Brooks Running CEO talks about beating cancer and leading with purpose

When you don’t know what’s going to happen, the conventional wisdom of all the CEO peers I talk to and most private equity people I know, and most bankers, is to duck, batten down the hatches and throw stuff overboard. no need. Reduce costs, because it is all about survival, and not just survival, but profit protection.

But we didn’t have a mark that we were protecting. We were creating a brand, we were adding new customers. We have been in entrepreneurial mode for 20 years now. So in April 2020, when everyone is laying people off, my own board was saying, Jim, you know, you’re probably going to have to lay people off.

But we figured that in times of stress, running comes in handy. It is cheap. People could go for a run. So we took a break, and as soon as we saw runners running and digital demand picking up, we got our supply chain going again, and I think we probably did that at least eight weeks before the whole world. It’s hard to describe how significant that was. We maintained our marketing expenses. We didn’t lay off a single person, and we grew 31% last year. And this year, without our supply chain issues, we’d be up over 30%.

When did you realize that 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 was coming to an end, economically speaking, it just crushed the clothes. We did a layoff at that time. But in February 2009, the shoes started to sell out.

Nike is one of the greatest brands ever built, and it’s all about competition, sporting achievement and breaking the tape on the podium. It’s so powerful. But we considered running to be the most unique sport in the world, and we had this “Run Happy” philosophy, which was unique.

Running is perhaps the original sport from a competitive perspective, along with cross country, track and field, the Olympics, road races, trail running and ultramarathons. But it transcends the sport, because it is an investment in itself. One hundred and fifty million people run as part of their fitness, health and wellness and meditation regimen. It is a tool to invest in oneself. So we positioned our brand right in the middle of the running lifestyle. We’re doing something no one else has ever done and creating this unique brand that’s all about running. And it’s the largest category of sporting goods.

About Marie A. Gingrich

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