Industrial Profile 3/11/2010

Johan Malkoski - C3 Distribution

Johan Malkoski - C3 Distribution

How do you introduce Johan Malkoski?  People who understand him probably are willing to walk barefoot over broken glass for him.  People who don’t understand him probably want to let the air out of his tires. No introduction will really do the trick.  Born in Massachusetts, school of life in Steamboat, Colorado, and now continuing on in the great Pacific Northwest, Johan is to the snowboard industry as Jeff Bridges is to The Big Lebowski.

Let’s get right to the point.  You have one hell of a sense of humor.  Did it come from being a waiter/bartender in the Steamboat years, or was it established long before that in Mass’?

Thanks, glad you think so. Tell my wife would yah!  Most westerners would call it aggressive, while true east coasters would call it mellow - now at least.  I think over the last 20 years I’ve been ‘pussified’ by living in the west. 

Anyway, my personality was established on the east and refined in the west.  People are real blatant on the right coast and it’s like you got to take the attitude of kill before being killed.  At least that’s how it was with my group of friends.  Moving west way back when, I’ve found and have been told to turn that attitude down.  I’ve worked on adjusting it, although it slips out once in a while.  The saying holds true though that the east can move west, but west can’t move east.

Does your family call you Johan or John?

My wife, mom and family back east still call me John, everywhere else it’s Johan or YO.  I don’t care what I’m called though.  Johan is a nickname that a buddy gave me and I kinda like it.  It’s got more flair than boring ole John. 

These days I get called “Sir” a lot.  I hate when someone says sir.  God damn that pisses me off and makes me feel old.  I should probably be called TUT, as I’m the King of DeNile.

Did you change your driver license?

Nah, I’m not gonna run that hard with it. 

Way back when you were dodging a real job.  When you were working in the shops, did you make a conscious decision to build a career and life in the snow industry?

A conscious decision to build a career?  Ha, yea right.  I made a conscious decision to never regret not doing something, that’s about it.  I went to college and did an internship in Boston for like 6 months and made a decision to never be a miserable bastard like the people I worked with who lived for the weekend. 

I’ve only had three industry jobs over the years: Wave Rave, Northwave, and now C3.  As far as working in the shred business, it kind of all happened as a result of having some great bosses and making some awesome friends.  People took me under their wing and showed me way more than they should of.

As Blue Montgomery says, “I’m just a Dude that works in the Industry, not an Industry Dude.”

Did you ever have a dream of being a pro snowboarder or getting paid to snowboard?

Not really, I mean, I’m an average shred and know it.  My shredi skills are nothing special except I love to be on the hill ripping around.  That and I can beat Dan Brisse on a NASTAR course.  Booya! 

I do dream of having a never ending budget to travel, ride heli’s and pay hospital bills.   That’s what I dream of today.  But I consider myself real lucky as work has afforded me to travel and be able to ride most places I’ve been too.  AK, all through the US and Canada, Italy and Austria have all had tracks laid down by me.   I’m dying to go to Japan and Chile to shred - someday.

Who at Wave Rave Clothing offered you your first shot?

Phillip Chang, the owner of Wave Rave gave me the job right out of the snowboard shop because my ole roommate from Steamboat was working there and somehow convinced him that I was qualified to run sales for one of the original snowboard clothing lines, when clearly I wasn’t.  I had no clue what to do either as there’s no “Sales Manager 101” course offered in school.  But I had made friends in the biz through the years of running Powder Tools Snowboard Shop, so I ended up asking a lot of people a lot of questions on what I needed to do.  I listened to their advice and still refer to it today.

I remember my first day on the job at Wave Rave and Phillip called me in his office and said, “So Johan, what is your plan on how to grow sales here?”  I was like, “Seriously!  Can you give me till the end of the week to answer that because I’m still trying to figure out how to turn my computer on?”  I had just lived in Steamboat for seven years and the last computer I worked on used punch cards.  I was still a little confused with this internet thing.  But we ended up growing the brands pretty good that year through a shitload of hard work, passion and dumb luck. 

