Industry Profile: Arbor Sales Manager Charlie Ninegar
08 Jun, 2010
Name: Charlie Ninegar (pronounced like vinegar)
Job Title: Snowboard Sales and Marketing Manager
Years on snow: My first trip was around 1993
Days on snow: Lifetime? No idea. This year: 30+ before I dislocated my shoulder riding.
Currently Riding: I think the 2011 Coda is the best board I’ve ever ridden. Our System boards kept me off camber 95% of the year, but there’s something extra special about that Coda. It’s converting a lot of rocker-sceptics… myself included.
Currently I am: Working at home in the South Bay, looking at the ocean and wishing I could surf (snow season is closed in So Cal). But I’m still rehabing a dislocated shoulder.
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Charlie: I am an unabashed fan of all things action sport (thought I hate that catch-all title). I grew up at the beach where I learned early on to ride a skateboard, snowboard, and surfboard (in that order), and still try to do a little of all three whenever possible.
Sometime in High School I decided I wanted to work in this industry and I’ve spent every day since trying to fulfill that dream.
I’m also a huge fan and self-appointed student of the BUSINESS of action sports. I am truly fascinated by the business that derives from our passion for these activities.
Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Charlie: For one it brought me to Arbor, and I’m really happy to be here. On a personal level, feeling like I can help influence a company I respect so much is really cool.
I don’t know how to explain what a great day, or even a great run, means to me. But everyone reading this already knows. In a very real way, a few good days of riding can really be life changing.
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Charlie: As a young kid I had flow sponsors (Body Glove, Spyder Surf Shop, etc), and when I hit high school I started organizing my own surf contests. The contests put me in touch with reps, sales managers, and other people who made their living around these sports and brands.
I eventually developed my own little event business during my college years, which kept me in close contact with these people, and I was inspired to follow their lead.
Once I graduated from UCSB, I got the best advice I’ve had to date… I was told to go work in a shop (thanks Scott Daley). So when Spyder Surf needed a shop manager, I interviewed and got the gig. In 2 1/2 years I learned as much as possible about retail, people management, brand development, etc. It was a real education.
Then it was on to rep’ing, which I did for a number of years, and most recently sales management. To be perfectly honest, I never thought I’d make it this far before I turned thirty… I’m excited to see where it goes from here.
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Charlie: Obviously time spent on the mountain, in the surf and on a skateboard is important. But what really made a difference was the time I spent working at the retail level. That’s where the final transactions are made, and where trends start in this business. Being a rep taught me a lot as well. Now that I’m working in-house, I try to keep those perspectives fresh in my mind whenever we make a decision.
A bachelor degree in Business/Economics and Communication didn’t hurt either. I also learned a lot of organization, delegation and budgeting from my event-background.
Shay: Tell us about your role at Arbor and a description of the work you do?
Charlie: The most important thing I do is manage the sales in our snowboard category. That includes learning all the accounts, creating goals, sale timelines, incentive structures, etc. I think that’s pretty easily understood.
Since we are a small family-style company, I GET to voice my opinion on almost everything else we do too, which is great because I worked hard to get my experience and I’m glad it’s appreciated. What color should that T-shirt be? Which base graphic looks best? Which art works best on this skateboard? What trade shows are important to be at? How are we going to do a better job of telling Arbor’s story? Where should we spend our marketing dollars? There are a million questions asked every day at Arbor, and it’s fun to be apart of each one.
But most importantly, I try to make Arbor snowboards as easy a sale as possible for our reps and our retailers. Fortunately the product does most of that for me, but in this highly competitive market, we need to try and do everything we can for our retail partners. We want a strong presence in the best retailers and we want them to succeed with Arbor… not only for our own benefit, but also to help support a larger movement towards a more environmentally sound business throughout this industry. Fortunately, we’ve had a lot of success in those areas so far.
Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
Charlie: That’s a good question. Let’s talk about an average week. 3 of the 5 days I’m probably heading in to the office around 8:30am and working at my desk most of the day. Emails, phone calls, spreadsheets, etc. There are a lot of impromtu meetings, friends of the brand stopping by, etc. Working at Arbor HQ is rarely boring. I head home around 6:30pm.
