“The times, they are changing.”  Maybe at no time ever in history has this been more true. The evolution of consumer buying patterns and the new found boundless technology found in our mobile devices has turned the world on its ear. From pizza to medicinal marijuana, it’s all there at a click and delivered in a click. But it's not just consumer buying that has been impacted, it's practically every aspect of our life. Do you use printed instructions or do you use YouTube?...gotta ‘nest’ at home?…is Siri finding what you need?…is Uber at your door?…Amazon Prime? OMG!

Change is impacting sport as well. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, nutrition, or living too close to San Onofre, but a fairly large percent of the kids in the U.S. aren’t physically elite…if you are 12 years old, male and 6’1”, you gotta shot at the NFL or maybe the NBA. If you are 12 years old, male or female and “right sized” for your age, physically elite sports are probably not in your future. Do not move from San Diego to Green Bay, no matter what your Dad thinks. And PS, your MOM absolutely hates the idea of contact sports…who wants their child to risk a head injury that could cripple for life?

Do not underestimate the real power of Moms! In my age group, driving with moderate levels of alcohol was “ok” as long as you did not have an accident or get caught by the police. As drinking escalated, more police did not counter the horrible trend...but MADD stopped the activity cold at the social level. When a majority of Moms decide something, well, I think that's what is gonna happen. NFL take note.

I realize this is a goofy lead in, but as a consequence of social trends, many of us see a great future for soccer. I am one of them and I believe the MLS/SoccerCity SD proposal as positive for the City and County of San Diego. Soccer is an aspirational GLOBAL sport for boys and girls. We have about 100 leagues and 3,000 teams in San Diego County alone. That’s arguably more to 50,000 local athletes touched by soccer each year. If San Diego is the home of healthy living I cannot think of a much better activity for our kids. Are there details? Of course. Are there good local San Diegans behind the effort? Yes. Is SoccerCity SD for profit? Yes. Is it 100% privately funded? Yes.

Good enough for me...good for the City and County…good enough for our kids…let’s make it happen!


See the full March SDSI Newsletter HERE

MLS in San Diego? Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished!

Of course we want an MLS franchise! In spite of the many objections on the project that Mike Stone’s group has proposed, we are:
A:  for all things that enhance healthy living in San Diego
B: for all high minded business opportunities in our sport space

Seems to me that about covers it.

Are there details? Yes, of course. For instance a group of San Diego’s community leaders have decided to try to do something really good for San Diego, all of San Diego, namely take our very ugly, no longer useful gigantic parking lot called Q Comm, and turn into high density housing, park land, space for S.D. State to add student housing and an athletic facility for a co share with an MLS team… to the benefit of all…except competing developers who don’t like the idea that another team of Community leaders and investors have taken the hardest step, the first one!

Oh, all this at the public cost of zero.

Of course there is push back. After all, San Diego is comprised on San Diegans. Everyone needs a voice…but with the voice comes the responsibility to provide constructive criticism so that we can actually make something happen. Tilting at windmills with statements like “we can do better” or “lets not rush to action” all fall into the “delay and pray” category.

I guess “praying” is a strategy but not a very effective business strategy. Look, we are a world class city. A small minded, self serving, PR catastrophe of epic dimensions, our NFL owner, elected to leave town. This hurts me, but honestly the NFL is really on the slide. Mothers are opposed to football... who wants their child to be exposed to brain injuries in a physically elite, brutal sport?  The antidote to football …”football,” known as soccer here. Soccer is an aspirational sport, safer by far, embraced by boy and girl athletes at every level. Its GLOBAL, its big here, and we need it as a badge of our dedication to our life style.

But it cannot succeed in a vacuum. The MLS franchise in Carson has low support because it is in the middle of an industrial area... no hotels, no restaurants or bars, no reason to be there.

The opposite is true in Seattle and Portland…those franchises are robust and healthy because they are where the action is.  I can easily see Mission Valley and the Q-site easily becoming a hub of life and with it all the benefits of a growing and active community.

There is a time frame and some constraints. We are moving along a time frame imposed by the MLS expansion calendar. Its easy to imagine that the timeline is imposed by the developers…”if we hurry up and rush this through, we can put one over on San Diego”…really?

So my belief is that's it time for our community elected officials to step up and throw their support behind the total effort to bring MLS San Diego. Lets make the deadline, get the signatures, get started, and enhance the effort as we move forward. “Pray and Delay” will just put QComm into the perpetual motion machine, where no one wins, in fact all San Diegans lose!

What's up in the SDSI 'hood?

Too much! The pulse of our business cycle seems to be associated with the school calendar. Summers are nice and low key. Fall is much busier… Spring…craazzy!

