For the printed story, see SNEWS Winter Outdoor magazine 2009, p. 50, ” 2009 SNEWS Power Players” (To download the full issue, click here www.outsidebusinessjournal.com/magazines.)
By the editors of SNEWS
Insight and inspiration provide an edge that everybody can use in these economic times. Both can be found by listening to people who have become business leaders. And that is the driving force behind the launch of the SNEWS Power Players — an honor that will acknowledge outdoor industry leaders for varied accomplishments in different industry sectors. Inside these pages and on our website, contemplate their words to discover useful advice, tap into your own motivation, or find humorous and wise ways to overcome challenges.
To name the first class of Power Players — those in the industry who are being talked about or whom SNEWS thinks should be talked about — our team searched high and low. In the fall of 2008, we asked SNEWS readers to nominate people they considered leaders and we received an avalanche of input. We personally asked others in the industry for suggestions on leaders — from long-timers and up-and-comers, to retailers, manufacturers, reps and consultants. We looked for those who have had power and influence in some way. To come up with the final list, we searched for outdoor professionals who have had a significant impact on the industry in the previous year, be it on product, business leadership, industry growth, non-profit insights, design or communication. Each person is an innovator in business practices and one whom others look to for advice and inspiration. (To read about another 15 Power Players SNEWS thinks you should “keep your eye on,” click here to see the full story, also a SNEWS magazine Extra.)
Keep in mind that the SNEWS Power Players list will become an annual honor — one we hope is anticipated and will keep the industry talking. Make sure you stay abreast of SNEWS, so when we ask for nominations in late 2009 for the SNEWS 2010 Power Players list, your choice gets noticed.
Power Players Top 10
Verde PR & Consulting, founder and principal
Favorite food: Nachos
Favorite magazine: Harvard Business Review
Important industry development in last 25 years: The most important development has been our industry’s awareness and ability to affect change positively for our most important stakeholder, which is the environment. I feel like we came to the table a bit late, but it should not affect our ability to be leaders to the world in business and in society. Business, especially the Conservation Alliance for one, provides a great blueprint for other industries to show how you can work together to affect more change. Bringing in more renewable recycled material or more sustainable business practices — that’s the part that I feel has really been growing in a positive manner in the past three to five years. Our industry should be looked up to as a leading entity in this regard for the world to look at. I really feel every single business in our industry can be that within itself and then we can align together and affect change as an industry and show other industries or parts of society that it’s possible to incorporate this in and still be well and profitable. It makes total sense. Look at what we do, look who our consumers are, look at what we make products for.
Ideas to make the industry stronger: Incorporating more of our younger leadership and more diversified leadership in the outdoor industry. We need to diversify. It’s important that our leaders who have done such a tremendous job getting us to the place where we are right now take on a mentor partnership with a younger person in the industry, where it’s not the older person mentoring the younger person, it’s them mentoring each other.
And, if we worked to target minorities more, we would definitely bring in a lot of new ideas, solutions and business practices into our market, which would make us stronger and grow more, especially in terms of participation.
If you could pick one person to go on a hike with: Richard Branson. I think that guy’s a total rogue. He’s never listened to anybody, and he has made a big difference. A lot of people have doubted some of the things he’s done, and it’s turned out to be game-changing.
Proudest accomplishments: Working to inspire a journalist to use the reach they have to educate a readership or the social web on something that is important to them. Their reach to the public is so much larger than a non-profit’s reach, or even my reach as a business owner.
Motivations and inspirations: Something I read from a Buddhist nun named Pema Chodron: “Live into what you are supposed to be in this lifetime.” All of the potential you have and all the talent you have, try and live as much of that as you can while you’re here. It’s something that makes me not waste time or energy on being negative.
Meaningful advice from another: About four years ago, my mother-in-law told me that I needed to trust myself more. I really looked up to her. It was something that resonated with me and I definitely am always working on that.
Advice to yourself at 25: I would have totally trusted myself more. I love to think creatively and approach things differently and I’m constantly challenging myself to do that. And I would have liked to have trusted myself or been more confident about it — not wasted time frankly. I had a lot of big thoughts and I still do, and I just want to continue to trust it and try new things and new approaches.
