Zigzagging with Osprey’s Founder and Owner Mike Pfotenhauer

January 28th, 2014 by Rich Christiansen

Rich: Good morning everyone! I’m really excited today. I’m at my favorite trade show of the entire year. Of course every high-altitude climber has to say that, but this is Outdoor Retailer. I’m here with Mike Pfotenhauer. Did I say that right?

Mike: Yes, that’s how you say it.

Rich: This is one of my favorite backpack brands and one that I’ve been watching for a long period of time. It’s Osprey. I’m not sure how many of you know Osprey, but Mike is the founder and owner of Osprey. I love this story and so for today’s post I’ve asked Mike to spend a couple of minutes to share with my group, if you would, of how the brand came to be and the transition from Vietnam to Colorado, and just what is happening with the brand now.

Mike:
Sure. Well, our brand is now forty years old, so back in 1974 I started a company back in Santa Cruz, California. I was fresh out of the University of California at Santa Cruz. I didn’t really want to work for anyone else so I started building backpacks. It was mostly bicycle packs and backpacks and customers would come in and I would do a custom fit. They would have to wait about five or six weeks before the product was ready, but they were happy to wait because it was custom made for them. I did that for about ten or twelve years. When I got married and my wife said, “I think you need to move up to the next level” we started wholesaling. We tried to wholesale and build product in Santa Cruz, but everybody wanted to surf so we moved our company to Colorado. In 1990 we moved our company to the Four Corners of Colorado, built our production up pretty quickly there, and we grew to about a hundred employees, mostly Navajo, local people who really knew how to sew well.

Of course at that time we were having to deal with the fact that all our competition had moved offshore. We did everything we could to keep the production in the U.S. but it was a losing battle so we moved production to Vietman. I loved building product. I was a little jealous to see people doing it besides myself so I told my wife, “Let’s move to Vietnam.” She agreed. The family (two kids, my wife, and I) moved to Ho Chi Minh Saigon. We lived there for four years and set up an operation, and introduced our product into the factories there. It was very successful. I think it’s a great model for how to build product because you can be hands-on and transfer your design concepts. I still do all the design with a bit of help from other designers in our company and moving it into production is the key where it can really go wrong. So we’ve got thirty-five people in Vietnam to make sure the final product is dialed and done correctly. I travel there often.

Headquarters still remain in south-west Colorado. I have a design office in the Bay Area of California so I’m traveling back and forth from Vietnam to Colorado and it’s still fun. I still love designing product, watching it being built, making sure it comes out right, and seeing it on the backs of people going all over the world doing all sorts of crazy things.

Rich: That’s awesome. I love that story. Curtis, would you turn around and show off some of this beautiful product for one minute? Wonderful. Alright, here is the closing statement. We’ve been talking a lot the last couple of weeks about the value equation. Intellectual Capital plus Relationship Capital equals Financial Capital. This is the key example of that. Again, smart Intellectual Capital done in a proper way created a very successful business. I’d really like to point out that it’s key when you really start scaling out in the business and you shift your distribution or you shift your manufacturing that’s a real sensitive spot to watch carefully.

I’m so impressed by what you’ve done here. You have a beautiful company and we’re making a deeper commitment to Osprey at this point and look forward to the great things that are to come. Congratulations to you.

Mike: Thank you very much, Good to meet you.

Zigzagging with Osprey’s Founder and Owner Mike Pfotenhauer

January 28th, 2014 by Rich Christiansen

Rich: Good morning everyone! I’m really excited today. I’m at my favorite trade show of the entire year. Of course every high-altitude climber has to say that, but this is Outdoor Retailer. I’m here with Mike Pfotenhauer. Did I say that right?

Mike: Yes, that’s how you say it.

Rich: This is one of my favorite backpack brands and one that I’ve been watching for a long period of time. It’s Osprey. I’m not sure how many of you know Osprey, but Mike is the founder and owner of Osprey. I love this story and so for today’s post I’ve asked Mike to spend a couple of minutes to share with my group, if you would, of how the brand came to be and the transition from Vietnam to Colorado, and just what is happening with the brand now.

