June 1, 1995. My first voice-mail message of the day is: “Hi John, this is Bill Drake. We spoke about Ride Snowboard stock the other day. I just wanted to let you know Ride is at 23 today, up three points. Dan Dorfman went on the CNBC cable network this morning with a push. Give me a call. I’m buying a lot of this stock. It’s just going to keep going up.”

This wouldn’t be such a shocking phone message if it were about Microsoft, IBM, or some Fortune 500 company. But it’s not. It’s about Preston, Washington-based Ride Snowboards, the first snowboard-specific company to go public. And within a year, outpacing the growth of the snowboarding market, its stock is almost five times the original value.

Several people¿some inside the industry, some outside¿are making a lot of money from Ride stock. Certainly many within the industry saw the whole process as a joke, a sell-out, or another get-rich-quick scam. Ask Ride President Tim Pogue about why the company went public, and he’ll tell you it was about financing growth and delivering product.

Any way you want to look at it, Ride Snowboards has permanently changed the fiscal dynamic of the entire industry¿and because of it, the snowboarding industry has experienced its first real financial rite of passage. Now the entire world has easy access to involvement in our sport. Imagine if Nike decided to buy Ride¿it’s already been rumored. The industry wouldn’t be the same. You can be certain, many outside the world of snowboarding have suddenly taken notice of the winter sport because of Ride.

Sell-out or industry savior? What’s Ride Snowboards really all about, and what’s going on at its headquarters located twenty minutes outside of Seattle? SNOWboarding Business visited Tim Pogue in Ride’s Preston offices to discuss the future of the company and the sport.

Room With a View

The company moved into an industrial-park building in February. Judging by their current growth¿they’ve added eighteen employees since February, bringing the total to more than 50¿they’re going to need the space the new offices offer.

Overseeing it all is Tim Pogue, president and one of the three founders of the company. His office is on the second floor of the building, flanked by Marketing Director Dane Hjort’s on one side and Production Manager Mike Hall’s on the other. Their respective departments fill up the rest of the second floor.

The sales, accounting, and customer-service departments fill the first floor, along with company lounge and pool hall, research and development area, and the warehouse. Most of the areas feature open work stations, and the building is smartly decorated by local artist Graham Graham, whose work includes many Seattle concert posters.

The only thing missing from the building is a snowboard production facility. “I’m not one-hundred percent sure we want a huge manufacturing facility. But we want to have the ability to do some R & D, be able to make a board in a day, and go up to test it,” says Pogue. “We’re pretty close to that goal right now.”

He feels this is one of two current weaknesses the company has ¿the other is the fact that Ride is a public company and everyone knows exactly what their balance sheets look like. “I would love to know that information about my competitors,” says Pogue.

Being Public

Of course, Pogue feels that the advantages of going public have far outweighed the disadvantages. He doesn’t have to point to employee enthusiasm. All own stock and follow its moves daily.

“If the company does well, everyone who works here, rides for us, or owns stock is going to make out,” Pogue says. “Instead of just the president or the two or three owners making all the money, you can have a dealer who bought some shares, and he’s going to be trying to sell a lot of boards because he owns stock. You’ve got a whole bunch of owners running around who really care about the company. That’s got to help. In the pt year I’ve watched it, it’s amazing.”

Actually, the initial public offering came a year earlier than the company had planned. With so many orders at the 1994 SIA Ski Show, Ride needed to finance their production immediately. The initial public offering was made May 6, 1994, less than three years after the company was formed.

“We couldn’t have done what we did without the money from going public,” adds Pogue. “It would have slowed our growth down a lot, or we would have tried to make the product, blown it, and gotten in serious debt problems.”

After the success of the initial public push, the company also had enough cash to buy owner Jamie Salter’s Canadian distribution company CAS Sports. With some recent reorganization, the makeup of Ride now looks like this: Ride, Inc. is the parent company of Ride Snowboards¿which includes the Ride, Cappel, Preston, and Liquid divisions¿and CAS Sports, a Toronto-based company now run by Robert Marcovitch, a former Nike Canada vice president.

“Each brand has different customers, so we’re not stepping on each other’s toes,” says Pogue. The company has set up an extensive development process for these products.

Product Development

Being a rider-based company, the product development department listens to many different sources for new ideas. “We have a network of drainpipes that all funnel into our R & D lab,” Pogue says. “We have an R & D team made up of eight great unknown boarders who ride every day, our grass-roots team who want to be pro riders, our pro team, the whole sales force¿and we listen to complaints.”

To encourage complaints or other consumer remarks, every board gets a product feedback form for the owner to fill out and send back. The process has helped expand and diversify Ride’s lines. “That’s why we have so many different brands,” says Pogue. “I mean, bindings are bindings are bindings, right? Wrong. We’ve decided that there is a market for six different kinds of bindings out there right now, and maybe more.”

Once the company decides to develop a product, sourcing production falls on Mike Hall’s shoulders. “He finds the best factories and only settles for the highest quality at the best prices,” says Pogue. “He’s definitely gotten us into the right factories.”

For snowboards, that means manufacturing is split between factories in Austria and Italy. But that will change in the near future. “We’re working on two deals in the U.S. and Canada,” says Pogue. “Next year we’ll be producing boards in at least five different factories.”

Bindings are being made within the United States, boots in Korea, and Cappel clothing is sewn in India, China, Korea, the U.S., and Canada¿depending on who can make the product for the price and quality. Pogue is proud of their quality standards. “We’ve never put out a poor-quality product, and we’ve never had any products that have been below an acceptable level of warranty claims.”

Expansion

Recent developments point to Ride’s continued commitment to forward board design. They recently hired Jason Kasnitz, who had previously been K2′s snowboard designer. Yet Pogue sees softgoods and the international market as the next big areas of growth.

