Five years into a successful career as an exhibit manager, Robert “Bob” Dobinski shocked his bosses by leaving to start Corporate Communications Inc. (CorpCom) in 1985.
This bold move may have seemed risky, but Dobinski saw something about the tradeshow industry that was only beginning to gain ground. Companies needed an outside partner to manage the logistics of their annual tradeshows, and Dobinski would be that partner.
Becoming a business owner turned out to be the best decision of his life — Dobinski is now celebrating 30 years as a service partner for national and international clients. And in a strange twist of fate, his former employer – Digital Equipment Corp. – later validated that he made the right decision to strike out on his own.
“Some 10 to 12 years after starting [CorpCom], Digital Equipment approached us to run their user groups of anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people. They hired us because it didn’t make sense to internally manage their event,” said Dobinski.
Doug DeBarge, who previously worked with Dobinski at Digital Equipment, played a major role in CorpCom securing this contract. DeBarge later joined CorpCom as one of its early employees, and he is credited with creating the company’s exclusive in-house event management tool.
Originally, Dobinski’s core team included him and one other person until he hired a team for logistics. With the company staffed to his liking, CorpCom became a “tradeshow department for hire.” The company met the needs of companies that didn’t want the responsibilities and costs associated with an in-house shop.
“Folks said, ‘Bob, you can deliver the cup of coffee, but where do I get the coffee?’” Dobinski added. “We built an inventory of rental exhibits they could use. They didn’t want to carry the inventory of expensive tradeshow exhibits if they were only using them a few times a year. We established partnerships across the country to manufacture exhibits and store them primarily on the East Coast.”
A 30-year strong CorpCom now consists of 12 full-time employees working out of its 20,000 square-foot corporate headquarters in Westborough, Mass. The facility stands as a testament to CorpCom’s growth after moving from its previous two facilities that were 12,000 and 18,000 square feet, respectively.
“The exciting part of the growth of [CorpCom] continues to be the referrals that companies give to other companies,” added Dobinski.
CorpCom employees manage more than 400 tradeshows and corporate events a year. One of the company’s clients alone has 110 events a year.
“A big part of the business is the personal attention we give at every event. It separates us from independent event coordinators. If that individual is out serving a client, it’s tough to get a hold of them,” he explained. “We built a team of folks, so someone is always around and could answer the phone.”
A diversified business, CorpCom also provides labor services. In the mid-80s, Boston saw an increase in tradeshow activity. This meant additional work as an exhibitor appointed contractor (EAC) for CorpCom. Most of the company’s early EAC duties involved supervising the show’s official general contractors who installed and dismantled exhibits.
“We became onsite supervisors for companies visiting Boston. It gave rise for our need for a union agreement in time. It established us as the oldest independent contractor in the city. That business has grown,” he said. “Eventually, we found it beneficial to do the labor ourselves versus being assigned to supervise people.”
CorpCom further expanded its capabilities by offering sporting event décor services. This operation skyrocketed due to the company’s longtime partners, including the U.S. Open (golf) and U.S. Tennis Association (USTA).
In 1999, CorpCom first contracted with the U.S. Open to customize a golf experience that was somewhat inspired by the festivities surrounding the Super Bowl each year.
“That year, in conjunction with the U.S. Open and USTA hosting the Davis Cup, we transformed the [venue] for the tournament. We provided the décor, venue assessment for the décor, graphics and constructed 12 luxury boxes for major sponsors. That relationship flourished,” Dobinski explained.
Getting to work with longtime clients like U.S. Open, USTA and those in the tradeshow and event industry explains why Dobinski said “every day is worth celebrating,” not just his 30th anniversary.
He added that it’s also fulfilling to provide his staff with long-term careers.