That next summer I spent putting every custom zipper pull on every Gore-Tex jacket we made and doing all the powder cuff snaps too.  Real glamorous stuff huh?  But it was awesome. Thanks for the opportunity Phillip. 

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Do you remember 118 Boardshop or Valley Ski Center?

Yea, 118 but not Valley Ski.  Why did you work there?

How did you end up in Seattle?  Who brought you out to the great Northwest?

While working at Wave Rave, I got a call from Bob Gundram.  Bob had just gone from running Ride to running Northwave North America.  Gumby called me up and we were just talking back and forth for like 20 minutes or so about random stuff.  After a while I thought he was calling me about one of our reps so I asked him what he needed as I needed to go back to work.  He was like, “I’m looking for a sales manager and Marty Carrigan recommended you.”  I said, “Oh shit, let me call you from home!”  I was real stoked because our snowboard shop was one of the first shops to sell N-Boots in the states and I was a big fan. 

He flew me up the next weekend and I had a three day interview.  He picked me up with a 6-er of Heiny’s on Friday then took me back to the house he was renting, which was Kurt and Courtney Cobain’s cabin in Carnation.  We had a few that night, then got up early the next day and went to a Husky vs. Huskers game at the University; we got completely ‘Schlitzed’ too.  Woke up a tad hung on Sunday and went to the office and got a tour.  I pulled out my resume and what not for him to glance at, which he didn’t, and then he said, “So what do think; you want to move up here or what?”  I was like, “Is that a job offer?”  He brought me up to see if he and I could get along.  I don’t think he gave two shits about my resume, just that he and I were compatible.  Marty must of lied his ass off about me.  Again proving my point that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Then I went back to Colorado and talked to my wife and we went for it.  It wasn’t like I wanted to leave Wave Rave or anything, it was just that there was so much potential with Northwave and for some reason I loved the boots.  So off we went.  That was 13 years ago and Gumby and I are still working together.

When you left Northwave you felt the company was headed in a “south” direction.  What does that mean?

Well our team in North America grew Northwave to the number two specialty snowboard boot brand in the biz.  Some of our distributers thought that Northwave was an American brand too; that was a huge compliment for us.  That’s going north so to speak.  But management in Italy must of saw things differently and well, you know how things go.  That’s what I mean by going south.

My years there were awesome though.  We got to build a brand around a product that we believed in and added two more brands during that time, Drake and Bakoda.   I learned a shit load about business, working internationally, keeping my mouth shut and drinking incredible wine.  I did make the mistake of falling in love with the brand and for me it was a tough break up, but I’m over it now.  I got me some 32’s.

Are you ready to share more information about the dominatrix assault in NYC?

Ha, I just told that story the other night in Stratton.  Alright here goes, every time I travelled with our New York Rep Rob McLennand or DKNY (Dork from New York) shit would always go down.  Anyway we did a clinic at Blades in downtown and the chick that was running it also worked at a dominatrix bar, so off we went.  Once we got in, this dominatrix rolls over to me and says, “You look like you’d like this.”  I was like “whatever,” and the next thing I know I’m tied up and blind folded in the middle of the bar with only my underwear on.  DKNY had slipped her $20 and said, “Beat the shit out of him!”

I was strung up, no moving my hands or nothing.  This bitch (she told me to call her that) starts throwing hot wax on me, slapping the hell out of me, hitting me with cat-9 tails and what not.  I’m screaming at her “ better not let me out cause I’m gonna knock you out!” 

After about 20 minutes of this, they let me out and I proceed to drink my pain away.  That night I wake up in the middle of the night to take a leak and look in the mirror and go, “Wow, I got dirt all over my ass, I must have fallen in mud,” but it was all black and blue from the beating I had taken. 

The funny part of this was that my wife and new son were back in MA with our families and I was travelling the eastern territories based from there.  So I roll home and the wife says, “Jump in the shower with the kid.”  I was too embarrassed about the whole deal so made some excuse to get out of it.  After two weeks of travelling I healed up and we went back to Seattle.  I thought I had gotten away with it until she called me and asked about the dominatrix event.  I was like, “Huh, how do you know?”  She told me that she checked our voice mail and I had left a slurred message on it to the dude that was watching our house while we were gone.  Brilliant huh?

How was C3 formed?

Through a decision that a group of us really enjoyed working with each other and didn’t want to become “Industry Dudes.”  We didn’t want to be quoted in the Movers and Shakers section of TWS Business every year about how “stoked” we were to be at a new company. 

You and who else are partners in C3?

There’s a core group of six of us that all worked at Northwave, along with Blue from Capita who are partners in C3.  Then Brad’s a partner in Coal.  It’s a complicated arrangement, one that drives the accountants crazy but it works. 

Is there significance to the name C3?

Originally we were going to call it Tacklebox Distribution, but Gumby said there was no way in hell a bank would ever loan us money.  We needed a more professional name so we started brainstorming.  We had Capita and Coal up and running and we where messing around with that and then George said that we should call it the CAPiTA-COAL-Conspiracy because of when we left the last jobs.  Then that got shortened to C3 and Gums added the word Worldwide to the name to make us sound international.  Sick huh? 

C3 is just the facilitator of business for our individual brands.  It handles the sales, customer service, credit, warehouse, warranty and what not for the brands.  Each brand is fiscally responsible for themselves and act independently of one another, but we’re all under one roof.

C3 had three brands out of the gates and added a fourth.  Are there plans for more?

We only had two brands out of the gate.  CAPiTA and COAL.  Then a year later we started Union.  While trying to get C3 to a certain dollar volume, we distributed some other brands through the years but two years ago made a group decision to focus only on our brands.  We wanted to give what we owned 100 percent of our attention.  So the ‘3” part of “C” actually has a meaning these days.  As far as adding any other brands, we’re staying focused on CAPiTA, COAL and Union. 

What is different for you now being an owner compared to being an employee?

Uh, let’s see, I make half as much as when I worked for someone. I just bought a new used car instead of having a new company car.  I no longer fly business class to Europe.  I get to work from my mountain office, every kid’s vacation.  And I’m not getting laid off due to budget cuts or downsizing.  Those would be a couple of the changes that I can think of right away. 

Really, we try to focus on doing our individual jobs that we’re responsible for versus playing the “Hey, I’m an owner” card.   I like where we’re at these days.  We all have a common goal of building a successful business and work to do so.  I like that our office environment is real open and it’s clear to all that even though you may not be sitting at your desk because you’re travelling, that you’re still out there working and building the brands and the business.  

How does it look in your rear view mirror, the the past twenty or so years in the industry?

I couldn’t be more fortunate.  I’m extremely grateful for the last twenty years and the experiences I’ve had.  A quick recap would be, graduating college in five years after being on academic probation for six semesters.  Moving to a ski town to escape a real job and shredding and saucing for seven years while starting a snowboard shop for a ski chain that turned into 16 or so stores. 

Falling into a job at one of the original snowboard clothing companies of whom I had worn their stuff for the last seven years while living in the ski town.  Shit, I had an all pink Wave Rave outfit that that I thought was pretty dope.  Moving on, to work for a Euro boot company and travelling to Europe 3-4 times a year when I had never been there before.  Then meeting and working with some incredible people while there and together starting the business that we’re working at now.  All this while having two kids and a wife. 

It’s a good journey and only getting better.  I laugh when I hear people talk about high school or college being the best years of your life.  Bullshit, things keep getting better.  Well most of that’s true, except my knees.  They ain’t getting any better.  Or my frontside 3’s.  Those suck too. 

Where will the snowboard industry be five years from now?  Scratch that.  Where will Johan be in five years?

I better be still doing what I’m doing now, shredding, working and balancing family life with all of it.  I’m really not qualified for anything else, so it’s not like I got a lot of options.  As far as the industry goes, I’m predicting that Todd Richards will not have aged and will still be doing wet cats off of cheese wedges.

What do you like most about the changes in snowboarding since you’ve been in the industry?

I like the fact that there are former pro shreds that have become business owners.  I think it’s cool as hell that dudes that once graced the covers of snowboarding mag’s are now making product for the snowboard world.  They contributed so much to the progression of the sport when they were ripping and now that they may no longer be Joey-go-huck-yourself, they get to use their experience from snowboarding to progress product. 

I also like that there is meaning to being a specialty brand these days.  Because what’s so special about your brand if everyone carries the same shit that the next guy has?  I think a lot of that was lost a few years ago and buyers were taking the easy way out and buying what the big guys told them too.  These days, for a shop to survive buyers truly have to be buyers and separate their shops from what big box, internet and sport stores sell. 

What do you like least?

That there are people in this biz that could give two fucks about snowboarding.  There are people running snowboard companies and making decisions about the direction of snowboarding, but they’re not snowboarders.  Yes, they may have snowboarded, but that doesn’t make you a snowboarder.  Or, dudes that run around going, “I love this’s so fun.”  Shut up.

Wife, two kids, a lot of responsibility at work, and you still get 75 days a year.  You’re an all-star desk jockey.  How do you do it?

It all comes down to priorities, and it’s a personal priority for my mental health to be on the hill.  I seriously hate standing on concrete and talking about selling snowboarding gear and hats.  I prefer that conversation to happen while participating in it.  I guess I subscribe to the thought that if you want to be involved, then be involved.  Plus my kids love the hill, so it makes it real easy to go as much as we do.  Having a cabin at Stevens Pass also helps.  As does having the office mentality of “even though you may not be sitting at your desk, you’re still working.”  I do a lot of work from my remote mountain office in the winter. 

Best day on the mountain this year?

This year it would have to be the first day of the Mount Baker Banked Slalom, watching my 9 year old rip down the hill 5 seconds slower than me, but faster than half the house of dudes we were staying with.  It was insane!

Second best would be yesterday at Stratton.  They got 16” overnight and we got shown the goods by an old Steamboat bro that now lives there.  I never thought I’d say these words, but riding pow back east was pretty epic.

Scariest day on the mountain this year?

Having Milo be 5 seconds slower than me at the Banked Slalom.  That and now he jumps the same sized jumps I do.  I’m scared that I’ve been snowboarding for 25 years and in just 4 seasons he kicks my ass in almost every aspect of snowboarding.  At least I can ride powder better than him. Scary!

Best day on the job this year?

SIA day two at noon when Blue did the 10 year CAPiTA birthday celebration.  I was pretty stoked for him. 

Best way to duck out of a tradeshow conversation?

“Excuse me, but I got to go take a piss?”  Seriously though, WTF is up with people’s tradeshow social skills these days?  I love when you’re in a conversation with someone and all of a sudden some ‘bro’ rolls in and interrupts you and wants to instantly have THE conversation with you.  Excuse me but do you think that the person I’m currently having a conversation with is below you or something, or what you have to say is so compelling that you have to tell me now?  Jesus, get some manners. 

Best way to kill time on the road?

Time on the road is a total learning experience.  If you have to ‘kill time” on the road, then you shouldn’t be on the road.  You don’t learn much sitting in the office; you learn it from being on the road talking to people, asking questions and what not.  Travelling is awesome. 

Best idea for the summer?

Get healthy for winter?  Seems like that’s what I’ve had to do the last few years.  This summer I’m going to start lifting again and get huge.  That’s my goal.  You know where I can get some roids? 

Northwest for life?

Yeah, I think so.  It’s got everything we need, a good city, great mountains, lake and a cold ass ocean close by.  The only thing that’s missing is my wife and my families are all back east. 

You put out a lot of entertaining news / happenings / life stories on the web.  Where can people find you? is my little shit storm of travel, shred, kids, booze, tradeshows and what not stories that I feel the need to tell.  It’s like a little journal for me and I enjoy it.  Actually, my 90 year old Nana reads the stories my Mom deems appropriate for her, so she stays current with most of my doings and has a scrap book of all the nice stories and pictures. It’s a pretty thin book but…

Convertible corvette driving guy in Mass – hard-on or cool cat?

Corvette???  Come on guy, are you serious?  It’s all about the T-Top Trans AMs.  Or the Camaro.  At least it used to be.  I don’t know about what’s pissa back there these days, but that was the shit back when I was there.  Corvette?  Please!

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