Deckers CEO: Company culture is what counts
In a globalized world, vision and culture are the keys to creating and marketing successful new products.
That’s the message Deckers Outdoor Corp. CEO Angel Martinez brought to about 250 Central Coast business leaders at the Feb. 2 Corporate Leaders Breakfast at California Lutheran University.
“Our mission is to find niche brands and turn them into lifestyle leaders,” said Martinez, who’s Goleta-based company owns Teva, Simple, Sanuk and the wildly successful Ugg Australia brands. Since he took over in 2005, the company’s sales have jumped from about $200 million to more than $1 billion and it has expanded to Europe and Latin America.
But Martinez said the building of a brand requires enormous flexibility and constant effort. “Developing vision and culture must happen all the time. It’s like a relationship, it’s constantly evolving,” he said.
Martinez, who was born in Cuba and grew up in the Bronx, attended UC Davis and was a successful executive with Reebok and Rockport before joining Deckers.
He said that by paying attention to vision and culture, Deckers has created “a highly engaged workforce” that encourages people to reach their potential and push hard to achieve a competitive advantage.
But he said vision and culture are “very fragile” and “hard to instill.”
Martinez said that while he can’t imagine Deckers being based anywhere except California, the state can be “a tough place to do business.” He said the high cost of housing in the company’s home base on the South Coast continues to be a challenge.
He said culture informs the company’s hiring process, in which it looks for highly competitive people who can also collaborate successfully on projects.
“Deckers is a company with many teams and one vision. You cannot spin vision,” said Martinez, who was named the Business Times “Dealmaker of the Year” for 2011 because of the company’s $120 million acquisition of sandal brand Sanuk and the announcement of a new, ground-up corporate headquarters in Goleta.
He also said the company constantly challenges its employees to anticipate change and to adapt. “What got you here won’t get you there,” is part of the culture, he said.
The company is opening more Ugg Australia stores, Sanuk stores and a pilot Teva store in China, he said.