Last week we had one of our four annual Leadership Dinners at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa. This one, sponsored by long time SDSI supporter Procopio, featured David Wells, Yankee perfect game pitcher. What an extraordinary night. David related some MLB memories and shared the amazing story of growing up a “gym rat” in OB. As you can imagine there were plenty of questions related to playing in the Majors, throwing one of only 21 perfect games, playing for Sparky Anderson (his favorite) and Joe Torre (his least favorite). I think it would be fair to say all were transfixed, including guests Mayor Faulconer, Bill Walton, Peter Ripa from the Farmers Insurance Open and other assorted San Diego VIP’s. We all went home with an autographed ball…under my pillow at home! These Leadership events are a rare chance for SDSI to bring forward our value to the Business Community. Many thanks to Procopio for making this happen.

OK, trivia “bar winner” question from David Wells: What is the only high school in America to produce two Perfect Game Pitchers? …Point Loma High! Please send 10% of all trivia bet wins to us asap!

MLS coming to town?...There’s too much to detail here, so let me be lazy and add a link with the latest on these efforts. But there’s no doubt about our position: 100% FOR. Let’s be honest… head injuries in football are a huge concern for all players. The NFL is working on solutions but there is no way back for those who have suffered traumatic head injuries, unfortunately. But from a U.S. societal point of view, I believe it’s fair to say that more and more parents prefer their children find an alternative sport, and in most places, that is Soccer. It’s not perfect either. Headers remain a challenge, but in general it is safer and far more inclusive - little boys and girls to adults. Having a MLS franchise will be a bellwether for youth soccer here in the county and a great rallying point. Hopefully SDSU will soon see the value and get emotionally on board. It’s been a while since a group of San Diegans have stepped up and made a proposal so fantastically good for San Diego. Two SDSI members, Surf Cup and soccerloco are very active and enthused…us too!

Omni Channel CEO Conference…SDSI members wrestle with the conundrum of modern business every day. The advent of social media and wireless communication has shifted the epicenter of purchasing from the hands of the industry into the hands of the consumer. Balancing selling efforts and protecting branding across all channels is a tall order. SDSI, through Red Door Interactive, Quiverr and Wells Fargo Capital Finance, is presenting a forum next week featuring L2 Digital Partners and guest speaker David Kahan, CEO of Birkenstock. The topic…Omni Channel Strategy of course. This event is “sold out” but I will make a decent report for the next newsletter.

View the whole SDSI Newsletter for Feb 23, 2017 HERE

"2017," can that be true???

Well, it seems like lots of crazy things are happening, so why not? There is no alternative fact: 2017 is here!! Hard to believe but this is the beginning of SDSI’s 9th year of supporting entrepreneurship in the Sport and Active Lifestyle (SAL) space. In fact, SDSI used to be ASI, Action Sport Innovators, but it was too limiting, hence SD Sport Innovators and our SAL acronym. And of course, with the expansion of our name, came the growth to include what are basically companies active in the "San Diego Lifestyle". We have grown in membership to nearly 100 companies. So, Happy New Year!


Ever try to start a business? I think there is universal agreement among Founders that starting one business is about the hardest thing an individual can attempt. SDSI’ Springboard program has helped jump-start 61 companies…think of what that number means in terms of dreams, jobs and the benefit to San Diego. Think of it in terms of mentorship hours given freely…over 7,000 hours since 2009…approximately 3.5 working years of free guidance, advice and encouragement! It’s an amazing number, all courtesy of a group of amazing San Diegans who give so willingly of their time and expertise. Let’s start 2017 with a BIG Thank You to them, our Springboard Mentors!

The SDSI Springboard Class 9 Application period is now open. We will have approximately 10 slots available. Typically, we receive at least twice as many applicants. If you have a company that can benefit from the SDSI Springboard curriculum, by all means contact Renne and get the process going now.

Our 2017 calendar of events is extensive. Special thanks to K2 Insurance Services for the title sponsorship of Springboard 2017, to Voit Real Estate Services for sponsorship of the Founder’s Skill Set Series and Procopio for their continuing support of our Community Leadership Dinners.

Read the rest of this month's newsletter HERE

San Diego Sport/Cycling Showcase Spotlights Local Brands in Expo and Fashion Show with Local Professional Cycling Teams

SAN DIEGO — January 15, 2017 — The San Diego Sport Innovators (SDSI) and Padres Pedal the Cause have teamed up to spotlight the breadth and diversity of the local bicycling industry by hosting the second annual San Diego Sport/Cycling Showcase on Saturday, February 4th at 350 10th Avenue, San Diego.

San Diego cycling and sport brands participating in the Showcase include an exclusive group of brands and partners: 2XU sportswear, SAGE Titanium Bicycles, Lumos Helmets, San Diego Mountain Biking Association, Cuba Bike Travel, Belgian Waffle Ride 2017, GQ-6 nutrition, Assos clothier, SDSI, Padres Pedal the Cause, to name a few. The highlight of the Showcase will be a Fashion Show featuring the newest men’s race clothing by team Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis, and women’s styles worn by Skyflash Racing.

Announcements will be made about the 2017 Amgen Tour of California, as well.

