John has been guiding the troops at A16 for over 20 years. We talk about the history of A16, his perspective on 2017, the great events A16 has planned for 2018 and what is in the water that spawned the many outdoor industry leaders and execs that have come out of A16.
First Exposure to the Outdoors
The cabin in Idaho really was my first exposure to the outdoors. I was really young, a little toddler. As a little kid I would listen to my dad tell stories about him coming back from his trips. He was an avid backpacker, then peak bagger and environmental activist. He was also a Navy captain, kind of a sturdy guy and he he loved the outdoors. So I would hear stories and he took me on my first trip. I was about I guess maybe six six years old. I grew up in Southern Idaho which is in the middle of farm country. However where we were about an hour and a half on our ten-speeds from some mountains south of us. World class Keene and Sun Valley and up over the Lina summit under the Sawtooths, which are as you know some of the most magnificent valleys and the head waters of the Salmon River right there.
Things we talked about
Furst Outdoor Job- my first outdoor job was was actually believe it or not making t-shirts. I had a little company I started back when I was a freshman in high school.
I do and these things aren’t going to be a big surprise because it’s things we know and we’ve been and trying to teach new people as they come through A16. The first one is pretty easy. I would advise anybody that wants to get in the outdoor business, and it doesn’t matter what level they’re trying to get in at. It’s always the same answer, work retail. If you want to be a rep, you want to be a president of the North Face or whatever it is, get in there and work retail. Part of that is to understand the business. You’ll be exposed to all aspects of the business when you do that. From a rep coming in and doing a clinic you learn about the rep side and then you get a little more detail about some of the brand stuff. You just get exposed to all of it, you get a picture what it’s about. Another part of it is you’ve got to go to work for a good company or you have to be self motivated to do this piece of it and that’s to learn how to sell. It’s skill everyone uses. I don’t care whether you’re working the sales floor or running a company you’re selling all the time. So I would just advise people that you don’t just work for any retailer or media. If you walk into a shop and they’re just sitting there chewing gum, you know sitting in a chair behind the counter that’s not the kind of retailer or go work for. You want to work for somebody they can teach you the skills. If they don’t the book stores are full books and podcasts in all kinds of things, so learn how to sell. Another thing I would advise people to do is and this is probably the toughest thing of all is to learn how to take criticism. Not only learn how to take it but ask for it. You rarely see that, even in my generation you didn’t see that a whole lot but our generation did a great job of bringing up some really great kids and now they’re Millennials. We hire a lot of these people and they really are sensitive. They’re wonderful people but they need to be better at taking criticism. Another thing, this is what Mick told me and I think maybe it answers your question earlier about a 16 but it is to an act like an owner. As you know we became an employee owned company along those lines back in 1987 now and when I say act loke an owner don’t confuse it with a boss. Acting like an owner doesn’t mean to start bossing people around. I’m talking about spending your time, spending your money talking to customers and solving problems. If you keep doing that someday you might you might actually own the place. I’ve got a few other ones written down here, I don’t know if you need to cut me short on this one. I think it’s also important that you have clear written career objectives and clear values written down. We’ll talk about this later but understanding business stories. The good news about all this is if you do these things and certainly other advice that you get and get on your program because most people never will do these things. If you do those things and you’re disciplined about what you do and what your plan is and you put in the effort it will happen.
Other Outdoor Activities
I’m a woodworker, a craftsman, a builder and I do it every day at my shop. Fixing something or repurposing a fixture around here. Building a cabinet for home or piece of furniture. That is something I picked up from Mick, it’s amazing the therapy.
Hiking with my grandkids
Anything the Irving Stone, Michener or David McCullough.
Innovators by Walter Isaacson
Men to Match my Mountains by Irving Stone
In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Best Gear Purchase under $100
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