Jay Martin jumped from white­wa­ter raft­ing to the con­fer­ence busi­ness

BC Business Magazine - - Contents - By Lucy Hys­lop

Jay Martin was con­tent with a life of raft­ing through B.C., Aus­tralia and New Zealand. Then he found a new pas­sion

Af­ter nearly a decade guid­ing and raft­ing in the great out­doors of B.C., Aus­tralia and New Zealand, Jay Martin never thought he’d go in­doors to run the fam­ily firm. Not that Martin felt any pres­sure to take over the reins of Van­cou­ver-based Cam­bridge House In­ter­na­tional, a min­ing and tech­nol­ogy events or­ga­nizer started in 1993 by his fa­ther, Joe, who also founded this mag­a­zine in 1972. But dur­ing a brief stint, he ended up fall­ing in love with the busi­ness. Af­ter all, the con­fer­ence floor is where the fa­ther of one and down­town res­i­dent found his fu­ture wife, Gretchen…

This much I know…

“We all have trans­for­ma­tional pe­ri­ods in our lives. I love my home­town of Van­cou­ver now, but when I was 18 I was hell­bent on leav­ing. I wanted to shake things up a bit. So I moved to Gold Bridge— pop­u­la­tion 40—north of Pem­ber­ton and got a job guid­ing on a 5,000-square-kilo­me­tre ranch. I was an ur­ban kid, a skate­boarder, with long hair and baggy jeans, and I was told, ‘Cut that hair, pull up your pants and get to work…’ It was re­ally chal­leng­ing and fun.

“I went on to part-own a white­wa­ter raft­ing busi­ness, but of course, that life is sea­sonal, so you need to have some­thing else. Go­ing into the fam­ily busi­ness was never on my radar un­til 2010. I in­tended it to be a one-year project, but I got re­ally ex­cited about the po­ten­tial. All my pre­vi­ous work had taught me the im­por­tance of pro­vid­ing an experience—giv­ing peo­ple that ‘Wow’ feel­ing—and events are very sim­i­lar. I go to some 30 trade shows a year world­wide, and you just know how it’s go­ing to be, from look­ing at the web­site to get­ting your lan­yard. So the biggest risk to the trade show in­dus­try is the trade show in­dus­try; it can be ar­chaic. Peo­ple come to our events for many rea­sons—but we have to de­liver a re­ally fun show, too. We have one-on-one meet­ings in the deal room and in­vest in high-pro­file speak­ers—we had Ed­ward Snow­den one year. For me, show days are like be­ing at the biggest party ever.”

“There were times in the past, how­ever, when raft­ing felt sig­nif­i­cantly less risky. It’s been a wild ride: 2011 through 2014, we saw 76 per­cent of our ju­nior min­ing clien­tele be­come de­funct, and we went from 11 shows to three a year. We’ve climbed from barely 20 booths to just shy of 400 now. We re­built our team of 10 with gritty street fight­ers. They don’t know what an easy buck is be­cause they’ve only had a bear mar­ket, so it forced us to get more ef­fi­cient with our mod­els and di­ver­sify into tech in 2013. The aim of Ex­tra­or­di­nary Fu­ture [in Septem­ber], for ex­am­ple, is to put Van­cou­ver’s tech scene, such as vir­tual re­al­ity, on the podium. I love where min­ing is now, too; it’s not a good mar­ket, but it’s no longer hor­ri­ble, so qual­ity com­pa­nies are get­ting fi­nanced. In a bull mar­ket, you get ev­ery­body in the room, whether or not they know what they are do­ing.”

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