The Brooks Running CEO on battling cancer and purposeful leadership

If you don’t know what’s going to happen, the common wisdom of every fellow CEO I speak to and most private equity people I know and most bankers is to squat down and shut the hatches and stuff about throw board that you don’t have don’t need. Save costs, because it is primarily about survival, and not just about survival, but about protecting profits.

But we didn’t have a trademark to protect. We created a brand, we added new customers. We have been in entrepreneurial mode for 20 years. In April 2020, when everyone was laying people off, my own board said, Jim, you know, you’re probably going to have to lay people off.

But we had the thought that running is comfortable during stressful times. That is cheap. people could walk. So we took a break, and as soon as we saw runners running and digital demand picking up, we rolled back our supply chain, and I think we probably did it at least eight weeks before anyone else. It’s hard to describe how significant that was. We’ve kept our marketing spend flowing. We didn’t lay off one person and we grew 31 percent last year. And this year, without our supply chain issues, we would have been up over 30 percent.

When did you realize Brooks had the potential to compete with big companies like Nike in the running market?

When the Great Recession hit in 2008 and 2009 and the world ended, economically speaking it just destroyed clothing. At that time we made a dismissal. But in February 2009, the shoes started selling.

Nike is one of the greatest brands ever built and it’s about competitive athletic performance and breaking the ribbon on the podium. It’s just so powerful. But we saw running as the most unique sport in the world, and we had this run happy ethos that was unique.

Running is perhaps the original sport from a competitive perspective, with cross country, track and field, the Olympics, road racing, trail running and ultramarathons. But it goes beyond exercise because it’s an investment in yourself. One hundred and fifty million people have running as part of their fitness, health and wellness meditation regimen. It is a tool to invest in yourself. We have thus positioned our brand in the middle of the running lifestyle. We’re doing something no one has done before and creating this unique brand that’s all about running. And it is the largest category of sporting goods. The Brooks Running CEO on battling cancer and purposeful leadership

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