Workmate for life: It’s something that changes for me. I have people I admire and find new people I admire, so it’s hard to say for the rest of my life. If we’re counting on ourselves to evolve it would be very difficult to say that I would align myself with one person for the rest of my life in business. I’m hoping to evolve so much that I can’t give one answer.
Challenges: Definitely, the work-life balance. Family versus work, by far. I’m really trying to find new approaches to it in terms of what is the balance and how not to feel guilty. I want to be the best that I can as a wife and mother, while also shepherding the business.
Influencers: My kids. When I became pregnant is when I changed from journalism to PR. My husband and I were both freelancing basically at the time. We both looked at each other and knew one of us had to get something steady going. I also felt like there was so much auspicious stuff that happened around that time in terms of two companies both asking me literally the very next week if I would do their PR, after I had been pushing existing PR agencies on them. It felt like the universe was throwing a brick at my head. It happened very naturally.
Proudest accomplishments: I have been able to find a career and develop an agency where I get to work with people I really admire and people I sincerely care about. I feel like I was really lucky to have the skillsets provided by a consumer magazine position and a trade magazine position. With both of those positions, I developed the ability to be empathetic and understanding of different perspectives in the market for what I do at Verde. I used to think my contribution to the industry was going to be writing a book or a series of books that were based on an outdoor adventure and making participation skyrocket through their popularity. Now I’m starting to see it may be by helping clients and helping media to discover ways to use their own talents or their own organizations, initiatives, to create awareness around things they care about.
Lessons from a mentor: I would have to say my mother in law — Cornelia Eldridge — was definitely my business mentor. She was never hesitant to take me under her wing or teach me or show me ways that she navigated through things when she owned her own business as a corporate consultant. She really spoke from experience and just knew exactly what I was going through. Whenever I would get a new client or something great would happen, I would call her first thing.
Big Agnes, co-founder and co-owner
Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere in the Mount Zirkel area where Big Agnes Mountain is
Favorite magazine: Velo News
Advice to yourself at 25: It probably wouldn’t support my success in my career, but I’d like to say, “Lighten up.”
Important industry development in last 25 years: Power Bar. It started pretty much in our industry, and when you look at that category, you see them in convenience stores in China. It blew the doors open. Also, REI. They are very dialed, and they have treated us really well. Sally Jewell is a real pro, a true leader who has helped to create that power where they are profitable and still give away so much money.
Ideas to make the industry stronger: The industry needs to promote getting outside more. Sometimes we’re not real quick to change. We’re all stuck thinking you need to go backpack for five days. I’m not sure we have a strong marketing arm of the outdoor industry.
Challenges: In business, just staying consistent. The growth of Big Agnes has been so fast, and how do we stay consistent to who we are? We have worked hard to have no debt, and that’s rare for a business like ours.
Influencers: My dad. He’s the best business manager I’ve ever known. He doesn’t make emotional decisions.
Lessons from a mentor: My dad worked his ass off but never missed a wrestling match, and took me hunting and fishing. I also had a wrestling coach that was a big influence in instilling that work ethic.
Meaningful advice from another: Even when I was young I learned to just work hard. I wrestled in high school and college, and that’s the same thing. It carried over to my professional life, which hasn’t been typical. I started a homegrown clothing company, Bap, in college and made it work.
Workmate for life: My partners Rich Hager and Len Zanni. Rich and I are alike — we can be kind of grumpy. But the three of us just make decisions and don’t question each other. If someone had a strong opinion, we just say, “Cool.” But having partners like that is great.
If you could pick one person to go on a hike with: I like to spend time outside with my kids Max, 10, and Bennett, 7. Also, my friend Doug, my climbing partner. He built my house, and he’s just a solid person. We I come back from climbing with him, my friends think I’m stoned, but I’m not. I’m just relaxed because he’s such a good person. Also, Peter Croft. He just floats through the mountains. You have this free soloist, but without an ego.
Motivations and inspirations: My boys. The amount that you can love them is insane. I grew up in a farm town in Pennsylvania that was 37 degrees and gray in the winter. And here, there’s powder days, and I want them to appreciate that.
Lessons from a mentor: My Dad worked his ass off but never missed a wrestling match, and took me hunting and fishing. I also had a wrestling coach that was a big influence in instilling that work ethic.