Mike:
Sure. Well, our brand is now forty years old, so back in 1974 I started a company back in Santa Cruz, California. I was fresh out of the University of California at Santa Cruz. I didn’t really want to work for anyone else so I started building backpacks. It was mostly bicycle packs and backpacks and customers would come in and I would do a custom fit. They would have to wait about five or six weeks before the product was ready, but they were happy to wait because it was custom made for them. I did that for about ten or twelve years. When I got married and my wife said, “I think you need to move up to the next level” we started wholesaling. We tried to wholesale and build product in Santa Cruz, but everybody wanted to surf so we moved our company to Colorado. In 1990 we moved our company to the Four Corners of Colorado, built our production up pretty quickly there, and we grew to about a hundred employees, mostly Navajo, local people who really knew how to sew well.

Of course at that time we were having to deal with the fact that all our competition had moved offshore. We did everything we could to keep the production in the U.S. but it was a losing battle so we moved production to Vietman. I loved building product. I was a little jealous to see people doing it besides myself so I told my wife, “Let’s move to Vietnam.” She agreed. The family (two kids, my wife, and I) moved to Ho Chi Minh Saigon. We lived there for four years and set up an operation, and introduced our product into the factories there. It was very successful. I think it’s a great model for how to build product because you can be hands-on and transfer your design concepts. I still do all the design with a bit of help from other designers in our company and moving it into production is the key where it can really go wrong. So we’ve got thirty-five people in Vietnam to make sure the final product is dialed and done correctly. I travel there often.

Headquarters still remain in south-west Colorado. I have a design office in the Bay Area of California so I’m traveling back and forth from Vietnam to Colorado and it’s still fun. I still love designing product, watching it being built, making sure it comes out right, and seeing it on the backs of people going all over the world doing all sorts of crazy things.

Rich: That’s awesome. I love that story. Curtis, would you turn around and show off some of this beautiful product for one minute? Wonderful. Alright, here is the closing statement. We’ve been talking a lot the last couple of weeks about the value equation. Intellectual Capital plus Relationship Capital equals Financial Capital. This is the key example of that. Again, smart Intellectual Capital done in a proper way created a very successful business. I’d really like to point out that it’s key when you really start scaling out in the business and you shift your distribution or you shift your manufacturing that’s a real sensitive spot to watch carefully.

I’m so impressed by what you’ve done here. You have a beautiful company and we’re making a deeper commitment to Osprey at this point and look forward to the great things that are to come. Congratulations to you.

Mike: Thank you very much, Good to meet you.

Five Goal-Setting Secrets from Las Cabos

January 21st, 2014 by Rich Christiansen

Today I give you my favorite post of the entire year! It’s so chill and I’m doing what is probably the single most productive activity for the entire year when it comes to having a successful business.
My notepad, as you can see, is here on the sand. I am in sunny Los Cabos. If you’ll look back around here you’ll see we’re at the Westin Resort and here we come all the way back around to me. Every morning and every night we walk this beach. It’s about three and a half miles round-trip and if we’re lucky we see maybe five or six people. Every morning I get up and have a massage and on top of that I’ve eaten the most delicious tacos in the entire world.

So what does this have to do with business? Well, this is one of the most important events in my life for the year. Entrepreneurs live the most intense, crazy, and brain-dead life that is possible to live. Today I have five really important tips for you about decompressing. Stephen Covey talks about unstringing the bow and getting into Quadrant Two and I tell you it’s the reason I’m going to flourish.
Ok, there’s my note board in the sand, and look at that beautiful ocean and the surf! It’s unbelievable. I feel like I could take on an army right now.

Number One: You getaway must be longer than one or two days. Schedule five days, preferably twice a year, but if you can’t do it twice make sure you schedule at least one getaway a year. Taking five days is very important. You’re still really wound up at the end of two or three days and it takes until the fourth or fifth day that you get to calm down. Point number one is that it has got to be five days.

Number Two: Back to my board here, the second one is calm. Go someplace that is calm. Don’t go to New York City and don’t go to the heart of Singapore. Go somewhere that’s naturally calm where your soul can decompress and you can chill. Alright, what’s my next one?

