Industry Profile: New Era Key Accounts Manager Justin Cobb
22 Sep, 2009
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself:
Justin: Husband, Father, Friend, Snowboarder, Surfer, Musician, closet Artist, I Skate and fall often, I smile a lot, Lover of Life, Media junkie, I’m definitely an optimist but do find myself becoming more pessimistic, I love fishing and being on the ocean in general, my hands always have nicks and cuts on them for some reason. I’m an Animal and Insect Lover, I’m pretty patient for the most part but realize like my hair I’m starting to loose that too. I like to work on my old truck and spend time in my garage with my kids, I grew up in Mexico until I was 16 and speak fluent Spanish (Viva Mexico!), I have an 8 month old Boston Terrier named Dyson that was named after the Vacuum Cleaner. I’ll have a dog for the rest of my life, I’m lucky, I like being alone because it helps me reset, I enjoy being a Father, I find myself working more on my off-time, I like most people and especially the Euro’s – they’re great! I’m trying to make better decisions for the earth and think I’m getting pretty good at being “handy” around the house. I’m currently teaching myself how to lay tile so I can do the entire downstairs of my house but I’m pretty freaked I’m going to mess it up and it’s going to take way longer than I’m anticipating. My wife makes me want to be a better man, I would rather find critters in tide-pools on the beach with my kids than teach them how to play video games, I will be my own boss some day and know it’ll be amazing and the only places I’ll ever live my entire life are going to be either near the ocean, the mountains or both.
Shay: What is your job title?
Justin: My current job title is Key Accounts Manager for New Era Cap’s Action Sports Division – our offices are based in Irvine Ca.
Shay: What was your first set up?
Justin: My first set up was a Morrow Spoon 160 (I think) w/ Burton Freestyle bindings and a pair of used Sorel’s – it was like ‘92/’93 when I got a job sweeping floors at ZJ Boarding House.
Shay: What is your current set up?
Justin: Rome Agent 159 w/ Flux Bindings
Shay: What was your first job?
Justin: I was pretty much hustling from the time I was 10 years old – parking cars in a dirt lot behind the restaurants in Puerto Nuevo in Baja… but my first real job was a little photo lab in Venice and as it relates to my passion for board-sports, ZJ Boarding House – thanks Mikke & Todd for pulling me under your wings!
Shay: What’s a great day of snowboarding to you?
Justin: A great day of snowboarding is any day I’m able to ride a mountain with snow on it. I always find something fun to do when I have a snowboard strapped on my feet. The best days of snowboarding have always been the pow days though with a few friends. I really enjoy riding in a storm – it’s amazing to feel the elements of a storms rage on an exposed area of the mountain and then ride down into the trees and the blissful, quietness that comes with that transition is just very special. I’ve had so many great days riding in all different kinds of conditions but the pow days with friends always stand out.
Shay: Who are your influences?
Justin: Snowboarding influences – I’ve always gravitated towards those with great style. Pete Line, Craig Kelly, both Jeremy Jones’, MFM, JP Walker, Jason Ford, and Brian Harris who’s really stylish on any board and helped me learn how to ride in the early days.
Shay: How long have you been snowboarding?
Justin: Since ’92 – once I started I was hooked – so 17 years.
Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?
Justin: About 20-25… if I’m lucky.
Shay: What is your role at New Era as Key Accounts Manager?
Justin: My day to day basically involves managing all of our top-line business partners. We have key partnerships with the industries most influential and leading brands, so I ensure that they’re taken care from A to Z. This includes building comprehensive business plans, working closely with all the various department heads from M&D, Sales, Marketing, Design, Development, help to Sourcing materials and introduce new application techniques, the entire Production process, and finally Logistics leading right up to the point that product is handed off. Within the business plan lives the roadmap of fundamentals and strategies which best supports each of these key partners’ activities. Events and Product support, advertising and marketing, in-store POP, specialized programs, etc. I have a great team of people here that help in the entire process which makes my life much easier so I’m grateful for all of them.
Shay: What companies are your top accounts in action sports for New Era?
Justin: DC Shoes, Burton and their subsidiary brands, Oakley, Nixon, Fox Head, the KR3W/Supra crew at One Distribution, Metal Mulisha and the La Jolla Group, Supreme NYC, Vans, and a bunch of others.
Shay: What makes New Era different?
Justin: In my own words New Era is different for numerous reasons but first and foremost it’s a company with integrity, history and quality. While there are a lot of companies that contain these qualities the solid foundation of values that had to be laid and maintained for nearly 90 years runs deep and stems form passionate people who love what they do. The company was formed in 1920 by the Koch family and to this day is still privately held, owned and operated by the same family so in that respect it’s very special. I’m a huge fan of the product – I was wearing New Era long before being apart of the company so it was a very natural fit for me as I was already a fan of what they were doing.
Shay: What does New Era offer in terms of quality and durability to hats?
Justin: New Era has been making caps for a long time and created what is known today as the True Fitted Cap. There is a very specific process to building the marquee 59Fifty cap – it’s call the 22 Step Process and is followed rigorously in the production process of the caps regardless of where they’re produced. “Premium In Everything We Do” is something we live and breath so when it comes to making a quality piece of headwear that will stand the test of time you can’t beat a New Ear.
Shay: What is the reason behind keeping the sticker on the New Era hat?
Justin: This is a great question and one that is frequently debated. This really it comes down each individual’s personal style. Someone might leave it to let others now that they have a new cap on or it’s the “authentic” New Era they’re wearing opposed to something else. They might leave it on because their fashion/streetwear/celebrity idols leave it, etc but end of the day its up to each person and how decide to wear their cap.
Shay: Was it difficult to transition from working at Transworld and Future snowboarding magazines to working at New Era?
Justin: There were parts that were difficult and others that were not. Being of part of a media company is amazing because you get a very unique perspective of all the brands you work with – big or small. A lot of doors get opened because you’re involved with how their company is being portrayed to the public, peers, and ultimately consumers. At the same time a lot of doors remained shut just because of those same reasons. I was able to develop relationships with all types of people – from warehouse workers to Founders and Presidents. What’s made the transition easier with New Era is that it’s very similar in that I’m working with a group of brand partners but instead of the majority of the time just being spent with Marketing and PR types now I’m getting a whole new perspective of these same businesses and how they operate internally. The most difficult transition was leaving Future knowing that it was breaking new ground, I felt the team we built and had was very special, we were all committed to success, proud of doing something new, different and we believed in it deeply. On the New Era side of things specifically the transition was very smooth. The team and people who brought me in were very organized, professional and prepared for my arrival. I don’t that I have ever been provided such great training up front, from day one, and in large part because of all these things I’ve been able to help them successfully manage a key piece of their business over the last couple of years.
Shay: How did you acquire your sales experience?
Justin: My core business values really come from Mikke Pierson, Todd Roberts and the crew at ZJ Boarding House. They laid the foundation and really helped me to develop, provided training, were always very hands-on, family oriented which ultimately helped to develop my sales abilities early on. Beyond that I’ve continued to learn and built upon my sales experience with training, reading and most importantly working for/with talented people – Charlie Anderson, Jamey Stone, Monica Campana and Tim Wrisley at Transworld were all people that helped me grow and develop, Jonothan Simpson-Bint the former President of Future US was a big influence, the guy who brought me in here at New Era – Wayne Best is sharp and I’ve learned a lot from him in the short time we worked together. Through it all the most important lessons I’ve learned are that if you operate with honesty, integrity, and are passionate about what you’re doing you’ll be successful and happy with your work.
Shay: What are some key learning experiences to directing and marketing sales?
Justin: Work with Honesty and Integrity first and foremost. Once you build your plan and establish your strategies to accomplish your goals – stick to the plan. I’ve seen, and experienced first hand, losing sight of the original plan because of all the speed-bumps and turbulence you run into while navigating the course. Maintaining integrity and staying humble no matter what level of success (or lack there of) you attain is key to long-term sustainability in my opinion. Lastly, building solid relationships and maintaining your loyalty are two key learning experiences I’ve always held close.
