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Pamela Lee: A modern CFO

2018 BC CFO Awards winner's new direction helped revive technology company’s fortunes
Pamela Lee, chief financial officer, Mr. Lube Canada | Submitted

Pamela Lee says the human aspect of Mr. Lube Canada LP is an important reason for the franchisor’s success.

“Our franchisees are part of the Mr. Lube family,” said Lee, CFO of the company. “Many of them have been with Mr. Lube for years. Whenever a new location comes up, it usually gets snapped up quickly by one of the existing franchisees. At the same time, Mr. Lube is also looking for new franchisees to help grow our brand.”

Mr. Lube is the leading service provider of routine automotive maintenance in Canada, with franchisees providing “fast, warranty-approved, same-day lube, oil and tire rotation service,” Lee said.

The company, which maintains its head office in Richmond and has a branch office in Mississauga, Ontario, has grown in 42 years to 172 franchise locations across Canada.

Lee said that when she joined Mr. Lube in 2007, Boston Pizza (TSX:BPF.UN) had just acquired an equity stake in the company.

“Before then, Mr. Lube was primarily family-owned,” she said. “The new board of directors was looking for a management team that could protect the family culture while adding corporate structure and governance to the business.”

Lee said the Mr.Lube corporate culture is the best of two worlds.

“We are a professional organization with a leading brand and franchise model wrapped around family values,” she said.

And, like any good family, giving back to the community is important to Mr. Lube.

“Since the creation of the Mr. Lube Foundation in 2002, we have raised over $5 million to support many worthy causes across Canada,” Lee said.

In her role with the company, she takes a holistic view of the entire business and not just the numbers, she said.

“My job as CFO is to safeguard and grow the business,” she said. “The quick-lube business landscape is changing quickly and I need to think about what our market will look like in 10 years.”

Lee is keeping a careful watch on such new technologies as electric and self-driving vehicles, because of their potential impact on Mr. Lube franchisees.

“We can’t ignore the effect disruptive technologies will have on our service model in the future,” she said.

Lee said that, as CFO, she tries to put herself in the shoes of Mr. Lube franchisees who have demanding businesses to run. One result of this approach is that she stresses the importance for the company to stay flexible when it launches a new service, such as tire rotation, that requires a significant franchisee investment.

Although Lee’s job is challenging, she loves the autonomy it gives her.

“I’m able to really stretch myself in my role as CFO,” she said. “In addition to finance, I also look after corporate services, such as construction, information technology and human resources. Today’s CFO needs to have many different business skills.”

One of those diverse business skills is being good with people, and Lee is certainly popular with Mr. Lube franchisees.

Guenter Raedler owns two Mr. Lube franchises, one in Nanaimo and one in Comox-Courtenay.

“Pamela is a very nice, well-balanced woman, the very model of the modern CFO,” said Raedler. “She understands all the aspects of a complex franchise operation, with its diverse groups of stakeholders and their different priorities.”

Raedler said Lee is “very professional and very skilled.”

“Pamela is well respected in a male-dominated industry,” said Raedler. “She has a very positive attitude and is very supportive of all the stakeholders.”

Karim Kara, a partner in a company that owns 12 Mr. Lube franchises near Toronto, agreed that Lee is a valuable asset.

“The automobile quick-
main-tenance business is evolving all the time, and Pamela is always available to listen to and to guide the franchisees, so that we can become and stay profitable,” Kara said. “You can reach out and she’s always available. That’s very comforting for us franchisees.”

Lee is a savvy industry strategist, Kara said.

“She helps us develop creative solutions to the challenges we face, so that franchisees can maintain their profitability.”

In addition, Lee has hands-on involvement with Mr. Lube vendors and suppliers, so that franchisees can buy the best products and services at the best prices.

“Franchisees expect a good return on our investment and she helps us achieve it,” Kara said.

Hugh Notman, managing director of CCC Investment Banking and one of the BC CFO awards judges, called Lee “a very well-rounded CFO.”

“Pamela was also part of the Mr. Lube team that led the change of the company to a royalties trust,” said Notman. “The business did very well out of that transaction.”

Business in Vancouver and the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia will honour the province’s top CFOs at the BC CFO Awards gala dinner, being held June 7 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For more information or to register, go to