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Turn the Page

John Pierce, vice president of sales for Lamo, reflects on a road to success, complete with speedbumps and surprises.

Career kickoff: John Pierce, sports the Foot Locker uniform, working the NFL Experience at the 1997 Super Bowl.

Dear JP, I’m delivering this note to you via Marty McFly’s DeLorean. It’s July 2022. You have no idea what lies ahead, but I’m writing to tell you everything will be ok. The ups and downs that you’ve encountered thus far have prepared you for a life filled with many ups, some downs and a few twists and turns. Take the road as it comes, and always be willing to turn the page and embrace new adventures.

Your love of sports guides you into an industry that you’re still involved in today! I’m sure you never thought that’d be possible when you first walked into Foot Locker’s Dallas offices to apply for its manager program. But the training and demands of that job lay the foundation for a rewarding career in the footwear industry. Right away, you love the interaction with the customers and mentoring staff. You learn that teamwork is the key to success. You make sure everyone knows what needs to be done each day. Sales growth drives you to work long hours and weekends, which is just a fact of retail life. It’s also how you’re wired. You love the chase. You love to win.

After huge success managing your first store, you’re offered an opportunity to turn around another, bigger store in Texarkana, of all east Texas places. Don’t be afraid, however, to turn the page. Focus on the playbook that got you here. The same retail fundamentals apply in a bigger store. But you quickly learn, living in a small town, that relationships matter. As such, you develop strong ones with neighboring retail managers and customers. Many customers keep coming back, believing in you. Your hard work pays off: new location, same successful results. The in-store hours, however, are long and grueling. Soon, it’s time to turn the page to find your next adventure.

Next stop: Dallas and buying footwear for JCPenney. You now have a young family to support. The new gig gets you out of working long, in-store hours. Over the next four years, you buy men’s, women’s and children’s athletic footwear. You meet all kinds of new and interesting people from the vendor world. Thoughts creep into your mind of making the jump to the other side of the table as you create strong relationships. When you add hot and hip And1 to the mix, you sense huge potential. You push to join their team. When they offer you a position as product marketing manager, definitely turn the page! Put retail in your rear view mirror, but take with you all the valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way. They’ll come in handy!

And1 brings a move to Philadelphia and working with a bunch of young, energetic basketball junkies. While you’re much older than almost everyone, you learn from them as much as they learn from you. Teamwork is always a winning formula! Keith Daly, And1’s executive VP, then gives you your first opportunity to sell. You jump at the chance to become a key account rep, relying on the golden rules learned working on the floor and in the buying office: listen to your customers, build meaningful relationships and always be truthful. And while And1 rockets in popularity only to then struggle under such sustained expectations, you stay even keeled. That steadiness enables you to rise the ranks to director of sales and learn how product is built and priced. Life is good.

But then American Sporting Goods acquires And1 and you hit a speedbump: layoff #1. Happy 40th birthday—not! But, to paraphrase Bob Seger’s Turn the Page, “Here I am/On the road again/There I go/Turn the page.” You do just that, joining Pony Intl. as East Coast Sales Manager, helping bring that brand to life. This stop also opens the door to your next adventure—a move into casual footwear. You meet the owner of Bearpaw on a golf course. He asks you to join his team. You jump at the chance to become a regional sales manager. Sheepskin boots are all the rage, and you help the team score large sales increases.

Hard work, tenacity and leadership skills lead you to becoming Bearpaw’s VP of Sales. A few years later, you become President. You help bring hosiery and loungewear licensees into the portfolio while expanding the brand beyond sheepskin styles. But just when you think you can press cruise control, you’re hit with another speedbump: layoff #2. Don’t freak out, though. Your industry reputation will allow you, as Seger sings, to get “Up on that stage/Playin’ star again/Turn the page.”

Heads up, though. It’s a two-year search before you’re singing that tune again. That’s when you land back on your (sheepskin) feet, as VP of sales for Lamo. You know the market well. You know what it takes to build a powerful brand. Life is good—again.

Hey, Marty wants his DeLorean back. Before I go, though, know that your turn the page stops are all worth it! They’ve molded you into something to be proud of and lead you to a great place. And remember, when life gets rough, at the end of the day, it’s just shoes!

See you down the road,

JP

The September 2022 Issue

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