Shay: Does snowboarding need more honesty and brutal truth?
Justin: Yes – definitely. I think I could go off on this topic for much longer than anyone would care to read and probably leaked enough through some of the other questions that you get the general idea. I love and embrace change so I try not to get to wrapped up in what I dislike about things and try to focus instead on what I do like and just take my own path. With that said, I’ll save my long winded rant but will say this… snowboarding’s growth, and lack there of over the last few years, is something we should all be concerned about. Ask any of the former staff from Future Snowboarding this question and guaranteed you’ll get an earful.
Shay: What are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?
Justin: Beyond what the global recession is doing… well, while taking the risk of sounding like an old-bastard I’d say it’s very similar to what it was 10 years ago with the exception of how much more money is being generated by the industry as a whole and how that has affected everything. There is a healthy amount of anti-establishment that still exists in the underlying culture but like any industry we’re growing up and with growth come changes. A lot of the people and businesses are being forced to grow-up and I don’t think all of them want to. It’s still very cliquey, elitist, super exclusive, hard to get involved with if you’re an outsider, ghastly at times, but it’s also chalk full of very creative people, lots of talent, there’s always great trips to exotic places, amazing stories, great parties all the time it seams and is still very special when comparing to other industries. I would have to say personally one of the most endearing elements the industry represents and personifies is – lifestyle. There are a lot of bright people working within this industry that could be doing a lot of other things, probably making a lot more money in the process, but lifestyle is in the DNA of 95% of the people and businesses because of what these board sports have done to us and it’s infectious, fun, and very unique.
Shay: Prior to New Era, what other jobs/companies have you worked at?
Justin: ZJ Boarding House, Four Star Distribution (Forum/Special Blend/Foursquare/Circa), Transworld Media, Future US, and now New Era.
Shay: What’s your average day like?
Justin: Wake up, drink a cup of my Signal Coffee of the Month blend, watch Tom & Jerry with my kids and check the surf report or just go before work to get the day started off right. Once at the office my time is divided and prioritized by what I have going on with my key partners and their current activities. Given the time of year – summer for instance – a lot of time was spent with the Hurley crew helping them with the US OPEN of SURF in Huntington Beach. I spend about 1/3 to 1/2 my time running around the Orange County and San Diego meeting with all the accounts I manage to keep things running smoothly.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Justin: Definitely the early days at ZJ Boarding House when all my days consisted of where working at the shop helping to grow the business, surfing, skating and snowboarding. Beyond that my time at Tranworld and Future, while both very different experiences, were amazing. While at Transworld – when it was still owned and operated by Time Inc, we have the Power Quest Conferences. They were the equivalent of what SIMA is today basically – get some key note speakers, panels going, give out some awards and go shred! Every single trip I’ve ever been on has had something memorable but the one I’ll share that stands out here is with my good friends at 686. While I traveled with these guys a lot in the mountains on this particular occasion Mike West decided to take his whole crew on a 3-Day boat cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada and he the Marketing Manager at the time – Brice McTague – invited me along. Needless to say it was crazy and they have been one of my favorite groups of people to shred with, work with, pretty much do anything and everything with since that boat-bonding adventure. Till this day I’m happy and honored to know and hang with them whenever possible.
Shay: How is working for New Era (any cool work events, work environment, job perks)?
Justin: Baseball Games is a pretty sweet perk! Our work environment is great – there are about 17 of us that work in a small office in Irvine – very friendly and centralized right in the middle of where the majority of the brands/companies are located so we always have lots of visitors. I get to shred at all the local resorts and whenever I travel – that’s a huge bonus for me personally and other than that the perks really come through the amazing partnerships we have. Working so closely with our brands I am lucky enough to get invited to a lot of the cool events and happenings they’re putting on. Oh how could I forget… not waiting in lines, that’s a big one!
Shay: What education/experience did you have before getting the job?