“Last year we did about 750,000 dollars of Cappel,” he says. “We’re guessing about half the snowboard market is softgoods, so we feel we can capture the same market share with clothing as we’ve done with hardgoods.”

The other expansion area for the company is the old world. “Europe is a market that is really untapped for us,” he says. “We’re not a player. We’re probably in the top 30 over there as far as number of boards sold. It’s a huge opportunity for us. We have plans to go over there and set up an office.”

Pogue compares those numbers with their place in the U.S., Canada, and Japan. “We’re number two in the world.” He’s quick to quantify that: “It’s our estimate; we honestly believe, with our information, that we’re number two. I’m going on number of boards made in the world, and I’m including all of the CAS boards.”

CAS Sports

The board breakdown between CAS and Ride is about 60 percent CAS to 40 percent Ride. When Ride reported its orders of 51-million dollars, just over half that was with CAS products. To get those numbers, the company is going straight for the mainstream, chain-store market, with no apologies.

“Everyone looks at CAS as the black spot in the industry, but they’re doing more for growing this industry than almost everybody,” says Pogue.

The plan is simple: sell less-expensive boards with foam construction to the big sporting-goods stores. Save more money by not advertising. Set the shops up with bindings and P.O.P. materials, and teach them how to sell the product. “These big-box stores are selling a lot of snowboards,” Pogue says. “They’re pushing snowboarding into the mainstream. It’s part of the reason the industry is growing so fast. They’re putting a ton of new people on the snow each year.”

He’s quick to point out that there’s no conflict with Ride, because Ride and their other brands are targeting the specialty market. “CAS wants to be the company that deals with the big stores. The rest of us want to say no to those stores.”

Future Watch

With the overall growth of the company, between both sales and personnel support, Pogue sees one other critical trend to move the sport forward: “What needs to be done for this industry to get to the next level?” he asks. “More than anything, people need to be realistic about what’s happening out there. Snowboarding is turning into a real sport and business.

“I can go out on the mountain and have a great time and snowboard. But when I come in here, I’m a businessman. I love this as much as I love snowboarding. The sport will grow up when people separate the business from the fun of riding.”

To move into the business mode, he believes people need to watch the bottom line more closely. “Everybody thinks that profit is a dirty word. If you’re not making a profit, you won’t be in business very long. It’s not a four-letter word, it’s a six-letter word. It’s okay, you can say it. You can make it.”

Pogue also believes that his company is well positioned for the continued growth of the industry. “Snowboarding is going to be at least half of the ski business. My personal Tim-Pogue gut-feeling is that it’s going to be way bigger than skiing ever was. You can do it in your backyard, it’s so easy to do. It’s so user friendly. I can see no end in sight. I can’t understand why more people aren’t doing it right now. When you go out and try it, you catch the fever.”

The snowboarding fever has definitely caught the mainstream business world, taking Ride’s stock up over the 30-point mark this summer. If it will continue to go up is anyone’s guess, but the company is counting on it. So are a lot of Wall Street players. Snowboarding, welcome to the business world.

“Hi John, this is Bill Drake again. Listen, I think you missed it. Ride’s up over 25 now. But I hear there’s another snowboard company going public soon … “mber of boards made in the world, and I’m including all of the CAS boards.”

CAS Sports

The board breakdown between CAS and Ride is about 60 percent CAS to 40 percent Ride. When Ride reported its orders of 51-million dollars, just over half that was with CAS products. To get those numbers, the company is going straight for the mainstream, chain-store market, with no apologies.

“Everyone looks at CAS as the black spot in the industry, but they’re doing more for growing this industry than almost everybody,” says Pogue.

The plan is simple: sell less-expensive boards with foam construction to the big sporting-goods stores. Save more money by not advertising. Set the shops up with bindings and P.O.P. materials, and teach them how to sell the product. “These big-box stores are selling a lot of snowboards,” Pogue says. “They’re pushing snowboarding into the mainstream. It’s part of the reason the industry is growing so fast. They’re putting a ton of new people on the snow each year.”

He’s quick to point out that there’s no conflict with Ride, because Ride and their other brands are targeting the specialty market. “CAS wants to be the company that deals with the big stores. The rest of us want to say no to those stores.”

Future Watch

With the overall growth of the company, between both sales and personnel support, Pogue sees one other critical trend to move the sport forward: “What needs to be done for this industry to get to the next level?” he asks. “More than anything, people need to be realistic about what’s happening out there. Snowboarding is turning into a real sport and business.

“I can go out on the mountain and have a great time and snowboard. But when I come in here, I’m a businessman. I love this as much as I love snowboarding. The sport will grow up when people separate the business from the fun of riding.”

To move into the business mode, he believes people need to watch the bottom line more closely. “Everybody thinks that profit is a dirty word. If you’re not making a profit, you won’t be in business very long. It’s not a four-letter word, it’s a six-letter word. It’s okay, you can say it. You can make it.”

Pogue also believes that his company is well positioned for the continued growth of the industry. “Snowboarding is going to be at least half of the ski business. My personal Tim-Pogue gut-feeling is that it’s going to be way bigger than skiing ever was. You can do it in your backyard, it’s so easy to do. It’s so user friendly. I can see no end in sight. I can’t understand why more people aren’t doing it right now. When you go out and try it, you catch the fever.”

The snowboarding fever has definitely caught the mainstream business world, taking Ride’s stock up over the 30-point mark this summer. If it will continue to go up is anyone’s guess, but the company is counting on it. So are a lot of Wall Street players. Snowboarding, welcome to the business world.

“Hi John, this is Bill Drake again. Listen, I think you missed it. Ride’s up over 25 now. But I hear there’s another snowboard company going public soon … “