By: Heather Grace Stewart
Imagine a job that would allow you to work from home, travel as much as you want, and get paid to dress up as your favourite movie character.
Andrew Long, Com’94, has that job. He created Critical Pathfinders Adventure Training Inc. [now: The Greatness Group] which offers customized adventure training for corporate teams, after realizing he wasn’t passionate about his work. Now he makes his living doing what he loves.
“I have a high standard for my life. It sounds corny, but life is short. I’ve watched guys work at jobs for 40 years who don’t want to be there, and I didn’t want that to happen to me. I expect to get more out of life.”
Following graduation, Andrew worked for CP Rail for three years, and then as a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch. Dissatisfied with a job he “just didn’t love,” he quit “cold turkey” at the end of February 2000 and started strategizing with wife Gina Mollicone Long, creator of the consulting company Goddess Concepts, about what his new career should look like.
Andrew is thankful to many Queen’s classmates who helped him get Critical Pathfinders off the ground. “It is challenging for adventure companies to obtain insurance coverage and Dave Zietsma, Com’ 93 (see photo) who pioneered adventure racing in Canada, was really helpful with that. Knowing someone like him is invaluable.”
Andrew knew from the start that he wanted to bring his love of the outdoors into a corporate setting. His challenge was incorporating that passion into a business plan.
“The Queen’s card came into play again at that point,” says Andrew. “I bounced a lot of ideas off of classmates in big companies, and they gave me a lot of feedback about what would and wouldn’t work inside a corporation.” By early June 2000, Andrew had the making of a new business. The new plan was Critical Pathfinders Adventure Training Inc.(www.criticalpathfinders.com), the company that owns Scavenger Hunt Anywhere, and Critical Pathfinders Inc. in the USA.
Andrew went on to create his company’s most profitable product, Scavenger Hunt Anywhere ,in 2002, as many of his clients requested fun social activities rather than corporate adventure learning outings. “More and more business groups are working 12 hour days, coming to meetings exhausted after traveling several hours. Bosses think it’s important to get their employees out of the office for a bit, to let them see the city and have some fun together,” says Andrew, whose clients include Microsoft-referred to SHC through a Queen’s contact – Kimberly-Clark, CibaVision-also through a Queen’s contact-and Ford.
In a typical hunt, corporate groups are divided into smaller groups that compete against each other for the most points. Each team gets a handbook and a set of rules, and is instructed to go out into the city in search of information such as the wording on a historical plaque, or the number of flagpoles at a given location.
Sometimes, staff members even dress up in costumes to fulfill a Scavenger Hunt theme. “My favourite hunt was one we did in Las Vegas recently, because I got to dress up as Austin Powers!” says Andrew. “At the beginning of the hunt, I came out, in full costume, with the Austin Powers theme song on the stereo, and explained how the hunts work in full character. I got to use my undiscovered acting skills,'” he laughs.
Andrew, who also gets to play with Molly 2 1/2 and Simon,15 months, while working from home on Bowen Island, Vancouver, loves the freedom and flexibility his new career offers him. ” I can do what I want, and outsource the rest. I wanted to dress like Austin Powers, so I did. I don’t like accounting, so I just hired a bookkeeper. It’s great!”
While Scavenger Hunt Anywhere does have some competition with meeting planning companies, no company operates across-North America like theirs. “We didn’t invent the concept, we just saw an opportunity where there wasn’t a lot of competition, and decided we’d become the best at it,” says Andrew.
Now that’s Groovy business savvy, Baby.
Queen’s School of Business Inquiry