Justin: The experience portion is by far where I’ve gained and grown the most with my involvement in and at the various levels of the industry and I’ll continue learning each and every day. As the old saying goes – you learn something new every day. Education wise I got a little over half way through college studying Business with a minor in Biology when music took center stage for about 5 years at which point recording, touring, doing TV commercials, radio appearances, etc was basically a full-time job. Towards the end of this period I headed south toward San Diego and got involved with Four Star during the companies hay-day when Forum 8 was pretty much dominating everything.
Shay: What’s the best perk you’ve gotten from your job?
Justin: Overall the best perk has been snowboarding – but this is more of a career long perk and comes with a lot of long standing relationships. Currently I have a pretty mean cap collection that I’m really stoked on. Most importantly I am really close to home which is pretty huge. I never really thought much about commuting but now that I’m close to home it makes a big difference from a ‘quality of life’ standpoint as I get to see my family more!
Shay: Any disadvantages of your job?
Justin: Not being in the head office poses its challenges at times but I work around these obstacles when they present themselves. I would say being incredibly busy all of the time but that’s more of an advantage. Personally I’d like to spend more time with my little people – they’re 7 and 5 – so you can understand how being super busy isn’t conducive to spending more time with them. Maybe it’s just a summertime thing. This is the thing, they really want to hang-out with me now and I feel like Super-Dad all the time, I know by the time they’re 12, 13, 14 they’re going to want to do everything else but hangout with me so I’m trying to enjoy it while it lasts!
Shay: Since you started in the industry, what’s been the biggest change?
Justin: One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is the retail environment and how it’s transformed from small core surf/skate/snow shops to mega chain stores, mall-stores, corporate sponsored in-betweens that are something between a mall/sporting equipment/boutique shop and how that’s affected the core shops. A lot of the people who help build this industry and getting pushed out or forced to think very creatively in order to keep their businesses running and that is hard to witness. The Internet, Media, and how we release and consume information has definitely changed the game in a big way. But probably the biggest change has come in the last couple of years. The board sports business has been growing consistently since I started working, even through the other economic downturns, so this is the first time I’ve really seen a major slow down and how that relates to the complete business cycle with retailers, manufacturers, factories, agents, media, jobs, etc – all the areas of the industry. When consumers stop buying everyone is affected.
Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
Justin: It’s fairly consistent year around but going but the Spring and Fall seasons are generally larger for most of our partners so the months we’re developing and delivering products for these two seasons there is definitely a spike in communication, activity and time invested on the computer.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Justin: There are two schools of thought but my personal opinion is that real life experience is more important because while I put time in at school it was jumping in head first where I learned most. If your goal is to come straight out of the game and start your own thing then educating yourself and learning how to run a business through college is a must. For me personally in my life path getting into the work environment at various levels of retail, media and now manufacturing have helped me to develop my skill set and be successful. Living and breathing it, being hands on, learning all the intricacies that came along with each role, traveling, expanding my views on culture and how business works globally, developing and learning all along the way in order to do a great job – these are the things I feel I’ve benefited most from. I never thought in a million years that I would get some much business accomplished while socializing, at a party or event, playing golf, surfing or even on the mounting riding with business partners and colleagues – this could only come with experience. I will always promote education, especially now that I have kids of my own, but my feelings about life are simple – you never stop learning.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Justin: My Grandfather asked me a question when I was very young and the answer to that question helped guide me in life. Here’s the question… ‘If you were so rich that money were no object – what would you do with your life?’ Over the years I figured out that if you do what you love and are passionate about you’ll be happy and successful and therefore rich in all aspects of life. I know – sounds a little corny but hey – it’s true.
Shay: Final thoughts?
Justin: Go Shred Now! Staying active, eating healthy, taking care of body and mind, moderating, willingness, and positive thinking are all things I try to practice regularly so that I can continue to do the things I love as long as possible. And Thanks Shay for thinking of me for this. Sorry I lagged on getting this back to you – now back to work!
*Photos courtesy of Justin Cobb