Welcome to our new series Meeting Montgomery’s Members, where each month we learn more about the people who make up the Group. In our first interview we chat to Gary Corin who heads up Specialised Exhibitions. Gary has held the positions of Marketing Director and Chief Operating Officer prior to him becoming the Managing Director. After recently celebrating his 25th year in the company, we caught up with him to find out more about his experiences.
Congratulations on your recent anniversary – 25 years is an impressive milestone! What is it about the Montgomery Group that’s appealed for such a notable amount of time?
Montgomery Group is a people-driven business that taps into the human condition across borders and across industries. The exhibitions and events it organises reflects the constant excitement, complexities, challenges and change that life has to offer. Montgomery is, in my experience, a metaphor of what life has to offer. Never static, always moving and the most amazing adventure!
Do you remember your first day? How did you get into exhibitions and events?
I remember my first day vividly! It was a Friday and we had build-up at the Joburg Expo Centre for a Woodworking Machinery show. I spent the weekend and late nights handling exhibitor queries and requests that I knew absolutely nothing about! After 4 years in industrial selling, I knew of Electra Mining Africa and really wanted to get into a people and marketing oriented business. That was the start of an amazing life journey……..
You were the Marketing Director and Chief Operating Officer for Specialised Exhibitions before you became the Managing Director, how has the Montgomery Group supported your career development?
My first day at Specialised Exhibitions set the tone for my development within the company. We are a “hands-on”, real and passionate business. I started with the basics and was exposed to every facet of exhibition organising. My leadership at the time always encouraged me to become involved in what we do, learn and always try to make a positive contribution. This was never restricted to one discipline. I had a mandate to develop the marketing communication processes but was supported in my ambition to learn.
And how do you think your past experience in previous roles has fed into your current position?
A question often asked: “what is marketing”. For me it’s a simple statement of a complex ecosystem: “Marketing is a philosophy of disciplined activities that create an environment within which a sale or exchange of value can take place.” Basically, Marketing underpins our sales efforts from closing a deal to delivering value for our clients. Starting in sales and moving into a people-driven, marketing-oriented business has been formative for my career.
The events industry is one sector hit hardest by the pandemic. How have Specialised adapted over the past 12 months? Tell us about new opportunities that have been created.
Wow – a global pandemic in 2020 – who would have imagined! Over the last 12 months, Specialised Exhibitions and its staff has experienced stress, anxiety and uncertainty. The global lockdown has been traumatic. That is only part of the story. Our people have demonstrated incredible resilience, flexibility and willingness to adapt. We have used the opportunity to become more nimble in communication and integrated technology into our priority focus areas. Platforms like MS Teams, Zoom and Crowdcast, have been embraced. The focus, however, remains our stakeholder relationships and well-being of our events and brands. The emergence of digital tools has not detracted from our purpose of “serving our world” – it has presented an enormous opportunity to underpin it.
Specialised is based in South Africa and strengthens Montgomery Group’s nature as an international business. What does Specialised gain from belonging to a global events business?
As a South African subsidiary of a Global exhibition organiser, Specialised Exhibitions enjoys the “best of most worlds”. Our staff are South Africans with an understanding of the local market. Due to our geography and politics, that market insight has grown into the Southern African Development Community (SADC). We live the mantra: “Think Global, Act Local”. Tapping into best practices in exhibition and event organising, adopting and adapting digital and information technology solutions all the while delivering shows with a local emphasis and flavour. Specialised Exhibitions feeds off Montgomery Group intellectual property, while hopefully adding its own unique experience to the Group’s learning pool.
How have you seen the event industry in South Africa change over the past 25 years?
Over the last 25 years in the SA exhibition industry has seen substantial change. At the forefront of this change has been the digital revolution. When I started at Specialised Exhibitions, facsimilies were the rage, communications were slow and cumbersome with the Nokia 5110 was shaping the mobile phone market. The internet was in its infancy and traditional media channels were dominated by big corporates. Email was emerging and there were no social media platforms like there are today. This digital reality has dramatically altered how we go about communicating with stakeholders. What has remained constant, is the human condition that demands meaningful social interaction and dialog. This remains the driving force behind the success of Montgomery’s events globally. People deal with people and we create events that facilitate this exchange of value, wherever Montgomery is the world!
What three words would you use to describe your time (so far!) at the Montgomery Group?
Love – if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. Passion – people from all walks of life combine into a melting pot to chase a common goal! Dedication – a focus on delivering quality business opportunities spanning one and a quarter centuries! And I’m a small part of all of this, WOW!
Tell us about one of your proudest achievements while working at Specialised.
In 2007 Specialised Exhibitions entered a period of substantial growth that has helped shape the company into what it is today. Damion Angus and I facilitated a due-diligence exercise that led to the acquisition of a competitive organiser. Very few individuals have the privilege of going through a process of an acquisition, especially one that has had such a profound and positive impact on our business more than a decade later.
If you had one piece of advice for a Montgomery Group new starter, what would it be?
Live the adventure that is Montgomery! The company has outlived world wars, economic depressions and more recently global pandemics! We are a people-driven business that innately understands the human condition that drives us to meet face-to-face. Be a part of that incredible journey. It has the potential to be the greatest experience of your life!