Tuesday, February 27, 2007

And now on to the topic of my J-O-B...

"So...what do you do for a living?"

Just how I answer this question depends largely upon who is doing the asking. If it's coming from a "layperson" (and by that I mean someone who doesn't have any connections to cycling or the outdoors whatsoever), I usually just respond that I work in management within the bicycle industry. The majority of the time, people sort of politely nod their head and respond with some sort of pleasantry like, "That's cool". Responses like that always crack me up because based on the "tone" of the responder's voice, you'd think I told them that I worked in the field of quantum physics. Most people don't understand bicycles from a technical aspect, so they don't have a clue about how to respond or ask questions about what I do. It's sort of this weird I'm-impressed-but-don't-know-a-damn-thing-about-your-field-so-I-just-won't-ask-any-questions kind of vibe which usually results in the topic of conversation being changed to something else.

However, if someone who is a cyclist or other outdoor afficianado asks me about what I do, I'll generally respond with my specific title. The response I get in this case is usually something along the lines of, "Wow! That's really cool. You must have a super fun job. Tell me more about what you do".

Well, by job goes a little something like this. My title is Mountain Bike Brand Manager for Haro Bicycles, and yes, my job really is fun. I've been with Haro for about 6 years now. I started as an Inside Sales Rep, then moved into the role as Marketing Coordinator. Eventually I was promoted to Marketing Manager and then again to Mountain Bike Brand Manager.

In the simplest of descriptions, my job is to build the brand and image of our line of mountain bikes, so it's primarily a function of marketing with a secondary role in product management. Starting with the product itself, I work with a team of Product Managers, Pat Crosby and Wayne Doran, to build a line of bikes from the ground up. As a group, we decide on models, basic spec, and price points we'd like to offer and then I turn the product guys loose to turn a concept into reality. While they are busy deciding between Shimano and SRAM, RockShox or Fox, and all that good stuff that turns a frame into a bike, I begin to select bike colors and direct our graphics department on bike decal artwork.

Once we have gone through the daunting task of getting price quotes, reviewing spec, getting samples, creating sales forecasts, and receiving the finished product into our warehouses, it's time to start selling it. My job as a Brand Manager is to identify and implement a wide variety of tools to accomplish this like:

  • Magazine ads-Right now, we use Bike, Decline, Mountain Bike Action, and MTBR.com as our primary media outlets. I'm in charge of buying all the ad space, negotiating the pricing, managing the deadline, and planning/directing the content of each ad.
  • Dealer sales programs-I don't have a huge hand in this, but I do work with our Sales Director to move slower-moving models, create special sales programs for shop employees, and other special sales programs and incentives.
  • Pro athlete sponsorship-My job in this area is much easier than it used to be. When we used to have a large factory race team, I used to manage a team of about4 or 5 athletes and 2-3 support staffers. Now, we have narrowed our focus down a little bit and I just have two slopestyle guys to manage: Cam Zink and Eric Porter. They are awesome guys.
  • Collateral material (like catalogs)-This is a really fun project for me; generally I write the copy, direct the bike/action shots, and work with our designers to put it all together.
  • Magazine product reviews-This is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. There's nothing I love more than to see our bikes get good reviews in the magazines. I work the editors to get them new product info and help them with any other info they need to write their reviews.
  • PR campaigns-In addition to writing press releases that relate to the MTB side of Haro, I also handle all the corporate PR needs for Haro.
  • New product introductions-Interike, Eurobike, Taipei Bike Show, and our own internal National Sales Meeting are our big new product introduction events. I could devote days of chatter just on this topic. Trade shows are a HUGE undertaking...
  • Demo programs-I have created two different demo program for our bikes. One is a traveling program where we take a trailer full of bikes to various bike events all over the country for people to test ride. The second is our "Demo in a Box" program where we send demo bikes to Haro dealers via UPS for customers to try out. Hey, we wouldn't buy a car without test driving it...why should a bike be any different?
  • Other consumer/dealer educational resources-I've been doing quite a bit of travel to do clinics and product presentations for our dealers and distributors. This is always pretty fun because it gives these folks a chance to ask questions and give us feedback.

Whew! Wow, I just realized I have written a novel here. Sorry 'bout that. But, in a not-such-a-nutshell, that's what I do for Haro. That's the long, and well, long of it. On the nuts and bolts side...I have a BS degree in Marketing (and no, I don't mean THAT kind of B.S. although some may argue with me on that...) as well as an AA degree in Graphic Design (that I do next to nothing with).