Guyot Designs, co-founder and president
Desktop computer image: It changes all the time.
Favorite magazine: Dwell
Meaningful advice from another: I was always taught that every idea was worth exploring and there’s always different ways to do something. My parents, both designers, taught me that. We’d go somewhere and they’d always be looking at things and commenting about how it was made and looking at it in different ways.
Advice to yourself at 25: Have the courage to follow your heart and do what you love…and to always ask ‘why?’ It’s simple and it’s true.
Important industry development in last 25 years: The Internet — we can’t do what we as a small company are doing without the Internet. And fleece fabric. It’s changed the comfort level of being outdoors. It’s allowed more people to go out there and be safe and comfortable. And when you’re warm, you’re happy.
Ideas to make the industry stronger: More respect for intellectual property and original ideas. While it’s a wonderful compliment, it doesn’t help anybody to deliberately take ideas. If somebody takes an idea and improves on it and changes it, that’s fine. But just copying it isn’t appropriate. There needs to be more respect for others’ ideas.
Motivations and inspirations: Looking for those little product niches that people have just overlooked for years and coming up with fun and delightful solutions to them.
Workmate for life: My best friend for life, my wife Sloan. She tells me when I’m crazy. I can’t do without her.
Challenges: Prioritizing ideas. It’s hard to pick the ones that will do the best.
If you could pick one person to go on a hike with: Paul Petzl because of what he has accomplished and created in terms of designs, visuals and just simplifying products that still have to be safe. Toru Yamai, Snow Peak, president. Because he’s a gentle and kind man who has created an organization and products with design simplicity and has incredible dreams and visions.
Proudest accomplishments: Building my company with my wife Sloan. “The first couple of years were scary, but now we’ve hit a stride.” It’s an outdoor products design company that specializes in innovative, fun, “ah-ha” ideas.
Lessons from a mentor: My parents. I had unending support for my next crazy idea. When I was a teenager they actually opened an account for me at a local hardware store so I could get all the stuff I needed to tinker. I’ve blown up things. I love explosions. I love making things and seeing the light in someone’s eyes.
Prana, vice president
Favorite food: Traditional Parma ham
Top newspaper to read: New York Times
Meaningful advice from another: At a Kelty sales meeting 12 years ago, Rick Ridgeway gave a list of 10 things he learned when he was hanging out with the guys doing the 12 summits. The power of this list is missing, which were the stories behind each of these lessons; who said them and where Rick heard them. Still, I look at this often: Do it fucking now. Guard, protect, defend and maintain your credibility. Do your homework. Follow your gut. Perseverance — the first sign of lacking this trait, is to justify it. Play the cards you’re dealt — don’t try and become something you’re not. Before you sell what you’re selling, you must sell yourself first. Organize your day. Exercise. Refine your “Shock-Proof Shit Detector.” Strive to be an uncommon person — it’s not whom you know, but who wants to know you.
Important industry development in last 25 years: The Internet. It has opened up the ability to connect with your community and allow users to communicate with other users around the world.
Challenges: Aligning expectations between shareholders, opinion leaders and customers. Most companies have a major investment from a shareholder perspective whose only goal is to monetize investment return. Opinion leaders want to control the message or improve the photography or benefit the long-term health of the brand or experience, which is a conflict with shareholders who want immediate gratification. Customers don’t want the bullshit of either two.
Motivations and inspirations: It is really watching the people I work with grow and succeed and move onto bigger and better things. It is not selling stuff — that is an outcome for sure and has to be done, but not what inspires me. An ingrained lesson from working with Michael Crooke is leadership is about setting a course and building a team and sharing in the success and failures.
Advice to yourself at 25: It does not matter, I would not have listened to it anyway…which is another way of saying, it would have been good to have tools to recognize my arrogance when I was 25. You don’t know what you do not know.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: I am a huge proponent of the youth movement that is going on at Outdoor Industry Foundation…getting youth outdoors. I am in full support of our need to focus on getting kids outdoors. The change would be in how we do that. My advice is to think bigger. I want get the Jonas Brothers to climb the Tetons and get Hannah Montana to canoe the Boundary Waters. I still think we need to build a bridge and open up dialogue with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. I am very good about bitching about the issues. It is the experience that is special.