This is the second time the sport community has come together for a cycling brand showcase, or localized Interbike, into the local culture in support of the active living/healthy lifestyles. This event will introduce the top cyclist riding for Team Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis and Skyflash, both based in San Diego County; their team clothing, gear, bicycles, sponsors, and provide interviews. “I am excited to support all local companies that support cycling here in San Diego - our home base for 18+ years of competition. Being a part of the 2nd annual San Diego Sport/Cycling Showcase is a first for the Jelly Belly P/B Maxxis cycling team and which we plan to participate in for many years to come,” Danny Van Haute, team manager

“We are excited to host this event for the second year reaching worldwide audiences, online viewers, sports fans and followers of professional cycling. And providing an experience for sport and active lifestyle communities that is unique to San Diego spotlighting the economic impact local professional teams, sport industry manufacturers and causes make on every day lives,” said organizer Ed Clancy, chairman of the Amgen Tour of California San Diego Organizing Committee.

About SDSI

SD Sport Innovators (SDSI) is a non-profit, business accelerator that connects and drives the growth of Southern California's vibrant sports economy by offering elite level networking, and innovative programs and services for start-ups, mature companies and service providers. For more information, visit

About Padres Pedal the Cause

Padres Pedal the Cause is an annual cycling fundraising event with the mission of creating a world without cancer.

The San Diego Padres and Pedal the Cause have joined forces! The two organizations, which first partnered in 2015 and raised $1.3 million for cancer research centers here in San Diego, have partnered to make an even larger impact and pave the way for a cure. For more information, visit

About Amgen Tour of California — San Diego

2017 San Diego Tour of California Local Organizing Committee (SDTOCLOC) is the lead organizer for unify vast interests from the San Diego cycling culture to promote active living locally while integrating itself within the largest professional cycling race in north america – a designated world tour.

The SDTOCLOC includes a vast coalition of San Diego County business owners, stakeholders, politicians, developers, organizational and community leaders to promote our region as the premier host for world class events. For more information, visit 

Springboard Outreach - YOU can help!

Happy New Year! We are back here at the office and 2017 is looking very good with some exciting announcements coming out of SDSI.  K2 Insurance Services has stepped up as our Lead Sponsor for SDSI Springboard 2017!  A Big Thanks to Pat Kilkenny and his belief in the positive good Springboard brings to the entrepreneurial community in Southern California. 

“I think it’s fantastic that SDSI puts this amount of effort into helping San Diegans create successful businesses,” said Pat Kilkenny CEO & Chairman of K2 Insurance Services. “It’s an organic part of K2 so we are happy to support SDSI”.

We know you are already believers but, as a reminder SDSI Springboard is a really good thing! This program helps 10-15 companies each year become better positioned for success and our mentor community collectively donate more than 2,000 of hours of their time and expertise to make this program possible this year.  And all this essentially for no cost to the participants, only the price of a General Membership to SDSI.  

Here is how you can help: Help us spread the word about the application period which is now open through February 13. Please post the pre-written posts below. Attached is a graphic ready to be included with your posts.  Or you can share/tweet the SDSI posts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

We are also always in need of good mentors.  If you know any experienced Entrepreneurs that could make impact on a growing business, please refer them to Renne.


Social Media Posts

89% of #SDSISpringboard Grads R Still in Biz. Do u have what it takes? Increase ur biz's chanc for success Apply now

89% of #SDSISpringboard Graduates Are Still in Business! Do you have what it takes? Apply to Southern California’s only SAL Business Accelerator to increase your business’s chances for success.

Think about this…9 in 10 companies fail. SDSI Springboard Sports and Active Lifestyle Business Accelerator Now Accepting Applications! Put your business on a path for long term success. Our graduates have an 89% success rate.  Learn more, apply today Or tag an entrepreneur. 

SDSI's 100th Member!!!

Solana Beach’s San Diego Sport Innovators (SDSI), the nonprofit business development organization dedicated to the Sport and Active Lifestyle (SAL) Industry, announced today they have signed their 100th member, Surf Cup Sports.

“It's a big day for us for two reasons,” noted Bob Rief, Executive Director, SDSI. “Reaching 100 members is really a threshold for SDSI. Our focus is on the SAL community, basically the companies whose products or services constitute the San Diego lifestyle. Bringing together 100 of these companies to promote San Diego and our business category is really fantastic.”

Surf Cup Sports is a significant business generator for San Diego, bringing $139 million in associated revenue annually. Their facilities in Del Mar and Oceanside collectively provide 44 fields of play for the community. Over 200,000 athletes compete on their fields each year. More than 2,000 college coaches attend Surf Cup Sports events to recruit players, resulting in millions of dollars in scholarship awards.

“Secondly, my guess is there is not a more well-known name in North American youth soccer,” continues Rief. “To share our 100th member celebration with Surf Cup Sports is especially rewarding and really a perfect fit for SDSI.”

"As one of the top sporting event organizers in the country with deep roots here in San Diego we are excited to join SDSI to participate in the collaborating and networking opportunities provided by the organization,” says Mike Connerley, President of Surf Cup Sports. “We want to continue to grow and improve our business as well as support other San Diego sports companies, and we see SDSI as a vital part of that process."

