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Outdoor Industry Association

Industry reacts: Who should be the next OIA permanent leader?

We ask industry stakeholders what type of person they'd like to see next lead the Outdoor Industry Association. Do the person need to be core outdoor?

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As rapid as the Outdoor Industry Association and its former CEO Frank Hugelmeyer parted ways earlier this month, don’t expect a quick turn-around for the organization to find a new permanent leader.

OIA officials are taking their time, including two weeks passing before naming former Eagle Creek founder/president Steve Barker as interim executive director on Wednesday, an indication of a deliberate process ahead to find a permanent replacement.

Whether that’s intentional, or perhaps the result of being caught off guard by the change (both sides maintain the Hugelmeyer decision was mutual), it gives outdoor stakeholders a period to debate and vouch for the type of person they want to see represent the industry as a whole. Last week, OIA announced the members of its search committee, which will aid a national search firm in the process. It’s time to bend their ears.

Early indications are that the search will cast a broad net, looking inside and outside the industry. That raises a good question: While it’s been seemingly in-vogue of late to hire outdoor outsiders — particularly at fast-expanding brands, eg. Zeena Freeman’s hire to lead Black Diamond — is that the right move for OIA? In other words, can the organization best move to the next level with just a stellar leader, or does it really need a core outdoor champion who understands the industry and its issues?

SNEWS put the question to outdoor brand, retail, PR and nonprofit sources. Here are their thoughts, and we encourage you to share yours below in the comment section or on our Facebook page.

Todd Spaletto, president, Americas, The North Face:
“Personally, I would be more focused on the person, their ideas and approach to the future of the outdoor industry. Could be inside, could be outside – but I’d focus more on the person, and their vision for OIA.”

Wes Allen, president, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance:
“I think that we all should be open to someone from outside the industry. However, that person needs to be able to make sure that the organization relates to all of the OIA stakeholders — including specialty retail, and retailers in general. An expertise in managing supply chain logistics will not be enough.”

Deanne Buck, executive director, Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition:
“I think we have a lot of talent in our industry and that whether the person is “inside or outside” should not be the criteria. It seems they are looking for an innovative thinker who can maintain discipline to reach very set objectives. I would guess a collaborative, forward-thinking, and strategic individual would be an asset.”

Peter Sachs, General Manager, Lowa Boots:
“I think the board needs someone who is passionate about the outdoor industry. That’s a broad statement and in today’s world probably requires a varied skill set. From the outside it looks like OIA is well organized; is involved in Washington representing the industry; has benchmarked the industry from a variety of studies on a few subjects; hosts the Rendezvous and some other events to try to keep us all interested and involved and so on. All of that is good.”

Deanna Lloyd, manager of recruiting at Patagonia:
“In thinking about the next President of the OIA, it is imperative that this person be an outdoor enthusiast and they must embody the values of the outdoor industry. This person has to understand our challenges and be willing to take risks to seek new opportunities for the industry. That being said, I think it is a huge opportunity to look beyond the outdoor industry for talent, bringing in new leadership and a new perspective.”

Dawson Wheeler, co-owner, Rock/Creek Outfitters:
“The new leader really depends on where OIA wants to be in the next 10 years. The board should take their time to create a solid strategic plan and then move onto a CEO choice based from that. If they need to take a little longer with interim leadership in the meantime, then that’s OK. In specialty retail, there are some big discussions ahead — vendors selling more direct to consumer, distribution is getting broader, the increasing competition among retailers … Fostering those type of discussions will take a very talented leader because you’re walking on very dangerous ground.”

David Kappele, vice president – sales and marketing, Tilley Endurables:
“In my eyes, the OIA is a lobby group representing the outdoor recreation industry, and as such the leadership should have skill sets which align with this goal. Putting on my magic HR hat, the ideal candidate should … [have] experience in the government regulations possibly environmental, well connected in Washington with Sally Jewell on their speed dial. A team leader, natural speaker and good listener are assets. Having some experience in the outdoors would make it easier to relate to those manufactures and other industry folks who pay the brunt of the OIA membership dues.”

— SNEWS Editors