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I looked around this morning at the Industry Breakfast and I saw you, and I smiled and felt at home. Despite the fact you are an unruly bunch of lunatics, dreamers, eccentrics, artists, adventurers and renegades, I felt a surge of pride and protectiveness, honored to be one of you, happy to be among you, my tribe.
Years ago, we created the foundation for this $9 billion industry that has sustained us, helped us give back to our communities and our natural world, taught us about ourselves, our businesses and our responsibilities, and it has been more fun than should ever be possible with your clothes on.
When we began, we were amateurs. But that never stopped us. As we all do in the wilderness, we relied on our wits, our guts and our native intelligence to create an industry, a livelihood and a network of ethical and responsible corporate citizens.
Human-to-human connection is the real “value add,” Carr Hagerman said this morning, July 21, at the OIA Industry Breakfast. When my customers and I are face-to-face, that’s when human energy is exchanged and the world becomes a different, better place. And, Carr suggested, this is also when we stand a better chance of being successful.
We’ve had to bring more science to our work in recent years, but the art and the heart are still there, still the soul of our business. Our business has always turned on passion, energy and creativity. We were never “in the box.” The science of business has surely helped us grow, but it has not and never should replace our wild side.
During every industry event, on the show floor, in the hotel lobbies and restaurants, and in those times after midnight when we hope no one has a camera, I see you. I see my tribe. I belong and you belong and we belong together. While we are here to do business, I cannot resist this warmth and swelling in my heart, for you and our shared history and the wonderful business we created together.
We’ve been together, in some cases, for over 30 years. We grew up (and out) together, have seen each other in the all too rare flashes of brilliance and during those occasional moments of notoriety. Like a tribe, we have a strong level of trust and familiarity with one another, seen each other weak and strong, wise and foolish, successful and groveling in failure.
What we have together cannot be captured in a deck of slides or in a business plan. And it cannot be replaced.
When we meet, we hug and we tell each other our stories. Story-telling is how we stay a tribe, how we remember and how we pass along our wisdom. “Remember that time in Reno when you forgot to close the doors on your U-Haul and your booth fell out onto I-80?”
It isn’t a cliché that people are the real enterprise value within our companies. But it can get over-looked and be under-valued. Don’t let that happen.
For some time now, others have wanted a piece of us, have wanted to tap or capitalize on or leverage what we have. It’s not that easy. Tribes take time, patience, an open mind and a warm heart.
As we walk through these intense days of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market I will look for you and remember who you are and why I so love what I do.