About SDSI

SDSI is a nonprofit business development organization focused on the Sport and Active Lifestyle (SAL) industry. Working with Executive Chairman and NBA great Bill Walton, our 100 company membership represents the “San Diego Lifestyle” and includes leading sports and technology brands, nutrition, yoga, surf, skate, cycling, golf, retail and more, as well as some of San Diego’s bests service companies. We focus on relevant and actionable C-level content that benefits our member companies. SDSI’s award winning SDSI Springboard business accelerator program features a 20-week mentor-led curriculum whose graduates have raised $47.5 million and have an 89% success record. For more information, visit 

About Surf Cup Sports

Surf Cup Sports is one of the most influential and recognized youth sporting event organizers in the nation. Originally formed as a local soccer club for San Diego's best youth soccer players, Surf Cup Sports is now recognized nationally for Surf Soccer Club and globally for Surf Cup, which draws the "best of the best" players from all over the world to compete in "America's Finest City."

Got Jobs?

Maybe it was the full moon or some other phenomenon, but lately I have been in several meetings where the topic of Jobs has come up in a significant way.  In the last 8 years we have been adding about 250,000 jobs per month around the USA. Unemployment is the lowest its been in years. San Diego is particularly successful. Nationwide, things in general are good…for instance, the stock market has risen from 8,000 to 18,200.

Seems like our focus has focus has moved on; in general, things seem good.

Unless of course you are looking for a GOOD job. University grads are taking positions that pay less than their tuition and are racking up big loan debt. Students in the process are worried about their opportunity come Graduation Day.

And as I found out recently, a very large number of members of the military are exiting service every day. More specifically here in San Diego a large number of Navy SEALS are mustering out and transitioning forward into new careers.

I was invited last week to “audit” a session of The Honor Foundation at UCSD. Please Google it for more detailed info, but let me tell you that this is a Not For Profit organization dedicated to making the transition from SEAL life to civilian life as successful as possible.  There were 38 men and women at this particular meeting. They meet twice a week for 27 weeks. The Foundation underwrites the cost…which is substantial, approximately $65,000 per person.

The curriculum is amazing: the premise is preparing for the second half of life.  It is a significant program. I set in on a Life Coaching session. While the attendees are preparing for the second half of their lives, it occurred to me that I better prepare for the last few minutes of the fourth quarter of my life.  The process was equally valuable for young and old.

But the point of this is that WE as an industry do very little to help these amazingly qualified people get into our industry. Trust me all you gnarly surfer types, a basic Navy SEAL has water skills that make us look like, uh, rookies. But that's not their real asset. These people are skilled, focused, team players and highly experienced in all the things it takes to make a very big operation (US government) work. We need their skill sets in our business.

So what are we doing about it? The San Diego Economic Development Corporation as a significant JOBS program. Sea World has a very significant “First Jobs” program with an emphasis on Operating and managing a huge facility like theirs.

And what do we have in our SAL world? Really, nothing cohesive. If you work in a bigger organization, you probably have an HR Director. Did you ever try to get a job through an HR department?  I have a friend who was a senior Executive in a major company. He made a “pro forma” resume up and applied for a job through his own HR department, and then waited for a response. Nothing. He placed a call and a VM, nothing. After a reasonable time he convened the HR Team and laid it out. “people want to work for our Company, probably because they like our mission or product. They get the courage to try to make the first steps. We meet their enthusiasm with indifference. We don’t respond. They try harder and we still do nothing. At the end of the day we have converted someone who likes us and buys our product into someone who really dislikes us and thinks we are fakers or worse. From here on, we will answer every single job seeker without fail. That's the mandate. Please understand what that means for you!”

We small biz guys are not much better. It’s hard to imagine there might be talent beyond our immediate network. But trust me, I met 38 people ready and able to help any company succeed.

So here’s the SAL industry challenge. Let’s do the basics : add a Jobs section to your web site. Treat it seriously. Post all your jobs. Respond to all inquiries and treat candidates seriously.  If you can hire one of the Honor Foundation graduates, all the better.   Make it happen, your company will be the beneficiary!


Cross Border Manufacturing

“ I am sorry sir, there are no upgrades. All aisle seats and window seats from LA to Shanghai are filled. I am sure the middle seat will be ok.”

“Sure I thought, 15 hours wedged in the middle seat will be fine, if you are a sardine.”   

Every time I started off on the China trip, I promised myself I would look into cross border manufacturing. I mean, the Cali-Baja region has a wide spread manufacturing base. And the products are not striped donkeys or piñatas… far from it. Forty thousand people are employed in Medical Device manufacturing in the region. Not to mention Toyota, Samsung (no batteries!), etc. And… big AND…  the region is 15 time zones closer…the aisle seat is right behind my steering wheel. It takes less than 45 minutes from San Diego to Tecate for instance. Over and back, on any mission, in a day.

Finally I decided its time to get informed. We looked around San Diego to see if anyone involved in the Sport or Active lifestyle industry might be willing to share some experiences with us.  When you think about San Diego lifestyles I think about the Beach, maybe beer, and music…that's how we came up with Taylor Guitars.  A call to Taylor was all it took.  Bryan Bear and Victor Villaneuva came to our Board meeting and really gave us all a primer on manufacturing in Cali-Baja. It was an eye opener, to say the least. 

