Industry Profile: MODA3 Manager Keith Lipski
08 Jul, 2010
Job Title: Director of Sketchy Dealings and Shady information – no, really I don’t have a single title.
Years on snow: 16
Days on snow: Average of about 40 a year these days.
Currently Riding: Burton Process w/ Malavita EST bindings.
Currently I am: Cold chillin’ in the cut.
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Keith: Born and bred in the Midwest, I’ve been working with MODA3 – the only dedicated snowboard shop in the Milwaukee area since we opened in 2004. We have both brick and mortar shops and an online store. I’ve got a degree from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. My interests outside of snowboarding include Formula 1, and living the life of someone who grew up in the best drinking city on the face of the planet.
Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Keith: Not to be cliché, but snowboarding is my life. When I was 12 years old, I took my birthday money and saved up for a used Morrow Free Pro 164 (To this day, the biggest board I’ve ever owned) and my friends took me up to the top of our local ski hill, Sunburst and told me to meet them at the bottom. Since then, my life has been more or less shaped by snowboarding – the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen have all been touched in some way by snowboarding.
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Keith: I got a job at a shop as a second, part time job while I was in college. One of my friends was bailing on the gig to shred full time out west and talked his boss into hiring me on in the interim. At that job, I met all of the guys that I work with now at MODA3. The previous shop had some strange things going on with the ownership, so over the course of a few months, we all either quit or got fired, lined up a backer and started this place up. Six years later, its been a hell of a ride and we’ve all learned so much in the process – not just about snowboarding and the snowboard industry, but about what to do and not to do to run a successful business.
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Keith: My decade and a half of snowboarding experience has its obvious benefits – knowing quite a bit about snowboards, snowboarding, resorts, travels and history all help me out on a daily basis.
As far as work experience, I’ve got a strong background in retail, both large and small volume stores within and outside of snowboarding which gives me a strong feel for a lot of the processes and procedures that make companies successful. I have a degree in communication – with an emphasis on conflict resolution – which helps out in a number of different aspects of my job.
Shay: Tell us about your role at MODA3 and a description of the work you do?
Keith: As with any small business (we’re definitely small, 8 employees), we all wear a number of different hats around here.
If you’ve ever received any of our email newsletters, there’s about a 99% chance that I wrote it. I’ve been handling all of our email marketing for the past five and a half years. This part of my job is both a gift and a curse as I enjoy the freedom to get creative and I really love writing – when the proverbial juices are flowing. When the juices aren’t flowing, however it becomes a bit more of a chore. I also write quite a bit for the shop’s blog when I can find the time which is really rewarding because you can stray off topic a bit more in that. I also set up and sort of oversee our company’s twitter and Facebook accounts, though our staff does a really good job updating those and our blog with fresh content on their own.
I handle a number of the back end functions on our web store – posting product, designing buttons and banners, managing our google merchant center and analytics and even jumping in to pull product and answer phones when they get busy. I’m always looking for ways that we can try to make our customers’ experience with our web site as much like their experience would be in store as possible. Because we’re a small company, we’re a lot more maneuverable and we can give each and every person an amazing experience when they order from us. They can rest assured that we not only sell the product, but we use it and we live it – from the guy who receives product when it comes in the door to the guy who boxes it and ships it to you.
I spend a fair amount of time on the sales floor, especially in the winter. This allows me to help our sales guys out and at the same time, keep a finger on the pulse of the product – see what’s moving and what’s not moving, what people are looking for that we don’t have.I also spend a fair amount of time dealing with sales and sell through reports. We keep tabs on snow product throughout the season so that we can identify potentially problematic product and get creative with our sales reps and their sales managers to get it moving before it becomes dead stock that we’ll have to sell at a huge discount. This in-person feedback and reporting help out in another one of my roles as hardgoods buyer. Each year, we have to crunch the numbers and forecast almost a year ahead of time what will and won’t sell, based on our history.
One of my other responsibilities is handling our brick and mortar shop’s loyalty rewards program. We used to send out paper birthday cards to everyone in the program but I digitized it entirely this past month and its run through our email provider. I’m also responsible for making sure the people who have earned rewards certificates get theirs in the mail in a timely manner. Again, reporting comes into play quite a bit here as we track all of this information to make sure the program is working for both us and our customers.
Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
Keith: This is kind of a tough question as each day is different. Every week I compile a to do list for the week. I then plan on getting roughly half of it done, as oftentimes other projects will pop up or there will be fires that need to be put out. Depending on the time of the year, the items that end up on that list will be different. There’s always a few contstants though – at the beginning of the month, I have to get our accountant four or five different sales and inventory reports so he can keep our books, every Thursday, I prepare our weekly email newsletter that goes out on Fridays and on the first and fifteenth of every month in the winter, I run and sort through our sell through reports.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Keith: There’s so many.
I’ve gone to Thirty Two’s retailer Bootcamp a couple times which always produces some fond – if hazy – memories. This year it was bringing a huge chunk of ice into a pretty fancy restaurant in Big Sky to make into a shot luge – even the manager of the restaurant got in on it. Afterwards, we stole the head off of an ice sculpture bear to make a more portable luge. Another year, we were in the PF Changes in downtown SLC and someone ended up mounting the giant fake horse right next to the bar.
I also worked in the Burton demo tent last year at the US Open, that was a really cool experience. Reto Lamm came through and demoed a board. Jake made an appearance in the tent too, that was cool.
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?
Keith: From my perspective, one of the biggest challenges I see is that small, independent snowboard shops are being forced into obsolescence by big box stores that only see snowboarding as another column on a spreadsheet. I’ve dealt with a number of consumers who buy boards from Sports Authority or an analog of it and come out with the completely wrong setup for them. Not only does this hurt us as an independent retailer because of the lost revenue from the sale but it could sour the person on snowboarding as a whole – which means that we’ve lost the chance to help them out in the future, resorts have lost out on the potential revenue.
We’re the guys who will take the time to get someone set up right – to have the most fun possible on the hill. We’ll be there for them when a ratchet breaks, we’ll be there when they need a base grind, we’ll give them honest advice that comes from years of experience.
There already is a lot of change underfoot. I’ve seen a lot of companies step up and enforce their dealer agreements on retailers that don’t abide by pricing guidelines – which helps us stay competitive in a discount oriented marketplace. I’m also seeing brands become more focused on growing their business with the same retailers rather than expand their distribution to the point its super-diluted.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Keith: I think you need a combination of both. Your experience gives you a good basis to work from and will certainly help you establish a lot more credibility than someone coming from a bowling background. Having an education will help you stay competitive because a lot of companies look outside of the industry when hiring and don’t always look for the most endemic job candidate.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Keith: Don’t think that just because you don’t have to wear a suit to work you can slack off. This industry is a lot of fun, but some of the hardest working and smartest people I’ve met work in this industry and their passion for what they do is unrivalled. Again, not to sound cliché, but the phrase ‘work hard play hard’ applies here.
Find out more at: