31: Tom Barney: Diving in to Direct-First from a Storied Career in Wholesale

“I think we have to know our customer better, and by customer I mean the end user, at ElevenPine than I ever really did at Osprey.”

– Tom Barney

EPISODE PREVIEW:

I’ve been friends with Tom Barney for nearly 20 years, and I know him to be an effective leader who has earned his confidence through the hard work and success he had in building the market-leading team at Osprey (among many other achievements). And now, after most people would be relaxing into retirement, Tom is jumping with both feet into an entirely new type of a challenge: a fully direct-to-consumer business.

This episode took on a life of its own in exploring the differences between wholesale and DTC business models. Tom is unabashed and honest in admitting what has been a pleasure and what has been a challenge in learning the DTC ropes and turning a great idea into a consumer-centric, profitable enterprise. Whether your business (or idea) is primary wholesale, primarily direct to consumer, or mid-multichannel development, this half hour will commiserate, inspire and enlighten.

Topics covered: direct to consumer business and operations development, Shopify, direct marketing, digital marketing, digital operations, email marketing, event marketing, direct customer feedback, brand experiences, cash vs. accrual accounting, inventory management differences.

GUEST PROFILES:

Tom Barney

Tom Barney is an institution in the outdoor industry, having served as CEO of Osprey Packs for over 16 years. He helped to build the once small, technical backpack company into an iconic brand with widespread success and appeal. He made his jump from consumer packaged goods into the outdoor industry via a personal invitation from his climbing partner, Royal Robbins.

 

In spring 2017, Tom went from the wholesale world he knew intimately to the brave new world of direct-to-consumer. In his new role as CEO at Elevenpine, he has found a product he believes in and an entirely new way of doing business.

TOPICS COVERED:

Online consumer decision journey, ecommerce, mobile first strategy, online first strategy, strategic specialty retail, experiential retail

SELECT QUOTES:

“[Wholesale and direct to consumer businesses] work in the same sports and serve the same end user, but how they deliver their product is shockingly different. I want to say that to your audience because it’s nothing to underestimate.”

“I think we have to know our customer better, and by customer I mean the end user, at ElevenPine than I ever really did at Osprey.”

“What I think wholesale brands need to do is talk more, interact more, and get to know the customer. That’s lesson number one for me.”

“I’ve found Elevenpine needs to know itself more than a wholesaler does. You really are forced to look at yourself, and not just do a brand positioning study or a brand study, or know yourself on a pie chart or on a graph, but know who you are culturally and why you exist. You need to be able to communicate that, and do it authentically, directly to that consumer. You must be knowledgeable on your brand and can say it with passion, because you can’t rely on everybody else. It only comes from your voice.”

“[Building a direct to consumer brands] is like holding your brand in your hand, and really forming it on your own, rather than molding it to the industry and letting somebody else help shape you.”

“Email marketing is our number one.”

“I never really thought about the inventory and the cash cycle that a direct to consumer brand goes through, as compared to a wholesaler. Accrual accounting is good, but cash accounting [for DTC brands] is where it really is all about. We live from infusion to sale to infusion.”

“You need to be patient in the world of direct to consumer, for sure.”

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