At the end of the presentation they invited us to come to their new Tecate facility to see the execution of a really good plan to expand manufacturing.  Approximately 20 of us took up the offer and made a field trip to the new facility. It was far more than a tour. Taylor’s VP of Product Development, Ed Granero, shared the factory and showed us how it can work.  There’s too much to relate here, but let me say, this was far more than a “tour.” I am not too sure how to describe it…but we saw a state of the art, 110,000 sq ft factory in operation, met many (happy) employees, gained a lot of business insights, made connections with the Business Development staff from Cali-Baja, had a cordial “only in Mexico” lunch and came home with a head crammed full of ideas for our industry.

By the way, 20 people traveled to and from Taylor ‘s factory in less time than 1 person can get to China in that middle seat…just sayin’.

•    Security. My guess is that this is your first reservation. No one can deny some issues in the region. If you are a drug smuggler you may encounter those people, but probably you are not.  Renne, Nick and I are frequent Mexico travellers and never have encountered any problems. Pacific Beach? Much scarier!
•    Border wait: The Tecate foot crossing could not be easier. No wait in, no wait out. Good parking in on the US side. Easy public transit on the Mexico side. 10 minutes to Taylor guitars for instance.
•    Visas: both governments have fast pass programs and visa arrangements to allow easy crossing for citizens of both countries. The Taylor employees are cross trained in both the El Cajon facility and Tecate. They cross easily, daily.
•    Bureaucracy: Not sure we Nortes should be lecturing anyone about this, but yes there is a process. The rules are clear, but complex enough to require careful investigation. See the Contacts list below for expert guidance.
•    Facilities: State of the art Industrial space is readily available.  Space costs are more than Competitive. Facility build out can suit your need.
•    Labor: Adjust your thinking. Did you know there is  2.5% unemployment in Cali-Baja? That Mexico majority population is under 30 years old? Or that they have a fast growing, well educated middle class looking for careers? The blended cost of labor per hour, all industries is competitive with China, running less than $4.00/hour. In our sector, the price will be higher depending on the skills needed for construction.
•    Economic Incentives available? Absolutely!

Some more photos of the day can be found here

Well there is much more. But if you are curious about possibilities of manufacturing in Baja, by all means call us. We can help. But here are the contacts for the people who are really expert in the region:

Barbara Ruelas: Director of Investment and Project Management (Northern Baja). 52 686 558 1137

Carlos Uribe: Business Development. 52 664 211 0707

Adrian Hernandez: Business Development Executive, Tecate EDC. 619 503 7282

Ismael Soto Dominquez, Investment Promoter, Secretariat of Economic Development. 52 665 103 7530


The Power of Knowledge

Caught your attention? Well I want to relate an experience I had in my business life that centers around the knowledge of your range of responsibility and your fiduciary obligations. I decided to change the names to protect the innocent, but the events are close enough to claim it as the “truth.”

Once upon a time, there was a foreign parent company with a wholly owned distribution unit in the USA. As time passed the Distribution unit became significantly larger than the parent. Of course this set in motion all kinds of corporate events, like, “should we buy our parent company,” or the opposite, “no way we would sell to our employees.”  It created drama in the executive suite.

In an attempt to resolve the issue in the favor of the ownership, the Chairperson summoned “us” to the HQ office in Switzerland. The conversation went like this:

Chairperson: “gents I have asked you to my office to present to you my choice for back up CEO in America.”

US CEO: “that’s interesting, but I have no plans for retirement.”

Chair: “Well you cannot work forever. I thought it would be wise to put someone in place who can be slowly trained up by you to take over when you do decide to retire.”

(As an aside, you can imagine? Our internal cerebral wheels were spinning. We want to buy the Company; we surely don’t want a “spy” from the homeland in our offices…the guy is obviously a “Trojan Horse.”  We want to put in place our own succession team. This is a brilliant strategy on their part.. how can we counter?)

A few minutes ensued. It seemed like an eternity.

US CEO: “hmm, let see if I can understand. This person is hired by you, but reports to me.  I will give him appropriate reviews. I do want to ask you to define my responsibilities. I understand that you will want me to make reasonable efforts to train him up, but if those efforts fail it will be my duty to take appropriate action. For instance, if I find your new candidate deficient, I assume that I will have the full authority to terminate the relationship, and that it is my sole responsibility.

Chair: “yes, that's correct. But I have chosen him for his very excellent background and he is a personal friend as well.”

US CEO: “well that is interesting but I am running a business based on talent alone. You understand that he will be judged on merit, not friendship, and that I will be the sole judge of that?”

Chair: ”Yes, of Course.”

Can you guess what ensued..?

US CEO, “Well, please ask Mr X to meet us at our hotel. Lets get the process going right now. It seems like the perfect time.”