Number Three: Unplug. Disconnect your cell phone and your Internet and take time where you’re not jittery or have to check in every five minutes.

Number Four: Dream. Go to a place that is calm and that you can let yourself go and just dream of what to be and what is possible. It is amazing how in those calm, dream-filled moments the real clarity comes and you see what is possible.

Number Five: This last one is actually really counter-intuitive and it is this: Inevitably through your vacation you will have some moments of “Ahh! Anxiety!” Or “Oh! What about my work?” Allocate yourself some time and say, “For the next ten minutes acknowledge that I am stressed about that contract not coming through or that vendor not getting paid.” Ok, ready, set, go and go as deep as you can on that for five minutes and for that time you’re going to give your worries an audience and after those five or ten minutes I’m going to toss it in the ocean just like a seashell and just let it go.

So if and when you have any anxiety or stress moments acknowledge it, sit with it, live with it, give it an audience, and that will keep the bogey in the back closet.
Again, I encourage everyone to find your own Los Cabos. My favorite place is this little remote beach here with San Juan on one side and Los Cabos on the other with highly delicious tacos and lots of calm. Find your calm place, find your peaceful place, and go there. I promise you that your productivity and your effectiveness in your business will exponentially go through the roof.

Happy Zigzagging to everyone!

Five Goal-Setting Secrets from Las Cabos

January 21st, 2014 by Rich Christiansen

Today I give you my favorite post of the entire year! It’s so chill and I’m doing what is probably the single most productive activity for the entire year when it comes to having a successful business.
My notepad, as you can see, is here on the sand. I am in sunny Los Cabos. If you’ll look back around here you’ll see we’re at the Westin Resort and here we come all the way back around to me. Every morning and every night we walk this beach. It’s about three and a half miles round-trip and if we’re lucky we see maybe five or six people. Every morning I get up and have a massage and on top of that I’ve eaten the most delicious tacos in the entire world.

So what does this have to do with business? Well, this is one of the most important events in my life for the year. Entrepreneurs live the most intense, crazy, and brain-dead life that is possible to live. Today I have five really important tips for you about decompressing. Stephen Covey talks about unstringing the bow and getting into Quadrant Two and I tell you it’s the reason I’m going to flourish.
Ok, there’s my note board in the sand, and look at that beautiful ocean and the surf! It’s unbelievable. I feel like I could take on an army right now.

Number One: You getaway must be longer than one or two days. Schedule five days, preferably twice a year, but if you can’t do it twice make sure you schedule at least one getaway a year. Taking five days is very important. You’re still really wound up at the end of two or three days and it takes until the fourth or fifth day that you get to calm down. Point number one is that it has got to be five days.

Number Two: Back to my board here, the second one is calm. Go someplace that is calm. Don’t go to New York City and don’t go to the heart of Singapore. Go somewhere that’s naturally calm where your soul can decompress and you can chill. Alright, what’s my next one?

Number Three: Unplug. Disconnect your cell phone and your Internet and take time where you’re not jittery or have to check in every five minutes.

Number Four: Dream. Go to a place that is calm and that you can let yourself go and just dream of what to be and what is possible. It is amazing how in those calm, dream-filled moments the real clarity comes and you see what is possible.

Number Five: This last one is actually really counter-intuitive and it is this: Inevitably through your vacation you will have some moments of “Ahh! Anxiety!” Or “Oh! What about my work?” Allocate yourself some time and say, “For the next ten minutes acknowledge that I am stressed about that contract not coming through or that vendor not getting paid.” Ok, ready, set, go and go as deep as you can on that for five minutes and for that time you’re going to give your worries an audience and after those five or ten minutes I’m going to toss it in the ocean just like a seashell and just let it go.

So if and when you have any anxiety or stress moments acknowledge it, sit with it, live with it, give it an audience, and that will keep the bogey in the back closet.
Again, I encourage everyone to find your own Los Cabos. My favorite place is this little remote beach here with San Juan on one side and Los Cabos on the other with highly delicious tacos and lots of calm. Find your calm place, find your peaceful place, and go there. I promise you that your productivity and your effectiveness in your business will exponentially go through the roof.

Happy Zigzagging to everyone!

