When Corey Marshall was 12 years old, his dad was hit by a truck while riding a bike. That event laid the foundation for Marshall’s future career.
At the time, Marshall wanted to become a chiropractor like the one who helped his dad recover. But, it would turn out to be his mom’s decision to support the family by taking a job with a small tourism company — that his parents later purchased — that would reveal Marshall’s true calling.
He started working at the company, Anderson Vacations, at 15. “It was a family approach; we all had to commit,” he says.
After completing prerequisites for chiropractic school, Marshall was still undecided about his career, so he travelled to Australia in 1999. When he returned, he resumed helping with his parents’ tours. A Christmas lights tour finally triggered Marshall’s own light-bulb moment.
“There I was, 22 and dressed up like an elf with a bunch of seniors on a bus tour,” he recalls. “I realized the reason I wanted to be a chiropractor was because I wanted to help people. I knew then I could do that through tourism.”
After that epiphany, Marshall dove into the family business and, in 2003, moved to Calgary from Sherwood Park to help increase the company’s escorted bus and rail tours business.
Around that time, he uncovered the growing trend of independent travel, which allows people to tailor-make their tour, instead of being stuck on the pre-selected itinerary of the tour company.
Marshall wanted to start a division within Anderson Vacations to address those needs. He pitched the idea to his parents, approached travel partners and applied to Travel Alberta for a grant for support.
His efforts paid off and, in 2004, he launched the Perfect Fit program to great success. Anderson’s independent travel division is now nearly four times the size of the more traditional escorted tours portion of the company. In 2005, Marshall and his wife, Karen McCardle, bought Anderson Vacations from his parents.
They then launched SimpleRES, an online convention, housing and call centre support business that manages registration and accommodations for large groups and conferences.“We are the only company in Calgary to offer both technology and customer service through a multi-language call centre,” says Marshall.
With the system in place, Anderson Vacations won the bid for the 2009 WorldSkills competition in Calgary to manage 38,000 nights-worth of hotel registrations — the combined hotel rooms and registrations were estimated to be worth $13 million.
This year, Anderson Vacations’ revenues hit $23 million — 10 times what they were when Marshall purchased the company. Figures like that have garnered the company a spot on Profit magazine’s fastest-growing companies list for the last two years.
And Marshall doesn’t seem to be worried about increasing his competition in the future — he has become an advocate for youth in tourism.
“Travel is perceived as low pay, high glamour,” he says. “I want to show youth there is money to be made in travel, and demonstrate alternative routes to students other than energy.”
To that end, Marshall speaks to students about working in the tourism industry and, as a former member of the SAIT Polytechnic advisory board, he helped shape the tourism curriculum.
Only 30 and already with a multimillion-dollar business under his belt, Marshall finds balance by spending time with his three kids. “You can do so much more if you manage your time,” he says. “Make lists, prioritize those lists and block off important family time.”
Why he’s the top: Corey Marshall has proven that tourism is lucrative in Alberta, taking his family business from $2.2 million to $23 million in just four years. He’s a strong advocate for youth in tourism, and aims to keep tourism an Alberta industry worth investing in.
The key to his success: Marshall attributes his success to not only his own determination, but the help of those around him. “An incredible work ethic, supportive family, intelligent wife and business partner and goal-setting,” he says. “What do you want to achieve? Write it down and make yourself accountable for it. Plus, you need spot-on time-management skills for a balanced life.”