If you could pick one person to go on a hike with: My wife — Kelly. Her ability to enjoy the moment and appreciate her surroundings and kick my ass in all aspects. We have been married three years.
Influencers: My time at Patagonia, because it allowed me to see the power of multi-channel environments and connecting with the customer.
Proudest accomplishments: I have had a lot of jobs and my proudest accomplishment, two to three years later after exiting a place, is seeing the team I put in place still there and thriving and the lasting friendships I have created and maintained. I was able to assist not only the company’s goals, but the people I worked with to achieve their goals.
Lessons from a mentor: Michael Crooke — it has been so long, it is not a hierarchical thing anymore. We lean on each other now. The best way is how Michael had put me in situations that were well above my own perception of my ability knowing I would have to scrape to survive and figure it out. From that era of Kelty, we are all still friends. For us to get done what we needed to do is we had a common voice and a direction we had the ability to work with Michael because if we did not band together and lean on each other to deal with Michael, he was going to destroy us — and he did that on purpose. He tried the same thing as we got older and it was at another job Patagonian and he had a management team together and he tried some of the same Seal techniques…did not work. One manager told him straight out: “If you talk to me like that again, it will be the last time you talk to me.” And he agreed with her not to talk in that way again and immediately changed his management tactic to work with the team he had. Now that is leadership.
That sense of team and all of my greatest ideas are not mine. It may be me listening and recognizing that that is a good idea, but it is coming from my team always. The entire Patagonia plan was me not having any idea but listening to a 1,000 great ideas and sorting through which ones we concentrate on. The “what to do” is found in the company already but it is more defining what not to do so you can concentrate on the important things. I have almost never been anywhere where I would say we should be doing this because you are not…it is a sense of focus that needs to be clarified.
The Alpine Experience, founder and Supreme Commander
Favorite food: Camarones
Favorite magazine: Rolling Stone
Meaningful advice from another: I was complaining to a good friend of mine about something a competitor was doing, and he looked up and said, “Don’t swat at the flies.” And it was the first time I realized we were a sizeable enough retailer that we needed to focus on the big picture and ourselves.
Important industry development in last 25 years: Quality socks. And I mean that. My footwear sales are way up because of socks, and my sock sales are 20 percent of the whole footwear department. And learning how to market and sell socks has taught us so much about other categories in our store. And they’re so much better than they used to be. We often forget about the technologies that really change things, and socks have made a huge impact on our ability to sell footwear.
Challenges: Continuing to trust and inspire my people, because it’s easy to be a boss, it’s hard to be a leader. And you have to really trust your people as the organization grows, because you can’t do everything or you’ll lose all your hair and never sleep.
Influencers: It’s my heart and my head. I have built what I love doing into a business, and then shaped that around the values I’ve developed over the last decade — sustainability, conservation, treating people fairly. I’m trying to forge a new business model that really is the triple bottom line. My business cannot be successful until my community is successful. And my community does not end at the borders of my city; it ends at the borders of my planet.
Motivations and inspirations: People. The great things that people do. Those heroes in life we don’t talk about or see, but are the most amazing people, are everywhere. If you just let them, people will amaze you.
Advice to yourself at 25: Don’t panic. Stay focused and think about the big picture. We get so lost in the minutiae we forget where we’re going.
Workmate for life: My brother Steve, who is my right hand in the company, because we have learned over 12 years to work very well together. He does exactly the things I need him to do, and supports me the way I need him to. He’s more project and task oriented, and I am more big picture and ideas.
If you could pick one person to go on a hike with: My store director Dave Sanford. We do hike a lot because we can have a conversation that goes on for hours and hours about any topic. If it were somebody who is not alive, I would to spend a few hours hiking with Ernest Hemingway. He has this reputation for being this great sportsman and manly man, but beyond that facade he was a deeply feeling, thinking and artistic individual who was so committed to his writing. His goal was to write one true sentence.
Proudest accomplishments: The team I have built and has built itself is the greatest accomplishment we have. And it’s not just the people who still work with us. I have former employers who are all over the country, and that extended family is what I’m most proud of.
Lessons from a mentor: There have been a lot of sales reps over the years that have taught me a lot of things. Jim Purdy, Arc’Teryx rep in the Northwest taught me you have to make the tough decisions that are best for the business no matter what. Maury Troutman of Yukon Trading. Years ago he bleached his hair before the OR show and said you’ve got to be young forever because you’ll be old someday.
