We recently caught up with Mike Walker to learn more about his passion for all things snow and how he went from being a son of a Ski Patroller to become the 2010 Northwest SnowSports Rep of the Year.
Mike’s dad was a Ski Patroller at Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain. This is what launched his passion. He got his start in the industry at the early age of 14, working local ski sales for the LeRoy Kingland Company/Sports Unlimited selling Head Skis, Tyrolia Bindings and Raichle Ski Boots. This is where he learned what was most important in this business; integrity, passion, setting high and realistic expectations, and following it all up with results. At 19 Mike hit the road with just a sample of one sunglass and the rest is history.
Mike formed his group, RecWare Northwest, four years ago with the goal of building the type of Sales Agency he grew up around. They focus on servicing our customers at the highest level possible.
SIA: Why are you in this industry and how did you get started in the industry?
Mike: As I grew up I started as most people do, working for Reps at random sales and events until LeRoy Kingland took a chance and offered me a position in the office of his operation. Shortly thereafter I was hooked and hit the road first selling sunglasses, snowboards, hiking boots, skis; you name it we seemed to sell it. I am in the industry for the same reason I think most of us are, the community of reps and retailers can’t be beat. I have met and fostered relationships with people in this business that will truly last forever.
SIA: What does winning the SIA Rep of the Year award mean to you?
Mike: More than words can express. I have a great deal of pride considering the competition out there. In recent years many reps have had to up their game so I consider the field I am playing in to be the most dedicated since I began selling. Much of my personal life has taken a sideline to make parts of this career work. Getting recognition like this makes me realize that the work and attention I put into this is paying off and hopefully positions me for a long and prosperous career.
SIA: What can retailers, suppliers and reps do to do better business?
Mike: Communicate. In my mind it is that simple. Everyone keeping mind how this business works and produces revenue; financial gains are key to everyone doing better business. Retailers need to take risks and lean on reps to make sure they are making the best decisions, keeping the market stability in mind. Suppliers need to support the risks the retailers take by being ready to supply the retailers needs while also sharing the risk helping make sure dealers are not over burdened by excessive inventory and outdated product. Reps need to support both sides; helping retailers navigate potential downturns in the market, pushing the suppliers to deliver on time and supporting their dealers with good communication even if the message you need to deliver is not ideal. This industry does not operate independent of one another, you need to work together and use your combined strength to overcome the constant obstacles you encounter.
SIA: What are some top sales tips Reps should follow?
Mike: Always respect your colleagues and your customers. Be professional and open minded. Ask for orders and walk away from bad deals. Love what you do and do what you love. Hold yourself accountable and expect the same from your customers and vendors.
SIA: Which retailer, rep, company or individual do you admire the most in the industry and why?
Mike: I would say it has to be a Rep. LeRoy Kingland brought me into this business by taking a chance. He taught me that customers are my life line and that customer service, follow up and attention to the details, will always bring good business for all involved. To this day I have only known of one person that could say that they did not appreciate the job he did and the Rep he was in his 30+ years of service. He offered mutual respect and a humble sense about him that kept others at ease and built their trust in him and his capabilities. These are traits I feel have worn off on me and I am very grateful. He got the most out of this business while in it and enjoys a great retirement because of it. I tip my hat to him with others often.
SIA: Overall feelings about the 2010.11 Season? Lows and highs?
Mike: Overall the season was great. The biggest high seems to be that retailer and consumer confidence has rebounded. We are not out of the woods by any means but I have had more fun in this past season than I have in years with my dealers. It is nice to see dealers taking chances in their product assortments; it shows me that there is motivation to shake things up a little. No lows, it was a fun season.
SIA: What are some of your spring and summer plans? Both professional and personal?
Mike: We are a 12 month business with our bike brands in the Spring and Summer. So, professionally we stay on the road. Personally, I plan on spending as much time with my family Spring Skiing, Mtn Biking, camping and riding our Dirt Bikes.
SIA: What are some of the most rewarding things about being in this industry and working with your brands and retailers?
Mike: In short, the people. Products and brands change, they never seem to be constant. The people are always s there, no matter what store or vendor they are with. The most rewarding situation for me is when I see a small retailer grow up selling some of the brands I represent. It is satisfying knowing that you played a small part in their success and the resulting bond between you and that dealer is priceless.
SIA: What value do you see in SIA and the Show?
Mike: The show is a great stage for product showcasing and getting dealers walking the same halls and sharing ideas. The show is always challenged by timing and placed in the right time frame can be very effective. We all like to widow shop and share ideas and large national shows are a great venue for this. SIA also offers a reminder to all of us how fun of an industry we work in. Over the past 20 years I would say SIA has positioned itself more as a marketing venue than a sales venue.
SIA: Anything else to add?
Mike: Once again, I appreciate the accolades and congratulatory wishes from my friends, family and retailers over the past few months and to SIA for offering such recognition.
Mike currently represents: Giro Snow Goggles and Helmets, Under Armour Mountain Products, Easton Bell Sports Cycling, LOOK Cycle USA and Bamboo Bottle. He currently lives in Woodinville, WA with his wife Joy and his two children, Cameron 7 and Alina 5.