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evo Founder Bryce Philllips On Returning As CEO And What’s Next For Snow Retail

Today Marks evo Founder Bryce Phillips’ First Day Returning As CEO. Here’s What’s On His To-Do List…

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evo’s Seattle store and CEO Bryce Phillips. Phillips Photo: Chase Jarvis

After a hiatus spent diving deep into projects new and old, evo’s Bryce Phillips is getting back into the operations of the store he founded over a decade ago today. As of today, July 1, Phillips is taking the helm as evo’s CEO and stepping to the plate with big plans to grow the much followed retailer.

We caught up with Phillips as he prepared to take the reins to learn more about his decision, goals, and what he thinks snow retailers need to focus on to prosper in this day and age.

Congrats on the new role. There’s been a lot going on at evo over the last few years. Why was now the right time for you to step into the CEO role?

A lot of factors collided, some personal and some related to evo today and where we are taking it into the future. Personally, this has marked a major transition for me. I have had the opportunity to work closely with the team at evo on different initiatives over the last few years while also building a real estate business (evolution Projects) with great partners and spending a lot of time traveling and working with great brands as a sponsored skier.

It’s crazy how the world works but as I more clearly saw evo’s opportunities in the coming years and gravitated towards further shaping the culture and executing the vision, it became clear that I could leverage a lot of what I’ve learned with my other ventures while stepping back from them operationally to really focus on evo. evo has made major strides over the last few years having navigated the downturn, opened a new flagship store, grown significantly, and tightened up a lot of the operations—all of which will set the stage for more strong moves in the future. I am more focused and energized than ever to build on the momentum that we have.

Check out evo’s new Seattle flagship store:

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Bryce Phillips, Nevados De Chillan, Chilephoto:Adam Clark

Were things not being managed in certain areas like you wanted them to be?

There are always differences in how leadership approaches managing a company, but I look at what was accomplished over the last few years and it really is amazing. When I look at the strides that the company has made it’s clearly  positive. No question.

What will be your first orders of business?

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Clockwise from top: Bryce Phillips, the evo team, and Bryce with outgoing CEO Atsuko Tamura.

As I ramped up into my first “official” day as CEO on July 1, it’s been all about taking a deeper dive into the company and downloading as much information as I possibly could from  a really great group of people. Fortunately I am far from starting from scratch given that I have worked with nearly everyone at evo at different capacities over the past years. That said, I’m looking through a bit of a different lens now and have needed to learn and hear more while also diving into the financials so I can formulate the plan for next steps. It’s a collaborative process of course ,so it’s not about me coming in and dictating how things are going to go, but balancing feedback and the information I receive with what I believe to be the best next steps for the company.

What are your goals in the role over the next year?

Getting the organization ready for some major moves and continued growth is critical. That will come from a structure, culture, and relationships that will bring the best out in the people we have. Additionally, we have some key hires in our very near future.

Among a number of other positions to be filled, we currently have a Director of Merchandising job posted and we are working to make sure that we bring in a great leader for an already very strong group of merchants. We will also be hiring a Director of Marketing very soon (Please inquire @ jobs@evo.com). Both positions are critical in that they need to be amazing resources when it come to building and leading their teams while also having the understanding and expertise relating to the infinitely important balance between what we refer to as “artistry” and “analytics”. Our team needs to be analytically and in turn, operationally on point while at the same time, if we don’t execute and emphasize the importance of our brand, differentiated assortment and over-arching customer experience, we simply won’t be evo.

Specific to growth, we have big goals reflecting some of our biggest opportunities. We are really looking to leverage our incredible foundation in hardgoods as we ramp up our outerwear and accessories categories. Both have seen solid growth and have immense potential.

Another goal is to clearly and effectively articulate “north,” making sure that we can map the plan back to decisions we make day in/day out so that understanding evo’s goals and direction is actionable. Related to this is also working to make the evo brand synonymous with our Cause, giving back, doing everything we can to help underprivileged youth. We have done a lot over the years but really are just getting started and I can’t wait to work with our team to leverage our reach, time, and finances to do much more.

Snow retail is getting tougher every year. What are you doing to continue to engage your customers and add value to the transaction?

There is no question that snow retail is challenging. That said, as a company we have lived and breathed snow from the beginning. It’s in our blood. We have always had a different angle when it comes to  building community around the brand. Because we are drawn to engaging customers in a dynamic, authentic way, and this came from an organic place, driven by passion. We need to keep making that front and center in everything we do.

Customers, even when they can’t put a finger on it, absolutely know if you really care, or if you are just trying to buy low and sell high. We want customers to get a sense for what evo is all about and say to themselves “I want to be part of the evo movement.” They may come into contact with us through our catalog, on a trip with us to Japan, on our about About Us page or possibly at a fundraiser in our gallery. Whatever the case, because it’s in our very nature to go above and beyond, keying on the elements that make the relationship special, not simply transactional, we believe that continuing to do this will keep our customers loyal while also bringing more into the fold.

evo’s Seattle storefront.

Why did you feel it was necessary to relinquish your sponsorships?

While living on couches in Whistler, I stumbled into skiing for my first sponsor, K2, 15 years ago! It’s crazy to think about that and funny because I remember being in my early twenties seeing sponsored skiers in their thirties and thinking ”Why in the heck is that guy still trying to push it and ski professionally?” As I entered my thirties the answer to the question became very clear. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel the world, meet amazing people, and form many of my closest relationships over the years—there was no reason to cut it short. The last few years were some of the best having become a Patagonia Ambassador and finding more of a balance when it came to my ski and other career ambitions, all while trying to stay alive along the way.

When I knew that I’d be transitioning back into the CEO role at evo, which just happen to coincide with the birth of my first child, it became clear that it was time to step out of the ski career and focus. Moreover, I felt like I had dodged a lot of bullets while many of my friends did not—it was also time to pull some of the risk out of my life and make sure that I am around for my family and the company.

What do you see as the biggest issues facing specialty retailers now?

Retailers are getting attacked by incredibly well capitalized and aggressive companies like Amazon/Zappos and are not in a position to create the kind of experiences needed to make them a clear choice for customers. Of course Amazon/Zappos are having an effect on the small to medium size, authentic retailers as well, but as the commodity, big boxes are put on their heels and likely, taken out—it is setting the stage for the truly extraordinary retail brands to rise up.

This does not make it easy, but it speaks to how important it is to deliver on experience. “Experience” is high-level service coupled with humility, great design, the integration of unique elements that further differentiates who you are, and how you engage the customer—the list goes on. These alone will make it a clear decision for a lot of customers. We all want to connect in a more meaningful way and those of us passionate about the sports and lifestyle are positioned to do this. Add in major factors like weather, erratic economic cycle, and how quickly technology is changing and specialty retail, especially snow focused, is extremely difficult to make viable. For these reasons you have to be that much more clear on how you are different and what you do when it comes to adding value to the customer while executing at a very high level.