Favorite vacation spot: Nepal
Favorite food: Oatmeal chocolate chip cookie
Advice to yourself at 25: Be open and seize every opportunity that you have. Be open to a new opportunity and career even if they do not seem in line with your education or background. You never know where the path might lead you.
Important industry development in last 25 years: An increase in professionalism. It has become more like a business and less like a hobby and, therefore, giving our customers better service and more knowledge.
Ideas to make the industry stronger: Increased involvement of people and children in outdoor activities. The U.S. is still very sedentary. Making people more aware of what we offer…not just in terms of equipment, but in terms of getting out and being healthy.
Challenges: Growth…speed of growth. I think that you can grow yourself out of business. There are a lot of opportunities out there, and when you are growing, you have resource needs, and it is very challenging to grow and put the brakes on appropriately that you or your staff is not overloaded. Balance between keeping a healthy environment for your corporation financially and still meeting needs of business from a profitable enterprise standpoint.
Motivations and inspirations: I get emails from customers how we touched their lives (through the) right equipment and went on great trip with Backwoods Adventures and had their eyes opened to different parts of the world. This is a major reason I do this. I am motivated and inspired by touching other people’s lives in a positive way.
Meaningful advice from another: Lessons around integrity. Treat others like you want to be treated. That was the strongest message growing up from my dad. Always telling me “Don’t do it because you can but do it because it is right.”
Workmate for life: Tim Martin; he is my general manager. He is well rounded and he is business savvy and knows how to run a store and has a good eye for overall business whether it be marketing or merchandising and good understanding of entire business of this industry and he is a good retailer and he someone that definitely has a lot of potential in many areas and yet he really loves running a store…he is a merchant at heart. He is a heck of a lot of fun too and that is very important and he knows when to be serious.
If you could pick one person to go on a hike with: Richard Branson. I think he is very interesting. He has a unique irreverent look at business, but he has obviously been incredibly successful overall about businesses. He has been involved in keeping his businesses a fun place and fun experience for consumers and customer focused but it is also focused on profit. Balance fun with business side of things. He is very interesting. He has three books and I have read 2 he had suffered his ups and downs but he is very practical and like his outlook on life from interviews. He kind of blends work and life together and it works well for him and it is an interesting approach.
Influencers: Soul searching. For a lot of years, I worked in jobs I really liked but can’t say I was really passionate about them. But by fortunate and somewhat unfortunate circumstances, I finally, through soul searching, needed a career that was challenging and inherently had change to it and in 2003 it appeared. I never thought I would be involved with Backwoods. It fits my personality and finally really honest with what fit my personality rather than doing what I should do…I was heavy into the Fortune 500 world, but at some point it did not feel right.
Proudest accomplishments: I have to say that on a personal side my kids. They are doing well in life and on their path. My younger one is just graduating from high school I have raised two kids who are doing things they are passionate about. One is 22 and 18. Mostly a single mom mostly. Married twice and single mom for the last 13 years. On the professional side, I’m proud Backwoods can employ 75 people and we can give them a good livelihood and that has been very important to me.
Lessons from a mentor: I think more that I have had a lot of mentors. In a way it is more like a conglomeration of experiences. Mutual of Omaha was amazing even though there were things I did not like about a huge company it was like getting an MBA and exposed me to a lot of things I would not have been exposed to otherwise. That was huge for me personally.
The Conservation Alliance, executive director
Favorite vacation spot: Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite
Favorite magazine to read: The New Yorker
Meaningful advice from another: I used to be a pretty hard charger in the outdoors. Everything was measured in terms of how far I got or how many routes I did in a day. My wife really taught me it wasn’t about that. It’s about checking out what’s around you in a relaxed kind of way and enjoying the moment.
Advice to yourself at 25: Follow your passion. And no matter how unconventional a path it may take you on, know that when you do what you love to do and what you’re committed to doing, everything else will fall into place.
Ideas to make the industry stronger: I would say being more inclusive. I think the industry has come a long way on this already, but I still think we’re perceived as being a fairly nichey, elitist community. I would love to see the industry continue to grow and invite more people into what we do. So that we can influence them with the values that we all hold in terms of our respect for the outdoors, wanting to both enjoy it and protect it.
