There's no doubt that Larry Cameron will be working in the geophysics industry next year. After all, the Calgary-based president of Absolute Exploration Services Ltd. is a survivor.
Born in Regina, Saskatchewan on June 4, 1948, Cameron was the first born child of a mother who later worked for the bank and a father who owned his own trucking firm. In 1951 just a year after his younger sister was born, the Cameron family relocated to Calgary. While his younger sister has since grown up to become a x-ray technologist, his younger brother by five years has become the family entrepreneur.
Cameron grew up in Calgary's Forest Lawn, at a time when it was considered a separate town. "When you grow up in Forest Lawn, surviving is an accomplishment," reflects Cameron. He attended Forest Lawn High School, made the honor roll, played on the basketball team and enjoyed curling.
After graduating from high school and with his interest in science, he went to work for CGG, a geophysical contracting company. After being employed with CGG for three years, working in the field crew and handling basic processing, Cameron studied geophysics at the University of Calgary.
One of his summer jobs was working for Imperial Oil on a mining geophysics crew and in 1972, Cameron went to work for Amoco, as a geophysical processor. Three years later, he went to work for Grant Geophysical. Then in 1980, he was beckoned back to CGG. In 1983, Cameron was promoted to their operations manager, a year later to become their vice-president.
In hindsight, he chuckles to himself, " If I just stayed at CGG from the beginning, I would have probably just ended up in the same position."
It was at CGG that Cameron had the opportunity to see parts of the world he would not have otherwise. That meant commuting to Paris about three times a year. "I didn't need to speak French," explains Cameron. " I've got an American Express card. You don't recognize my face, but you will recognize my card."
On a couple of these trips, since he was already half way around the world, he went buffalo hunting in Africa, eventually bagging one in Zimbabwe in 1988. Such a feat only reflects Cameron's eclectic interests that include, skiing, snowmobiles, 42K marathon running, motor cycles, and parachuting.
CGG grew and prospered until the dark days of spring 1992, when the company shut down their acquisition department and Cameron received a severance package. For the next year, he consulted and worked on improving his golf score with the goal of beating his wife, Carey. When the oil patch turned around, former employees and clients of CGG asked Cameron when he would be in business again.
So in fall 1994, he started Absolute Exploration Services, with partners Stu Miller, a veteran seismic worker, and wife Carey, who manages payroll and accounting. Their mission, Cameron spits out without hesitation, "good geophysics at a fair price." With some 70 to 80 employees, the trio maintains an informal workplace atmosphere. On any given day, a visitor may encounter one of the three golden retrievers known to lurk about, or a Rhodesian ridgeback named Zimba , the pet of Cameron's son Brett, who works as Absolute's equipment manager and safety supervisor.
The transition from employee to entrepreneur, has been good for Cameron, whose company has grown faster than anticipated, tripling its size within the first four years. "The company is very time consuming," says Cameron. "The fact that Carey works here makes it very rewarding and we don't have to worry about having a spouse waiting at home when we're working long hours."
A practical, down to earth, easy going kind of guy, Cameron concedes that it's the variety and unexpected daily occurrences about being a seismic contractor that makes his life interesting. "I think the majority of the people are good people - clients, subcontractors and employees are great," says Cameron, who remains calm about the existing down turn. "It's just another cycle. I've been through so many in 30 years. I'm the eternal optimist. You have to be."
Well-known in the business from his volunteer efforts with the CSEG convention and the Doodlebug golf tournament, being a director of the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors, Cameron more recently served as the chairman for the CAGC (1996-97). While he prefers that stories be short and sweet, he does share a quote from Howard Cosell, a Rhodes scholar that became one of his favorite sports announcers, " It doesn't matter what people say about you, as long as they are talking about you."