As a rigger since the 1970s, how did you make the transition to founder and business owner of Boston-based JCALPRO Inc.?
I started out as a rigger working on several types of events, movies, and rock shows, where I learned the basics and the intimate details of the business. It wasn't long before I was able to think of things I'd do differently or at least know what needed to be done in enough situations that I felt comfortable going out on my own. Having all of the connections I had from being around the industry for so long really helped. I was able to bring in some of the best riggers in the business to start building my company. I also kept some of my personal jobs along with my company jobs to help support myself as JCALPRO grew. Earning the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) contract to exclusively provide rigging in both the new South Boston-based convention centers was definitely the turning point for JCALPRO, Inc. This contract includes providing services for the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC), as well as the Hynes Convention Center.
Who are your current clients, and what services do you provide for them?
We have clients all over Boston, the US, and have developed some from traveling internationally. Our largest contract is with the MCCA, so we work with all of the major shows that come to the BCEC or the Hynes. Recently, we worked on the very large AARP event which brought in quite a few large-scale talent acts, such as Michael Douglas, Rod Stewart, and Earth Wind & Fire, as well as companies like SAP and EMC. We've also worked on some large community shows like the Boat Show and the New England International Auto Show. Some great local clients, both inside and outside of the convention centers, include Berklee School of Music, the Red Sox Foundation, Liver Disease Foundation, and many others.
What's the biggest change you've seen in rigging trends over the last three decades?
One of the greatest trends I've been noticing is the organization of the people within the industry to create industry-recognized safety standards and training. Those types of things didn't exist when I was first starting out. You learned by watching and being around. Now, there are courses, training materials, and a certification course. It is not yet mandatory in many places, but I see it going in that direction, and most of my staff is working on obtaining the certification, if they don't already have it.
How is the current economy affecting business, in general and for your company?
We're somewhat lucky in that a great percentage of our business comes from the convention industry where most shows are booked three to five years in advance. We are seeing some shows cut back once they get onsite, but they're still coming, and that's helped us to maintain a solid bottom line. We've also taken advantage of some discounted end-of-year prices and some existing small business tax incentives to bolster our inventory in hopes of gaining more revenue next year.
What is the best career advice you've ever been given?
The best career advice I've received — and listened to — actually came from my mother, who is a school teacher. I don't know if she made it up, but she told me to choose a job I love, and I'll never have to work a day in my life.