Originally published in Concrete Wave Magazine Summer 2012 (Vol 11 No 1 Page 78)
This is something I think about and revisit a lot. I don’t believe in creating a road map and sticking to it through thick and thin. Rather, I think that as humans we’re multifaceted, complex, creative creatures and that we should continuously follow our passions and allow them the space and the nutrients to adapt and evolve.
My original reason for Loaded was to focus on creating the boards I wanted to ride. Building a business out of this passion was a necessary evil in order to allow me to engage in development in a more serious fashion.
At that point (starting in 2000 and for the first six or seven years of Loaded) I figured I’d work at creating a company in order to allow me to do product design and that eventually I’d hand off the business endand focus exclusively on R&D. Since then, my interests have shifted in surprising ways. I’m still very passionate about product development, materials and functionally driven design. However, I’ve become fascinated by the complex business challenges(particularly the creative strategic aspects of building a viable and socially responsible brand) as well as the social and cultural impact a business can have.
How does this translate into getting me stoked to go to work Monday mornings?
A number of ways:
1. Great People
I work with great people: That’s the key to everything, I think. With great people you can do anything. Plus, these are my good friends. They are people I respect and am inspired by. I’m stoked to be able to come and play/create/destroy with people whom I like and who I know will challenge me. Also, they smile a lot.
2. Amazing Vendors
This extends to the vendors we work with. We’re blessed to work with amazing people who are incredible craftspeople and are stoked to be a part of this. We’ve worked hard to find these people and to earn their respect, but we’re still very much in debt to them.
3. The Culture
We spend a lot of time and energy working on creating a healthy, challenging and creative environment. I want the people around me to flourish. In our society we’re expected to spend a significant amount of our vital and dynamic time and effort “earning a living.” We’ve got an amazing opportunity here to engage the world, create and play with super-fun gear and focus on our personal development. I intend to take full advantage of the opportunity, and I expect the same of those around me. To pare it down to a sound bite, I think my purpose on this planet is to create, explore, love, inspire and be inspired. I embrace the concept of the renaissance person (even if I’m really a dilettante).
4. Business Challenges
As I mentioned above, I’m currently excited by the daily (and broader) business challenges. I’m lucky; I come from an entrepreneurial family, and my dad, who gave me office/warehouse space to start loaded in exchange for helping him with his business, was my supporter, mentor and partner until his death in 2008. I learned a ton from him and my siblings; but I’ve had to learn a lot on my own as well, including how to create and balance budgets, manage cash flow, and how to approach management in general.
Every day is unique, and working with the Loaded crew to develop our short- and long-term strategy is totally exciting. We deal with all kinds of issues, including the long-term impact of the mom-and-pop skate shop for the culture and development of skateboarding, engaging established and emerging technologies to facilitate every aspect of the business, building strong relationships with great shops and distributors, and working in a global environment.
The role of money is important to establish as well; creating a commercially viable company is an integral part of allowing us to keep doing what we do. Our primary goal is not to make money for its own sake, but rather to promote and grow board sports through performance, community and creative expression. Paying our bills and our salaries, having product in stock and having the resources to grow and develop are all part of that larger goal.
Having this balance keeps things fun day to day and prevents us from running the risk of “selling out” by making decisions based on profit that we wouldn’t make for the reasons above.
5. Competition & Inspiration
There’s a lot of great people and companies in longboarding today and I’m stoked to be able to consider many of them my friends. We actively strive to do our own thing and we don’t really feel like we have any true “competition” in the sense that we need to “fight over market share.” Rather, we believe that we’re all here to explore new facets of skateboarding and that we’re working to expand the market and the opportunities for everyone. That said, the innovation and quality of the product coming to market today is mind-blowing, inspiring and challenging. We’re stoked to be part of this renaissance period in skateboarding, and we look forward to seeing this continue to grow for a long time to come.
6. Skate, Surf & Snow
I get to skate, snowboard and surf a bunch, and usually with great friends and great riders. I’m not gonna leave this one out, as it’s one of the greatest perks for sure!
7. Product Design
This still gets me going, and I totally love it. But I’m taking a bit more of a back seat these days. We’re building a stellar design team, and the caliber of work we’re doing and exploring blows my mind. While I’m not hands-on in the same way I used to be, I feel I’ve got even more opportunity these days for high-level product ideation and for experimentation.
8. Social/Cultural Impact
Social/cultural impact: A skateboard is just a plank with some wheels stuck to it, right? So why does it inspire so much passion, creativity and community? I’m not sure I can put it into words, but if you’re reading this, you get it. It’s a vehicle (sorry for the pun, but it’s appropriate) for personal exploration and for developing solid relationships. To be able to engage people around the world through skateboarding and to be engaged, challenged and inspired in return is no mean thing, and I’m incredibly thankful to be able to do what I do.