So we went over to this charming little Swiss hotel, met the candidate over lunch and started his first review with an intro to his vc and background. After spending an hour in discussion it turned out he had no experience in our field and actually was hired solely as a “friend of the owner.”

US CEO: “well, Mr. X this has been very informative. We could indeed use some additional hands-on executive assistance in the USA, but to the best of my ability I have been unable to extract any information that would lead me to believe that you have any talent you can bring to bear in our business, other than being a friend of the owner and wanting to relocate to the USA.  As a consequence, I have to say that based on your interview today, you are fired from your position. I know this is a shock, but you are not a good fit, and this will save all the consequences that are so obvious if we continue.”

With that Mr X jumped up and returned to the HQ to report and complain. We too jumped up and headed back to the US with no further communication.

Needless to say, this was not the end of the conversation, but it was the end of Mr X and any further back-up CEO Candidates.

It was also a great strategy lesson for. Affirming the chain of command and understanding the limits of your responsibilities is a very good thing to establish in the beginning. A mutual understanding among the Corporate players can help avoid these very types of conflict. And if they happen, having the presence of mind like the US CEO is a great skill!  It's the power of Business knowledge…get some!

Oh, it takes some courage as well!



Mr. Palmer, The Inspiration and SDSI Newsletter September 29, 2016

The passing of Mr. Palmer is a sad time for all who knew him personally, and also for the millions of people worldwide who knew of him or followed his career. His achievements…PGA Tour wins, Majors, IMG, Golf Channel...they are now all well documented across the internet, especially this week.

Like some of the other SDSI members, I too had many chances to be around Mr. Palmer as he was well known. I cannot say that I ever felt comfortable enough to call him “Arnie,” not because he was unapproachable or formal, in fact he was the opposite. No, the more you knew him the more likely you were to call him Mr. Palmer, all based on respect for this enormously successful man.

My most memorable interface was at the 1998 Masters. It was the first Masters that Mr. Palmer missed the cut. That Thursday evening, Joe Moses, our Nike Golf Sports Marketing Specialist, had a random encounter with “Arnie” inside the Club House Members’ Pavilion. After some small talk, Joe told Mr. Palmer that he was here with our Golf execs and Phil Knight. Phil had not met “Arnie” and vice versa. “Arnie” suggested that we drop by his house in Augusta that Friday morning for breakfast, early in fact, so that he could get his jet airborne for the trip back home.

To be honest, we had a pretty amazing evening the night before our breakfast appointment. Phil had invited some notable guests over to our rented house for a lively dinner. Dawn Friday morning came early, really early. The Nike team, Phil included, rallied as best we could, and set off for the Palmer House. Looking a bit disheveled and embarrassed we knocked on the door. Winnie Palmer, perfectly dressed as always, answered the door and greeted us with those wonderful Southern manners. “Oh you must be the Nike guys, come on in. I am going to make you a wonderful breakfast... Arnie will be out in a minute.”  I often wondered what she thought at the sight of us…

Well, the conversation was private and I don’t want to share it, but let me say that Joe, Rod and I saw two giants, two sport legends find common ground and share the immense dose of humanity and charisma they both had. Its no wonder Mr. Palmer was so loved; he was 100% real and interested in people. His concern and attention was evident in his handshake, his memory for names and faces, and the twinkle in his eye he shared with everyone.

Phil, as always, was prepared to meet Arnie. His homework was done. They had a memorable and personal conversation; the rest of us stood on the sidelines, stunned by greatness. 

Thanks Mr. Palmer, you are the MAN!

Bob Rief, SDSI Executive Chairman


Eye of the Founder?

Along the 48 year path of my business life I have noticed that I do not have the eye of the Founder…my strength seems to be operational.  Once I get the vision, from someone who gives the vision, I have often been lucky enough to do something about it.

But I continue to marvel at the remarkable prism that some people have. When confronted with a “vision” they see a product, where the less gifted among us might just see… confusion!

It's a nice Labor Day weekend as I write this, sitting at the Cardiff Reef, early, thinking about the amazing Founders I have been fortunate enough to encounter. What did they see, what did they do about it, how did they know?

In the mid 90’s one day at Merrell in Vermont, we got this call: “this is Jerry Lauren from Ralph Lauren. We would like to come up to Vermont and visit you.”  Of course we thought it was a prank, but it wasn’t . Jerry came to town and said“guys, we think you are doing something really amazing. Your hiking boot program is the most authentic one out there. We think the Outdoor Business is about to explode. We are going to start up Polo Sport, and we would like you to help us. Authenticity is key for us and we know that's you.”  What did Jerry see?  Among their many amazing successes, he saw a younger market focused on functional outdoor wear. Worked out pretty well for Ralph Lauren and not too bad for Merrell, who made “Polo Sport by Merrell!”