By the time it's taken you all to read this ridiculosly long post, you've probably either drank all the beer in your fridge and/or missed your favorite TV show. I know NONE of us read blogs from work, so you haven't lost any productivity there. So, with that said, I'm going to sign off of the blogoshere for now.


Monday, February 26, 2007

How It All Got Started

I have been a die-hard cyclist since 1997. I took up the sport when I moved to Steamboat Springs, CO to take a job managing an art gallery. It seemed like everyone in Steamboat had a mountain bike, so in effort to shed my “new girl from California” image, I bought one and was instantly hooked. The riding in Steamboat is nothing short of amazing, so the actual act of becoming addicted to mountain biking wasn’t all that hard. I liken it to a junkie needing that fix.

When I moved back to California about a year later, I took up cross-country racing after attending the “Women’s Only Weekend” mountain bike skills clinic held annually in Big Bear, CA. I continued to train and hone my skills, eventually finding that my true talents were on the downhill and technical trails sections, so I took up downhill racing. I raced downhill for several years; my “career” highlights include numerous local and NORBA National Series wins and podiums, 2001 #1 ranked Expert female in the USA, 2-time US National Team Member to UCI Master’s World Championships, and I held a pro license in 2002. I have also held top-ten National Age Group BMX rankings in both cruiser and 20”.

Nowadays, I still race occasionally but I much prefer to ride just for the joy of riding. I guess after 8 years of training and racing, my desire to compete is just plain worn out. I enjoy “giving back” to the sport wherever I can; in fact, I have been a volunteer instructor at Big Bear’s Women’s Only Weekend for the past 7 consecutive years.

The past 10 years have been a great ride (no pun intended…OK maybe just a little bit). Through cycling, I have met and had the opportunity to work with some truly amazing folks. Cyclist are just good people. I think some of my life’s highest highs and lowest lows have been in some way, shape, or form connected to this crazy cycling lifestyle that tends to mystify the outside world. Cycling has been a fuel for hobby and fitness, as well as been my source of income for several years. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. The good news is the ride ain’t over yet…I don’t plan to step off this section of trail until the day I step into my grave.

Happy trails, ya’ll.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

I think this is where I say, "Wecome to my blog"...

So there. I said it. I said the words "my" and "blog" together in a sentence. Not so long ago, if someone was to tell me I'd be sitting here starting my own blog, I probably would have rolled my eyes and said, "I don't think so".

Well, here I am. I decided to start this blog for a few different reasons. I've been working in the bike industry for the past 7 years or thereabouts. I'm not exactly an industry "veteran" quite yet, but I've been in the biz long enough to have gathered some great stories and a few (hopefully) interesting insights. When I describe my job as Mountain Bike Brand Manager for Haro Bikes, people are usually pretty fascinated and say something like, "Wow, your job sounds so COOL!". My job IS really cool and it occured to me that maybe a few people would like to hear more about it. If not, well that's what the "back" button is for on the top left-hand corner of your computer screen.

I also realized that my job becomes even more interesting to folks because of the fact that I'm a woman. There's not many of us in this business, let me tell you. We're outnumbered probably 7 to 1. There are even fewer women in the capacity of Brand or Product Managers. Last month when I was in Taiwan visiting some of our vendors, I met with Stella Yu, owner of the one of the largest saddle manufacturers in the world, and arguably one of the most powerful business people in the Taiwan cycling industy. She said, "Jill, other than Sky Yaeger when she used to work for Bianchi, you are the only other woman to come visit my factory as a manager". To be compared second in line to the infamous Sky Yaeger (who is now working for Swobo developing their new line of bikes), is one of the best compliments I'd received in a long time. So given the fact that we ladies of the bike industry are somewhat of a rarity, we've all got some funny stories from a different perspective.

And last but not least, I have to credit my friend and co-worker Tim Jackson aka "Masi Guy" for encouraging me to start a blog. Sure, I'll admit it. I've teased him and poked fun at him and his little blog-o-rama he's got going. So much so that I think at times he's been tempted to slip arsenic into my coffee at work. He has a great following of Masi fans on his blog and has been bugging me to start a Haro blog. OK, this isn't really a Haro blog, but it's going to be good practice for one. That's my next project.

There you have it. I hope my entries are at least somewhat entertaining and maybe even educational. If you don't like my rants and raves, there are plenty of other eccentric blogs and crap out there you can go amuse yourself with.

Ciao for now.