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Kickstart 101: Life’s a Gass for BCLC VP
One of the many accomplishments Kevin Gass has had in his life is his involvement in Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.
The path that took him there and the reason he views it as a career highlight could be a template for young people looking to succeed in business — and that’s why he was invited to Thompson Rivers University on Wednesday, Oct. 2, to speak to students at its School of Business and Economics.
Gass, vice-president of lottery gaming for the B.C. Lottery Corporation, took the group of students and local business people through his life’s journey from one of the first university students to be involved in co-op education through successes, bumps in the road and challenges he overcame.
Science and math were his favourite subjects, he told the students, so he assumed an engineering career would be his path and registered for it in university.
“I realized that was not my thing,” he said.
Within a year, he switched to communications and business.
Lesson No. 1: “If you’re going down the wrong path, you’ve got to course-correct,” he told the students.
He did four stints of co-op education, working at a variety of businesses, and he told the students the experience was one of the best stepping stones in his career.
More importantly, he said, was something he learned that too often he sees graduates fail to understand.
Lesson No. 2: “No job is beneath you. Take every opportunity you have and run with it. You will get noticed.”
For him, it led to a job with Burson-Marsteller, a public-affairs firm that happened to be opening an office in Vancouver.
Gass was approached by the firm, with which he had spent a co-op period, and was hired after he graduated because they had been impressed with his work and his work ethic.
From there, it was an upward climb, Gass said, through a variety of jobs — some where he was the boss, others as a senior manager, with stops that connected him with marketing for the introduction of the National Basketball Association and the Vancouver Grizzlies to the city, then on to work with the Vancouver Canucks and developing a PGA Tour event.
Gass then saw potential with the Internet and, in the summer of 2000, moved on again to start a financial-information company that developed unique technology that led to attention from major players like the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News.
As he neared signing a major deal, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, hit and, rather than sitting in shock as others were doing, Gass said, he and others in his company hopped on a plane and flew to New York to meet with their contacts and offer them whatever help they needed.
Lesson No. 3: “You never know how life is going to go, so follow your instincts.”
Rather than losing the deals in the wake of the devastation to the New York financial district, Gass said, by going there and listening to people and heeding their requests to just give them some time to rebound, he signed contracts he feared he had lost.
In 2003, Gass met Vic Poleschuk, the former CEO of the lottery corporation, and he changed his career path again, noting the day before his address to the students, he had marked his 10th anniversary with the corporation.
That brings the story back to why the children’s hospice is one of his proudest moments.
It came about, he said, because of the connections he made through his career — working with the Canucks led to the team’s involvement in the creation and support of the centre — and with people learning to trust Gass to get the job done.
It’s the fundamental lesson of his business career, he told the students: Do the work, do as much work as you can, listen and learn and always put together the best team you can.
“And remember, it’s a small world out there. You burn a bridge and it will haunt you forever.”
Gass’s speech was part of Kickstart 101, a series being presented by the business school.
Other speakers planned include Geri Prior, chief financial officer of ICBC, on Oct. 9; Peter McKenna, CEO of NRI Distributing, on Jan. 15; Launi Skinner, CEO of First West Capital, on Feb. 11; Michael Graydon, CEO at BCLC, on March 5; Rudy Buttignol, CEO of the Knowledge Network, on March 11; and an Olympian yet to be named on March 26.