Fast forward to Nike. Lets stipulate that Phil Knight has the ultimate entrepreneur’s eye. My assignment at Nike was two fold: make golf part of Nike (you know, old fat white guys riding around in carts is not a sport) and make Nike part of Golf (stodgy Golf was not all that keen on Nike showing up). There was one other secret handshake and that was to make the sport of Golf look like Nike, definitely not the other way around.  But how?  Well it so happens that we went to the US Amateur that year and we saw Tiger win on the 36th hole. Phil looked at me and said “Tiger could be the first $1 Billion dollar single athlete in history.”  How did he know?  The outcome, well one thing is for sure, maybe 2: Nike is IN the golf business, and Golf looks like Nike!

Our San Diego homies have not done that poorly either. How did Santiago and Fernando think of Brazilian bikinis as the signature product for Reef sandals? And how in the world did Jeff Kelley think up a sandal that looked like shoe but was indeed a sandal? Or Wooly and Volcom..I mean did the world need another Surf apparel collection? Apparently it did, and the tie breaker was an amazingly effective sales team.  How about Tony Finn and Liquid Force?  He thought a surf board towed behind a ski boat could be fun. But there wasn’t any such thing, so he invented the sport so he could enjoy it. Now they have a 65% global market share!  The water skiers don’t hate him as much as the day he started, and boat manufacturers love him!!

And Beaver…prAna is just his latest effort…add Life’s a Beach and Spy to the list, both before prAna.  All fun, disruptive, unexpected!

I tried to put some of these experiences into a lesson for myself. What does it take to be that Founder that's makes things go ballistic?

1.      Look for a mature, preferably fat and happy market, and DISRUPT IT. (Liquid Force)
2.      Think about a demonstrably different product that can be the lever to topple all the conventional competitors (sanuk)
3.      Secure all your Intellectual property (every one who succeeds)
4.      Build a Team , each of whom can do their function better than you can do individually (Reef)
5.      Stick to it. The Founder can never ever give up(prAna)

And steal a page from Nike:
·         Innovative , functional product
·         Attach it to a world class athlete
·         Market with surprise, firepower and audacity!


Chew and Chat Recap and SDSI Newlsetter - August 25, 2016

Event Recap- Chew and Chat: Kickstarter case study with RinseKit and how they surpassed their goal by 1,320%
RinseKit set out on Kickstarter with the goal of raising $30,000 and the hopes of raising $100,000 and gaining some brand awareness along the way. To their surprise, they reached their goal in the first 48 hours and closed their 30-day campaign with $396,299 from 2,412 backers. SDSI brought the General Membership to the RinseKit headquarters this morning to learn from Founder, Chris Crawford and CEO, Eric Fagan what they attribute their success to and lessons learned along the way. Below are some key takeaways from Chris and Eric’s presentation. View event photos here.

  • Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Kickstarter may not be the right option for all companies.  Is your goal to raise funds or awareness? An honest evaluation on your company’s goals and a full due diligence on alternative strategies will determine if Kickstarter is the right choice. After determining that Kickstarter was the best route, RinseKit spent two months developing their campaign and was ready to execute the full 30-day campaign before it was activated. Setting yourself up for success is key, make sure your campaign goal is realistic and attainable but also lofty enough to be compelling to supporters. Remember, if you don’t reach your campaign goals you do not receive any of the backing!
  • Successful Kickstarter Campaigns Require Investment. That is Capital and Personnel. Rinsekit recommended $150-1,000/day, in advertising spend alone, to properly promote a successful campaign. And for the full, 30-day campaign, the entire RinseKit team was laser focused on promoting and prioritizing their campaign.
  • Don’t do it alone. You cannot rely on Kickstarter to push people to your campaign. New campaigns are only temporarily featured before they get buried on the Kickstarter site. And as Kickstarter is becoming increasingly more popular, its increasingly more challenging for your campaign to go viral, so you have to bring your own audience. Building a list of key influencers and providing them consistent messaging and content to easily share on their social platforms was critical for RinseKit’s success. RinseKit also interviewed several third party Kickstarter specialists to help them develop, deploy and maintain their full 30-day campaign.
  • Momentum is key. RinseKit largely attributes their viral campaign to a feature on GI Gadgets. Their single GI Gadgets Facebook post received 581,000 views and 5,600 shares. RinseKit’s partnership with a third party Kickstarter specialist to establish this momentum and spending advertising dollars to fuel the momentum, was vital to their success. But a successful campaign is not over in 30 days. Now, nearly 90 days after their campaign is closed, the RinseKit team is still working hard to maintain that positive momentum. As Eric put it “Losing momentum is worse than never having it at all”.

Read the SDSI Monthly Newsletter HERE

Technology Don't Care

Every single day lately I am reminded that there is a technology revolution going on. It’s obvious, it’s really easy to see, and equally easy to ignore. As our habits change we evolve, but we may not be seeing this change for what it is: truly revolutionary!

I am sure my parents did not expect to see biplanes of the 20’s become Boeing masterpieces… or expect to see man on the moon, or discover their camera had become their telephone, or that big old V8 replaced by an electric motor. But that all happened no matter what they thought about technology. It was a technological marvel, but the rotary phone still worked, and life went on, all good. Now technology does matter, and life is not going on as usual.

