Industry Profile: Nitro Sales Director Seth Quackenbush
24 Jun, 2008
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Seth: I’m a friend; husband and the dogfather to two dogs, Louie and Stella. Louie is a 3 year old Australian Shepherd/Collie mix and Stella is a 9 month old Carin Terrier. We recently moved to Vermont from the Northwest but my heart will always be in Seattle no matter where life takes me. I’m a big believer in working hard and following your passion, I’ve followed this mantra and it’s taken me to where I am today.
Shay: What is your job title?
Seth: The best title I’ve seen to date is “lunch room monitor” but my title is Nitro Snowboards National Sales Director.
Shay: Did your parents question your job choice?
Seth: They were hands off with my education and choice of career path. They just wanted me to follow my passion and determine what the notion of success was for myself.
Shay: What was your first set up?
Seth: My first board was a used 92 Burton Air that I got during the 93/94 season. I begged my parents to get me my first snowboard, my father made me a deal that If I did well in school he’d get one for me. After I got my first report card back, he drove me an hour to pick up a used board. I loved it. For the next 4 months, I would get home from school and ride in my backyard until it was too dark to see.
Shay: What is your current set up?
Seth: My current set up is the T1, Anthem boots and Zero bindings. I like to use products that are fun and that I don’t have to worry about. I hate riding expensive products, I always feel guilty about using my promo budget on myself. I’d rather give our top of the line gear to my reps or dealers. The being said, the T1 is the most fun board I’ve used to date. It’s won the TWS Good Wood and Future test for the last couple years in a row for a reason.
Shay: What was your first job?
Seth: My first job was when I was 15. I worked at my local snowboard shop after school and on weekends. I was the only employee at the time that was under 25 and the only one who snowboarded. Working at a a shop put me in contact with great people and gave me the direction to get me where I am today.
Shay: What’s a great day of snowboarding to you?
Seth: When I lived in Seattle, the best day of snowboarding for me was going up to Alpental early in the morning. We’d hike toward Snow Lake and let Louie play in the snow. There is nothing more than Louie loves than to be in deep snow. After our walk, I would ride in Alpental’s backcountry until it was tracked, then go to Snoqualmie and hit the park. This was always the perfect day.
Shay: Who are your influences?
Seth: I draw influence from a wide variety of people and places. I’m greatly influenced by my friends, family and environment. Professionally my largest and most important influence has been Chuck Mason. Chuck was my mentor and the reason I began working for Ride. He took me under his wing and truly showed me what it meant to have integrity. The most important lesson Chuck taught me was to do the best you can at what you are doing now, not to look ahead to where you want to be but rather work as hard as you can at what you are doing and you will reach your goals. Thanks Chuck!
Shay: How long have you been snowboarding?
Seth: Snowboarding has played a large part of my life since 93/94.
Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?
Seth: I’m a firm believer that if you don’t get a couple days in a week that you are doing something wrong. You can’t be good at this job if you’re not out there riding. With riding after work, at demos and visiting accounts I was able to get in about 60 days this season.
Shay: What is your role at Nitro as the National Sales Director?
Seth: As the National Sales Director I’m charged with managed our talented rep force and developing all of Nitro’s strategic sales plans. I work with the best team of people imaginable. Tonino, Mike, Tommy, Sepp, Welsh, Tony and Paul have more passion for what they do than any other group of individuals I’ve met in this industry or any other.
Shay: What are your thoughts on marketing to snowboarders?
Seth: Honestly I think there is a lot of bullshit marketing out there. Snowboarding isn’t and shouldn’t be about hundred dollar bills and expensive cars. What does any of that have to do with taking turns with your friends? There are a lot of companies out there that have a lot of funding and are trying their hardest to buy integrity. In the end I think that kids can see through this kind of ploy to steal their cash.
Obviously companies need to market to riders to sell their products but I don’t agree with big public brands trying to make riders think they are something that they aren’t. I back companies like Coal who’ve done it right. Brad (from Coal) has done a great job of creating an organic ad campaign displaying who they are from the beginning.
I think when you look at a Nitro Ad you can see that we’re not trying to be something we aren’t. I think you can see we are all snowboarders and are producing products and an image that represents who we are. It’s funny to see all these brands jumping on a trend and making rainbow bright clothing. They are making us look like a bunch of 80’s skier kooks. The same kooks we used to make fun of.
Shay: What is Nitro’s image?
Seth: I think Nitro’s image is natural and authentic. Nitro was founded by two riders, Tommy and Sepp in 92 and has the kind of rich history that can’t be bought. Today Nitro is still owned and operated by Tommy and Sepp. Nitro has the kind of heritage that many companies try to create through their marketing when the truth is they aren’t even close.