Then another day of the week, I’m on the road selling Arbor by myself or traveling with a rep, visiting stores to see what’s working and listening to what our retailers have to say. The last day I’m probably at a trade show. Obviously it doesn’t look like that week to week. The point is I spend about 15% of the time at tradeshows and traveling, 70% of the time in the office, and the remaining 15-20% of the time in So Cal working with our shops here. Somehow I forgot to factor in the demos and weekend events, which we do too, but that should give you a pretty good snapshot of what my life is like.
Traveling is key. We do a lot of local trips to Big Bear and Mammoth to ride, get feedback, test product and spend time with our team and retailers. I went to Colorado 3 times this year, Nevada, and covered a lot of California in my truck. I hope to travel to the East Coast, Mid-West, Canada, Argentina, Europe and Japan one day for work as well.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Charlie: Getting hired at Arbor and, not a month later, boarding a plane for our sales meeting in Austria… all expenses paid. That’s as big a perk as I’ve experienced in this industry. I can’t get into the details here, but we definitely left our mark on Austria.
Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
Charlie: The biggest challenge in my job is trying to grasp just how dynamic the snowboard market truly is. We’re talking about a seasonal, fickle, relatively low-margin (but high dollar) business. On top of that, I struggle to think of another industry that is so dominated by 1 brand, maybe Apple with the iPhone or Luxottica for eyewear. But I still don’t know if they compare. And finally, in the grand scheme of things, we’re still pretty damn small (and I mean the snow industry as a whole is really tiny).
Those elements make it tough on all involved. And yet, there are millions of people snowboarding around the world, and they’ll give up their mattress before they give up their snowboard. Something about that is really inspiring.
Changes? I’d like to see more companies work to truly reduce their impact on the world, not just talk about it. I’d also like to see us all work to keep snowboarding accessible to everyone (resorts, manufactures, and retailers). We need people to participate to make this industry flourish.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Charlie: That’s like the chicken or egg question… I think you need both. The only way to get experience is from doing it yourself, which is invaluable. But you need to learn from what’s been done before, and what’s been proven to work (or NOT), and that’s found in education. I probably wouldn’t hire anyone who only had one and not the other.
My only other thought is that experience can only tell you where you’ve been. Education can give you an outline for where you might be headed. Again, both are important.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Charlie: I’d start by telling them they’re ahead of the curve. Most people don’t know what they want to do, and I can’t blame them. There’s a point where everyone wants to be a doctor, lawyer or fireman. Then you get a little older and you think, I want to do marketing, or advertising but you really don’t know what that means. Then reality hits… what the F am I going to do to make a living? And more importantly, will I enjoy doing it?
If you know where you want to go, good for you. If not, here’s what you do… Find someone who you consider successful (doesn’t have to be monetarily) and make sure they have a job you think sounds cool. Then go interview them… for like 2 hours. It’s called an informational interview. How did you get here? How can I get to your position? What should I be doing to learn what you know?» It should be flattering for them, and can be very helpful to guide you. I did 3 or 4 of these as I was preparing to finish college and it put me on the right track.
My only other thought is really consider what you want your day to be like. Who you work with, and how you spend your day are as important as anything else in this world. It’s what we do most of our life, so try to get it right.
For instance, you might think reps make a lot of money, but if you’re not willing to drive everywhere, sleep on sofas, and work weekend events, you aren’t going to do the job long enough to be successful at it. Or you might think being a team manager sounds like fun, but if you’re not ready to deal with athlete’s and budgets, and a little babysitting sometimes for not a lot of money, the riding with the pro’s» aspect won’t be enough to keep you motivated. You’ve got to consider what each job will FEEL like day in and day out.
Most people would assume I snowboard a ton, and I am lucky to get 20-30+ days in a year. But I’m not getting 100 days in like some friends of mine… I’m working at desk, or on the road. I have an office component to my job, but I also work events that can go late or eat up a whole weekend. My girlfriend and dog don’t love how much I travel, and though I miss being at home while away, I actually have really enjoy most aspects about what I do including the work trips. And that’s the point… you’ve got to love almost all of it, and understand that it’s not all party’s and riding with your homies. That’s said, it’s still pretty fucking cool.
After filling this out I feel pretty lucky, and am a little more stoked on what I’m up to. Thanks for including me on the profile Shay!