when I first started coming out there, there was a lot of dirt roads and you know a lot of the side streets weren’t paved and there weren’t sewers. And certainly just from an infrastructure standpoint, you’ve seen incredible changes with that piece of it. Because when we moved there in ’97, there were still a lot of homes on the lake that I guess were classified as vacation homes, so you’ve seen a lot of those homes being torn down and then these beautiful homes being built. So just seeing, you know, the kind of newness of the area, seeing some of the old go away and seeing some of the old refurbished into something that’s much nicer than it was in the past — just seeing that change has been great. It’s very gratifying, and I feel very fortunate to live on the lake.