Nitro has always been a very skate inspired brand. Mike pulls a lot of inspiration from classic skateboard graphic and music posters. Nitro has never been one to jump on a trend, even if it might be profitable. It’s amazing to me to see all these brands claim how different they are, when in fact they are all doing the same thing. It’s hard to be original when you’re looking right and left to see what the other guy is doing.
At times Nitro goes so far against the grain that it can offend some people. It’s also easy for some to pigeonhole us and say that Nitro is a dark company or a metal company. When it comes down to it, Nitro is a snowboarding company and we are sticking to what snowboarding means to us. I think that the brand has evolved and you’re seeing that evolution in our team and in our products like the swindle. We’ve added a lot of fun and color in our products but when you look at one of our boards you know it’s a Nitro. We aren’t trying to look like or be anyone other than who we are.
Shay: Do you social media as a important future in marketing?
Seth: I think as e-commerce expands and blurs sales borders, that events and social media will continue to play an increasingly important role. I see local events, word of mouth and product reviews becoming even more important. Often a customer is given the option to buy the same product, at the same price from several different shops. What distinguishes shops like Milo is their ability to create a sense of authenticity through the local community they are able to build. We work closely with our shops to help build positive relationships with their customers. I think this kind of relationship building and marketing is worlds more effective than running a couple flash commercials on TV.
Shay: Do you work with the reps to establish sales?
Seth: I work with our dedicated rep force every day. We work together to set goals on an individual basis. I am a very dealer oriented Sales Director, as are my reps. One of the best aspects of working with Nitro is the freedom I have to do not only what is right for the company but also to do what is right for our dealers.
Shay: Prior to Nitro, what other jobs/companies have you worked at?
Seth: I’m a strong believer in hard work and giong step by step to reach your goals. You can’t get to point C without going through A and B first. My growth was a very natural evolution. I knew I wanted to be a Sales Director for a top company and knew that to get there I had to start at the bottom and work my way up.
I started out working at a snowboard shop during high school and to put myself through college. While working there I met the reps and started turning screws for the M3 Rep. After M3 folded, I worked as a sub rep with Ride and was promoted to the buyer for my shop. During this time I met Chuck Mason and was given the opportunity to work for Ride in-house. At the time the only position open was in Customer Service. I jumped at the opportunity and about a year later the position I wanted opened up and I was promoted to the Ride National Sales Coordinator under Chuck. This is where I got my chance to learn directly from one of the best in the industry. After two years of working for Chuck he was hired as a VP at Burton. I stayed at Ride for almost another year but when the position at Nitro became available I jumped at the opportunity.
Shay: What’s your average day like at work?
Seth: There is no average day for me; it changes every morning I get up. I could be in the office taking care of a fire or I could be out in SLC, Seattle or anywhere else in the country visiting accounts. The most important tools I have are my cell phone, laptop and a couple plane tickets.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working at Nitro?
Seth: Without a doubt my most memorable experience so far has been SIA…but I’m not going to go into any details.
Shay: How is working for Nitro (any cool work events, work environment, job perks)?
Seth: Nitro is without a doubt the best company that I could be working for. Everyone in the company is 100% dedicated to snowboarding and doing our best to represent what snowboarding is to us.
Shay: What’s the best perk you’ve gotten from your job?
Seth: The best perk of my job is traveling to new places and meeting new people. I’ve made some of my closest friends through this job. I also get to work with amazing people like Tonino and Mike on a daily basis. Those guys have more passion for what they do than just about anyone I’ve ever met. It’s contagious.
Shay: Any disadvantages of your job?
Seth: The only disadvantage of my job is being on the road so much. This February I logged 5 days at home. March wasn’t much better.
Shay: Since you started working in the snowboard industry, what’s been the biggest technology advance in snowboarding?
Seth: There have been a lot of gimmicks since I started working in the industry. I don’t think that any of these will make you a better rider but if it makes you more confident in your riding then that’s great. Our Team board doesn’t have the Aerospace core Skateboard Urethane or come with a set of kitchen knives but it does perform better than these boards ever year and costs a couple hundred bucks less.
Shay: Do you try out other companies products?
Seth: All companies have a different feel to them; if there’s something new I’ll try it but I don’t go out of my way to try every product I can. I’d rather ride our products and give feedback to make it the best we can.
Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
Seth: January 1st through December 31st.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Seth: Education comes from experience. A classroom setting can give some insight but It’ll never take the place of learning for yourself. My degree is in English but my experience is in snowboard sales and that is where I excel.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to become a Sales Director?
Seth: Start at the beginning, don’t skip any steps. Always do the best at what you are doing now. If you follow your passion, success will follow.
Shay: Final thoughts?
Seth: Thanks for the support!
*Photos compliments of Seth Quackenbush.