Lessons from a mentor/Lessons learned: I’ve been really lucky to have people like David Brower and Yvon Chouinard and others. They never wanted to be anyone’s mentor, but they’re such good examples of how you can live a meaningful life and a generous life and a committed life. They influence people just by example rather than by actually trying to mentor people. I feel like every few years there is someone who comes into my life. Those people you hang up the phone after talking to them and you go, you know I really admire that person, I want to try to be more like them because the way they dealt with that situation was really graceful or really smart or really intuitive. They’re just right. I don’t know if I’m unique in having had probably 10 people like that who have come along at just the right moment and provided a real example of how to deal with challenging situations.
Motivations and inspirations: I get really motivated when sometimes you’re grinding away on something and you think you’re doing it alone and you’re the only person who cares or really gives a hoot about something. Then when you make the effort to reach out to other people who might have the same perspective as you, you realize that there’s a whole bunch of people with shared values. I get really motivated when people come together for something that’s bigger than themselves.
Workmate for life: There’s no one person I would want to work with for the rest of my life because I just really enjoy working with different people all the time and I think, other than my marriage, I don’t think there’s anyone else that I would crave inspirations and influences from all the time.
Important industry development in last 25 years: Some people might think this is heresy, but I’d say it’s the broadening of the outdoor customer form hard core to more mainstream demographic. I think as the industry has grown and more mainstream people at least purchase industry products they do that because they aspire to be like us. When we broaden that — like we make that tent bigger — then it gives us the opportunity to share with those people the deep commitments we have for the outdoors. I, for one, don’t mind the mainstreamization of the outdoor industry. As long as those core products are still valued and there’s still a market for them, I have no problem with mainstream people walking around with those products and hopefully aspiring to be more respectful of the outdoors.
Challenges: My impatience with the rate that which positive change occurs. Like a lot of people in the outdoor industry, I’m pretty idealistic and I just really want the world to be as good as I know it can be. And when that idealism butts up against reality, whether they’re political or other outside factors, I get really impatient with that. It’s really challenging to breathe through that impatience and know that if you preserver in whatever you’re trying to do, whether it’s protecting a wilderness area or removing an obsolete damn or something like that. It just takes a lot of time.
If you could pick one person to go on a hike with: There’s so many people I would love to go on a hike with, but Gandhi pops into my head. There’s something amazing about a guy who took down the British Empire without violence and by just being totally committed to some very basic principles. Some of his most powerful actions were walking. You look at our leaders these days, their most powerful actions, and that’s not necessarily a good thing, are all with weapons or things that are not rooted in inner strength. And Gandhi his most powerful action sometimes was just walking or spinning yarn or making salt. Very fundamental stuff, but it worked.
Influencers: I was really lucky to have worked for about five years with David Brower who is the first executive director of the Sierra Club, and for a time was considered the No. 1 conservationist in the world. I got to know him late in his life when he was in his early 80s and he was just a mythic figure in the environmental movement. And having the opportunity to hear his stories about conservation victories he’d been a part of but also he had a unique ability to inspire particularly younger people to commit their lives to the same kind of work that he did. I look back on how lucky I was to have developed a friendship with David Brower toward the end of his life.
Proudest accomplishments: I’m really proud of, and it’s not just me, what we, myself and everyone else involved in the Conservation Alliance. I’m really proud of what the Alliance has become in the last four or five years. When we embarked on transitioning from being a fairly low maintenance all-volunteer organization to one with staff and real clear agenda, who knew how it was going to go. We’ve tripled the size of the organization. We’re giving away more; three times the amount of money than we did five years ago. I feel like we are helping to ensure that conservation is a permanent commitment for outdoor industry companies. I’m proud of that, I wouldn’t rest on that. Because I know how quickly things can change. But I feel like if everyone has one major thing they’re going to accomplish in their life it’s probably going to be the Conservation Alliance and ensuring that when I leave the organization someday it’s pretty stout.
Favorite vacation spot: Mountain biking in Utah
Favorite magazine: Aviation Safety
Meaningful advice from another: When I was racing cars, a mentor told me that if you are racing on a track and you are approaching turn 7, make a masterpiece out of that corner. And as soon as you get through that corner… let it go. The present moment is all that matters. Too many live in the past or in the future.
