Starting as a fly-in paramedic, Matt Vincent worked in the medical field for several years in the North until he decided he was up for a new challenge, starting his own business.
“I needed to feel more stimulated and needed to change,” said Vincent. “You’re in a position for so long, you need to keep your brain stimulated and learning new things.”
It was in 2012 when Vincent put together a plan and opened 62 Degrees North, which gets it’s name because Yellowknife sits on the 62 parallel.
The company started off providing medical services and first aid training to construction projects, exploration sites, mine sites and government departments.
Vincent said his company’s services have grown over time to provide contract medics, medical vehicles, personnel, paramedics, nurses and emergency medical responders to remote sites.
They offer first aid training from standard to advanced emergency medical responder training through the Canadian Red Cross. The company is also a licensed instructional development centre, which means they can train instructors offering more than the core courses for medical staff.
“Since then we’ve expanded in all the territories,” said Vincent. “Last year our first contracts came in from Yukon and Iqaluit.”
Most recently, 62 Degrees North has entered a joint venture with Tlicho Logistics and opened up an occupation testing clinic.
“We can now do pre-employment medical testing for mine sites here in NWT and in Nunavut,” said Vincent.
This new clinic provides medicals, chest x-rays, blood work, vaccines and blood and alcohol testing.
This recent expansion comes after years of developing a reputation for its services, but Vincent says he doesn’t want to expand too quickly.
“Everyone wants to expand, so I don’t say no to expansion but a lot of times companies will get too big too fast,” said Vincent.
“Clients talk one client to the other and seek out a reputable company they’re used to working with,” he said. “My clients have expanded over the years and we expand with them.”
A key aspect to growing his services offered is developing a good reputation with his clients.
“It’s a big industry up here but it’s also tight-knit, so it’s all about the product and the team that I put out on the front line,” he said. “Without them, we’re just another company. It really goes back to the staff the clients are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.”
Vincent says clients also know exactly what they’re getting up front with 62 Degrees North, there are no hidden costs or extra headaches in a “turnkey-like” contract.
“Its all about the support the client gets,” said Vincent. “When a client calls me and discusses work, I tell them exactly what they need so they don’t have to worry about the medical sides of things. They know that when the job site starts up we’ll provide staff, supplies and vehicles and what have you.”
Vincent also remains readily available to both clients and staff virtually day and night to provide solutions to any problems that may arise.
Keeping his “finger on the pulse” of the company is something that’s important to business – and like any paramedic, he says he enjoys the challenges.
“When you’re your own boss, everyone thinks you have all this spare time, but you really don’t,” he said.
“You’re nearly always busy, but I’m not sure I’d ever be able to work for anyone else again.”
For Vincent, learning about running a business was unlike anything he had done before.
“I had no background in business, so the whole business side of things was new to me,” he said. “So, I actually had to start using my melon and start thinking.”
Running this business was not without challenges. Having worked in the Northern medical field since 2005, Vincent said he has become attuned to the unique challenges of doing business here and in remote areas.
“The biggest challenge is logistics and shipping, but I’m also finding that getting staff can be difficult,” said Vincent.
He says there’s no dedicated institution providing training to medical response or paramedics, so it can be challenging to find staff from the area. When 62 Degrees North first started, local staff was being hired as much as possible but with a growing list of contracts, hiring locally was quickly becoming less of an option.
“We had to start looking outside the territories and fly staff in,” said Vincent. “I don’t want to fly staff in, I will if I have to, but our resources are limited in the North, generally if you’re a paramedic living in Yellowknife, you just moved here and are looking for a job or you live here and quickly found a job.”
Vincent said his company also does some work in town, but that’s done on a mostly charitable basis.
During events and festivals, 62 Degrees North will donate medics, trucks and resources. These include Long John Jamboree, Folk on the Rocks, the skating club, the mud run, soap box derby and Freezin’ For a Reason, among others.
“When I moved to Yellowknife in 2009, I came here with essentially two pieces of luggage,” he said. “Since Yellowknife has been good to me, accepting me and giving me support, I do what I can to give back to the community in any way that I can.”