This technology “thing” is all around us. We are accepting to a degree the new gadgets, and we modify our behavior accordingly and get on with life, right?

But the thing is, most of us and most of our businesses are just catching the tail end of change, and this strikes me as very dangerous. What is really happening is indeed revolutionary, and it all centers on how we take in communication. If you are 30 years old and have a young child, be assured he or she will never own a laptop and will never operate a home computer. If you have millennial children this will be no surprise, as they are almost all the way there now.  Mobile devices are deeply infused in life today and are altering the behavioral patterns for all of us.

But its more than “mobile devices,” per se, that we need to think about. Taking communication in a new way has liberated us from many of the old necessities. If you are in a two income family, time compression is an issue. Its human nature to take the path of least resistance…the consequence has been a totally new buying pattern.  Mall closures are very high… there simply is no extra time to “shop.”  Ditto for sports… golf rounds are down… no time.  TV habits are changed… “record it,” skip the advertising, get the “game” the way you want it, quick, easy… fast… no time to waste. Millennials are clipping the cable…why? Because they don’t want to pay for 150 channels of programming they never see or never want to see.  So times are changing and technology is leading us to new, time efficient ways to create opportunities for more important things in life. Time wasting is out. Largess is out replaced by frugality. And no where is it more evident than in our retail businesses. Business is down in almost all retail sectors at the very same time employment and the stock market are at record highs. It's a WTF moment!

So back to the premise, here “Technology Don’t Care.” That's the bitter truth. You can choose to ignore it…unless you are in business. It's a time of revolutionary change: relying on the anti technology dream that “it will take care of itself” is the proverbial path to a train wreck. 

For instance, what to do about Amazon, how to manage a brick and mortar retail universe, or perhaps a brick and click universe are critical decisions that contemporary Brand Executives and retailers are asking themselves right now. 

Let me challenge you Brand managers to answer these questions:
·               Do you have an Amazon strategy?
·               Do you want to service the brick and mortar retail community?
·         Do you want to service both retail and amazon?
·         Do you run a Branded ecommerce center?
·         Do you have a MAP policy for your retailers?
·         Does your own ecommerce center observe your MAP policy?
·         Does your Branded ecomm center report to the Sales side of the business or is it a Marketing assignment?

And for our retail members, do you know your Brand Partner’s answers to the very same questions?  It might not be a pretty conversation, but the time is coming where none of us can conduct a successful, contemporary, forward thinking business unless we can foresee the technological future, get the basics right and choose the contemporary path.

There is a role for SDSI and that's to create a forum for critical C level discussion of all of these challenges and to dialog about solutions. We try to chip away at this every day… all suggestions appreciated!

It's Back to School… hopefully back to better business!


Summer Windup...

Well, we are all locked in with summer events, warm ocean water and fun times, but the new school session starts in just a week or so, and the Fall Activities are restarting around San Diego. SDSI is no different.

Our Springboard Class Number 8 has been heavily over subscribed. As many know the Springboard metrics are pretty amazing: 89% survival rate, 390 new jobs, 61 graduate Companies who have raised around $47 Million.  Companies wanting access to the program still exceed the Mentor population, so we can only accept 4 or 5 companies per 20 week session. Each Springboard company that is accepted gets a seasoned team of mentors, people who are truly specialists in the space.  Class 8 has a very rich mixture of aspiring brands and we have very high expectations for them. If you are not familiar with Springboard, take a look here on the website. I will say it: Springboard is the best value you will ever find for help in growing a company. Every graduate is guaranteed a world class business plan and a head start in success.

This month our General membership meeting will be at Rinse Kit in Carlsbad, August 25. Eric Fagan will walk us through the pretty amazing ride that RinseKit experienced with Kickstarter.  For every company contemplating a crowd fund capital raise, this is a “must” meeting. RSVP thru Nick.

The Advisory Board meeting will be August 30, at Challenged Athletes Foundation. If you are an Advisory Board member and have not yet been to CAF, that's reason enough to attend! The topic however will be Cross Border Manufacturing, presented and moderated by Taylor Guitars. As many of you know, Mexico is slowly becoming known as the “new China.” Its 15 time zones and 5,000 miles closer than the “old” China, and the Mexican economy is very strong currently. FYI, there are over 40,000 people employed in the Medical device space alone…high tech for sure. In spite of all the uninformed politico talk, Mexico can be a great place to manufacture. I am sure it will be a fascinating day.

That's it. If we can help your business, or if you are aware of a company in the “San Diego Lifestyle” sector who would benefit from an SDSI membership, let us know. We’ll be happy to follow through.


Dynamic Disruption Summit

What do Bill Walton, hookit and Slyde Handboards have in common? In addition to being active SDSI leaders & members, they are just three of the nearly 20 innovative businesses presenting at this year's Dynamic Disruption Summit

Ken Schmitt, Executive Board Member and CEO of TurningPoint Executive Search, is hosting this event again this year at the Del Mar Marriott, and would love to talk to you about how you can get involved and showcase your business as a sponsor. 

I invite you to contact Ken directly with questions and to get more information -