Important industry development in last 25 years: For me, when things shifted from being utilitarian to having style.
Ideas to make the industry stronger: We have too many images of lone people standing on a peak and being out there alone running. We are missing the human interaction. We need to be more playful and inviting.
Challenges: Incompetence, without a doubt. Too many folks are asleep in life and get through life that way. They are not present.
Influencers: My father and the way he brought us up with ethics, compassion for others, honesty, the simple approach to things. In the end, you do not have fancy cars and iPhones, but you do have your reputation and that is forever.
Motivations and inspirations: Consequence. I love the fact that you have a job to do or a project and have some consequence if you do not do it right. Safety nets removed. When I am really awake and on my game, there is consequence.
Advice to yourself at 25: Live in the moment. Give that moment everything you have. I wish I would have done that a little sooner. It is being congruent most powerful thing when there is no hesitation and all being clear and there is no cobweb and nothing sticky and be congruent about a dream, idea, whatever it is…that is when the magic comes. Line up all the energy and support from home and friends.
If you could pick one person to go on a hike with: My dad. He died May 22 this year. I would have liked to have said more things with him and a long life.
Proudest accomplishments: I have to say it is Prana. Working with your best friends. Building a business that is in alignment with your life. Product that is younger brother of the other brands. Culmination of all my lessons – friends I lost over business and money I lost over business and built a company that is pretty ideal for us. We have always remained very involved. And it never has been for money it is a byproduct of what you do.
Lessons from a mentor: Not a real person…Clint Eastwood’s character in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” I wanted to change my name to Clint. I loved the character who was fair. Took risk. Laid it on the line. Earned what he got. Even though he killed folks, he did it in an honorable way. Even in the end, he split the gold. He did not take everyone else’s gold. I make my oldest watch it. The message is, your word is your bond — I teach my children that.
Mountain Hardwear/Montrail, co-founder and president
Favorite food: Pasta
Favorite magazine: Rolling Stone
Advice to yourself at 25: 20 years ago, I loved what I was doing and was working during an amazing time for one of the best retailers in the industry, A-16. My advice looking back would be to seek out a mentor within your company or industry that you can look to for advice about your career who could offer perspective based on their experience or whom you can look up to, and take a long term view of your path. It was too easy then to just want to make a change for changes sake and not see that progress can be made where you are today if you set your sights on it.
Lessons from a mentor: Phil Oren was somebody I would always seek out and we’d chat a long time. You need a mentor to ask, ‘Where should this go from here?’ It needs to be somebody outside your company with a different perspective or connection to the industry. It can keep you motivated.
Influencers: My internal absolute dedicated devotion to the sport and activity this industry is about – climbing, backpacking, road riding, mountain biking…. These are activities I absolutely LOVE to do and that passion influences what I do. I want more people to do them. Enjoy the increments along the way. It may be corny, but it’s a metaphor that applies to business each day. I get so much joy out of the journey.
Challenges: Finding balance. I have a few people in my life who are constantly pestering me, and either I can grovel that I don’t have time or I just have to make time. It’s a necessity, not a luxury.
Proudest accomplishments: Walking out of Sierra Designs on a Friday and on a Monday starting Mountain Hardwear. We had six months of cash, but a whole lot of desire.
Motivations and inspirations: My love for the industry’s activities. The things we make are enablers — they enable people to enjoy the outdoors more.
Workmate for life: Jack Gilbert. Jack has taught me how to manage my career as your lifestyle without losing yourself completely into it. He also let all of us excell through gentile guidance and complete dedication to him and what we were doing. I also learned that you need to hire great people that fit together as a combined group instead of just a good resume.
Meaningful advice from another: Rather than jumping from one thing to the next, if you’re frustrated or not sure of the direction — or if recruiters call and you think, wow, maybe I ought to take that path, remember that the folks who flip in and out don’t have the same impact. You don’t have to look for the next horizon. You’ll create that horizon in the place where you are. And it could be more of a distraction to bounce around.