Unsticking a Sticky Wicket

January 14th, 2014 by Rich Christiansen

Each January when my family takes down our Christmas decorations my boys, without fail, will take all of the cords and connectors and toss them into one big bin. This of course leads to a tangled mess which inevitably creates a dilemma the following November for the one in charge of untangling the electric cords. What we’ve discovered is that if you yank on the cord you only further compound and complicate your problem. What it takes to untangle the cords is to carefully jiggle, wiggle, and follow each cord one by one all the way through the knot.

This past week I had a particularly nasty knot brought to me at Froghair. It was an incredibly complex problem where multiple mistakes had been made, multiple individuals were involved, and no proper documentation had been done on either side. What was occurring here was everyone was running around yanking on the ‘electric cords’, which made the knots even worse. I was able to sit down with our entire team and outline a solution using a process I have used whenever I need to unstick a sticky wicket. Let me share this with you in the hope that it can also help you grow your business.

1. Write down the names of all the decision makers and those involved with the problem. And I mean everyone from the very top of the corporate ladder to the bottom. Next you’ll need to identify what department they work in and where they fall on the corporate ladder. Too frequently I’ve seen a CEO insert him or herself into a conversation with the other side’s shipping manager or the Sales Vice President reach out to communicate with the Finance Coordinator. Match equal to equal on communication and make sure you follow the levels of structure. Find out who are the players on your side and who are the players on the other side.

2. Categorize the problems. List all the problems, including pre, current, and post problems. I like putting them down the left side of the whiteboard. Next list the cause of the error in the middle of the board. For example you could list what caused the error or what happened because of the problem.

3. Identify each problem’s level of seriousness and urgency. Which are the biggest knots in the cord causing this big tangle? Focus on the great big, hairy problems and make sure you take all the motion out of it before you tackle the smaller ones. Too frequently businesses reach out to a vendor or customer about one problem and then bring out all the problems on the list at once. Pretty soon it’s so tangled up that you completely ignore or miss the key one to solve. The trick to solving the big ones is to focus on it and only it and go through the proper channels. Avoid blending all the problems together. Pull them apart and separate them.

As I sat down with my team we listed seven or eight problems and found what it really boiled down to was one or two key things. I advised them to let go of the small things while they untangled the one or two big problems. Once the giant knots were untangled the little tangles basically took care of themselves.
If your team follows these simple steps then the 80/20 Rule will come to light. The twenty percent effort will achieve eighty percent of the work and everything will instantly untangle. That’s what happened with our Froghair team this week.

Sticky wickets are more an emotional problem than a logistic or physical problem and once you are able to put a plan of action in place and clearly understand what went wrong and where and who needs information you will then untangle the web one problem at a time. Although I wish you luck I know everyone runs into sticky wickets occasionally. Following these steps will help you unravel them quickly when they occur.

Happy Zigzagging.

Unsticking a Sticky Wicket

January 14th, 2014 by Rich Christiansen

Each January when my family takes down our Christmas decorations my boys, without fail, will take all of the cords and connectors and toss them into one big bin. This of course leads to a tangled mess which inevitably creates a dilemma the following November for the one in charge of untangling the electric cords. What we’ve discovered is that if you yank on the cord you only further compound and complicate your problem. What it takes to untangle the cords is to carefully jiggle, wiggle, and follow each cord one by one all the way through the knot.

This past week I had a particularly nasty knot brought to me at Froghair. It was an incredibly complex problem where multiple mistakes had been made, multiple individuals were involved, and no proper documentation had been done on either side. What was occurring here was everyone was running around yanking on the ‘electric cords’, which made the knots even worse. I was able to sit down with our entire team and outline a solution using a process I have used whenever I need to unstick a sticky wicket. Let me share this with you in the hope that it can also help you grow your business.

1. Write down the names of all the decision makers and those involved with the problem. And I mean everyone from the very top of the corporate ladder to the bottom. Next you’ll need to identify what department they work in and where they fall on the corporate ladder. Too frequently I’ve seen a CEO insert him or herself into a conversation with the other side’s shipping manager or the Sales Vice President reach out to communicate with the Finance Coordinator. Match equal to equal on communication and make sure you follow the levels of structure. Find out who are the players on your side and who are the players on the other side.

