Some people are lucky to find and follow their passion in the form of a career path early in life. For Jim Wurm, executive director of the Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Association (EACA), it came just in time.
In 1982, Wurm was at a crossroads when he was laid off from the headhunting firm he worked for in Atlanta. He networked with friends, hoping to find something different, something that would professionally excite him.
When Jack McEntee told him he had a position open at I&D, Inc., now Nth Degree, Wurm took the position. The first time he walked onto a show floor, he said he knew he was home.
“It was one of those things where it wasn’t my long-term goal to be a headhunter either,” said Wurm. “I always had the notion I would know my career when I saw it. The first time I walked onto a tradeshow floor, I said ‘this is it.’”
While attending the University of Pennsylvania on a basketball scholarship, Wurm dabbled in construction jobs during the summer, making him a commodity in the theater department, which needed set builders. He loved working in the theater, and although he tried his hand at performing, behind the scenes was where he thought he belonged.
“The tradeshow floor had the same energy to it,” said Wurm. “That’s where it connected for me.”
His first show was the American Banking Show, and since then, his passion for the tradeshow and convention industry has grown exponentially.
“It’s evolved. There’s more to it now,” said Wurm. “Now the greater piece is, which motivates me now, is to move barriers in the industry, working more in collaboration with other industry professionals.”
Twelve years ago, more than 15 years after joining the industry, Wurm became the executive director of the EACA and decidedly made the goal to help things in the industry move along at a much smoother pace.
“When I grew up, there were three channels to watch on television, and now, there are hundreds if not thousands,” said Wurm. “For one show, there could possibly be hundreds of possible contractors with access to the show floor. As they realized there were more choices, it created more opportunities for more companies. There were many fewer choices 30 years ago than there are now.”
The number of choices also created a conundrum; how could anyone tell which contractors were legitimate and which ones were not? Instead of depending on the show manager to track all the contractors available for work at the show, the EACA provided contractor registration, taking the pressure off the show managers.
At 55, Wurm has spent half his life in the tradeshow industry. He has worked for others and has been self-employed, but about eight years ago, he decided the EACA deserved his full-time attention.
Today, he lives in Oregon and travels approximately 80 to 100 days out of the year to shows in major tradeshow cities to meet with members and attend events. Thanks to frequent flyer miles and the internet, his current situation allows him the best of both worlds.
“It’s a real gift and a blessing and to be able to do that, for sure,” he said.