When I transitioned from buyer at A-16 to National Sales Manager at Sierra Designs, I was a little out of my comfort zone and looking from some clarity on exactly what a sales manager did. Jack Gilbert took a risk on me since I had never actually been in sales or a manager before and I wasn’t sure what the expectations were. On my first day in the office I didn’t see a job description or 3/6/12 month goals list…. All I got was a hand written note that said,” Make sure that we are not the excuse for our reps to not do their job.” This simple and impactful statement guided me for 17 years and now I just change out the word “reps” and insert any component of my company when I feel a little lost.
Ideas to make the industry stronger: We were the new and cool industry for several years and now we don’t feel that way. We seem to almost want to purposely close the door to broader exposure to our great lifestyle and sport. The Action Sports industry has gone national and global in a much bigger way through creating a complete lifestyle behind what they do and we need to find that inspiration again.
Important industry development in last 25 years: Cams and sticky rubber used in climbing shoes in the early ’80s. They were disruptive developments. People were suddenly jumping and climbing crags and doing climbs more quickly — and the athleticism showed. Plus, they made the sport more accessible and safer. Also, GPS devices. I used to teach four-day map and compass classes and it took people that long to conceptually understand a topo map. The No. 1 thing that makes people uncertain in the outdoors is the possibility of getting lost. So a GPS makes the outdoors more inviting and less intimidating.
If you could pick one person to go on a hike with: Hands down, John Muir. That dude could hike, climb, write, and inspire people to do great things. What stories he could tell and the impact he still has on all of us today can’t be even fathomed by many in the industry. His writings were the complete inspiration for me to leave New York at 18 and find my way to a mountain range that I had only read about.
Pemba Serves, president
Favorite vacation spot: Wind River Range
Favorite magazine: Fast Company
Meaningful advice from another: I grew up with Todd Skinner, and he called me to tell me about this house he bought just outside of Yosemite. The person who had built the house — a lawyer whose dream it was to have this kind of house in the mountains. The lawyer finally had retired then drove to Yosemite and died of a heart attack the next morning. Todd said, “Don’t let this be you,” with the message being, “Don’t wait.”
Important industry development in last 25 years: The Outdoor Industry Association and the Outdoor Retailer show. When you take the best minds of the industry and put them in one room and let them share, there’s nothing better for the industry. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Also, the Internet. It’s changed what we do and the pace of things and how we do things.”
Ideas to make the industry stronger: We’d have a more healthy and vibrant industry if we had a more standard bell curve of ages. In theory, my age group has a lot of neat and smart people, but we need more new blood.
Influencers: The Skinner family, including Todd Skinner as well as his father, Bob, and his uncles Courtney, Monte and Ole. They changed who I am and what I do. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. It’s because of who they were — dynamic yet rough people to look up to. Because of Bob, I punched a bear in the nose, I’ve been to 26,000 feet on Everest and learned to shoe horses.
Motivations and inspirations: It’s exciting to use your will and experience to get things done. It’s great to bring out the best in others.
Lessons learned: A friend of mine (also a poet) was told by some advertising mucky-muck that he loved more than anything to hire failed poets as ad copy writers. His reasoning was that they had mastery of spare, emotionally manipulative language, and the cynicism to use it without conscience. I bring an artistic, thematic, and analytical approach to sales and service largely because of my degree, I would guess. I’m a process-oriented builder, so the thing that I liked about writing is that you can — almost — edit something forever.
Advice to yourself at 25: I’m not sure I would have listened but…relax. Don’t be so serious. Lighten up and don’t worry so much.
Workmate for life: With my wife, of course. But in the industry, I would say Michael Crooke, Hap Klopp, Mike Wallenfels or Todd Skinner.
If you could pick one person to go on a hike with: Edmund Hillary. I had dinner with him once and it just wasn’t long enough because of the conversation and his views. I would have liked to have listened to him hold court. He’s a great hero of mine.
Proudest accomplishments: I have a hard time talking about myself…. It’s just more about what I’m doing now — founding and running Pemba Serves. Pemba is the name of a Tibetan Yak herder I met on Everest. Even with the old ways going fast, Pemba was graceful and gracious.
Don’t miss the printed story, ” 2009 SNEWS Power Players,” in the SNEWS Winter Outdoor 2009 magazine. To download the full issue – and see other back issues –, go to www.outsidebusinessjournal.com/magazines.