2. Categorize the problems. List all the problems, including pre, current, and post problems. I like putting them down the left side of the whiteboard. Next list the cause of the error in the middle of the board. For example you could list what caused the error or what happened because of the problem.

3. Identify each problem’s level of seriousness and urgency. Which are the biggest knots in the cord causing this big tangle? Focus on the great big, hairy problems and make sure you take all the motion out of it before you tackle the smaller ones. Too frequently businesses reach out to a vendor or customer about one problem and then bring out all the problems on the list at once. Pretty soon it’s so tangled up that you completely ignore or miss the key one to solve. The trick to solving the big ones is to focus on it and only it and go through the proper channels. Avoid blending all the problems together. Pull them apart and separate them.

As I sat down with my team we listed seven or eight problems and found what it really boiled down to was one or two key things. I advised them to let go of the small things while they untangled the one or two big problems. Once the giant knots were untangled the little tangles basically took care of themselves.
If your team follows these simple steps then the 80/20 Rule will come to light. The twenty percent effort will achieve eighty percent of the work and everything will instantly untangle. That’s what happened with our Froghair team this week.

Sticky wickets are more an emotional problem than a logistic or physical problem and once you are able to put a plan of action in place and clearly understand what went wrong and where and who needs information you will then untangle the web one problem at a time. Although I wish you luck I know everyone runs into sticky wickets occasionally. Following these steps will help you unravel them quickly when they occur.

Happy Zigzagging.

Resist Change and Die. Adapt to Change and Survive. Create Change and Thrive.

January 7th, 2014 by Rich Christiansen

Over the Christmas holidays I did something that not only shocked myself, but will shock anyone who knows me. For the past eight or nine years we have enforced a strict rule of using only Apple products in many of my companies. PC’s are not allowed in any of my offices. I have largely done this because of efficiency, consistency of platform, and ease of use. As I walked into the AT&T store last week and asked to see the latest iPhone (as I was considering upgrading) the salesperson, knowing me said, “Rich, you’re not really going to like what I’m going to say, but I’ve got to say it anyways. Apple is falling behind.”

Hearing these words just added salt in my wound because the week prior I’d been in BestBuy looking at tablets and in looking at the specifications and usability I realized that not only was the iPad tablet falling behind but it was inferior to the competition.

As the sales rep pulled out his new Moto X phone and began showing me the crazy, unbelievable set of features I had to hang my head and admit that Apple had indeed resisted change. I’m not certain if Steve Job’s death was the cause of it or if Apple had become complacent through the years, but what I realized was this: If you resist change and ignore it all together you die. If you do as Apple has done and rely exclusively on marketing and only react to change you can survive, but in order to actually thrive you have to dramatically and aggressively enact change.

After seeing the differences I am now the proud new owner of a Moto X phone. This phone has built-in characteristics and features I’m not sure Apple has even thought about yet. If I twist my hand from side to side, a camera app pops up. I can actually talk to my phone and give commands and instructions without being anywhere near the phone. The usability and interface is cleaner. The power is far superior, and although there are some user adjustment issue’s making me adapt I have to say the technology is superior as much as it pains my heart to say so. I think that the very thing that brought Apple its success was its non-assuming feature set that allowed users to know it, use it, and love it. Apple falling away from that and resting on their laurels and relying instead on their big marketing niches and campaigns turned to be their demise. Apple is no longer enacting change. I hope they can correct it.

What lesson can we learn from this as business owners? Here are five:
1. Don’t get too comfortable
2. Be Steve Jobs and always demand and enact more change
3. Look for simple ways to add value and delight your customers
4. Always be the change agent, explore your options, and listen to your customers
5. Don’t become a marketing engine resting solely and totally on one brand or you will eventually fall off the map

This was an incredible shift for me to even be able to admit this and a powerful lesson on how technology and business in general can be disrupted and even the most loyal of loyal subjects can be shifted over as more value is presented. Again to quote my mentor, Ray Noorda, “Resist change and die. Adapt to change and survive. Create change and thrive.”