Jordan Mead, 35, is the force behind JM Sales & Service, a sales and marketing agency that holds top accounts like Volcom, Electric, Stance, HUF, Welcome Skateboards, Hemlock Hat Co. and MIZU.
A San Diego, California, native, Mead has been entrenched in action sports since high school, when he began working part time at Rider’s House Boardshop. It was then that he met and sparked a friendship with Volcom rep Lenny Jones. To this day, Jones remains a mentor — after helping him secure his first job out of college as a Volcom sub-rep — and his time at the brand serves as an important inspiring force that led Mead to start his own company in 2012.
“In my early years at Volcom I was very intrigued by how Rob Williamson and Andre Dallaire ran their businesses up in Canada,” Mead explained. “In the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to mimic what they were doing with a ‘group’ approach and give it my own spin.”
We caught up with Mead at his Encinitas, California-based showroom and offices to hear more about his story, the business strategy and what he thinks the future holds for sales reps.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you elaborate on your background in the action sports industry?
I was pretty much born into the outdoor industry. My great uncle was an outdoor retail pioneer and started Adventure 16 in the late 1960's. My father has worked there since he was 16 and then took over in the '90s as president. Pretty sure I have attended the OR show in a stroller or a backpack multiple times.
Being born and raised in San Diego and wanting to "rebel" against what my parents were into, I naturally gravitated to skateboarding and surfing.
Of course like any good Southern California family in the '80s and '90s we would also make the trip to Mammoth to ski multiple times per year. In early high school, snowboarding came into my life and I was making the drive to Big Bear as much as I could. I ended up getting a part time job at Rider's House Boardshop during my sophomore year of high school.
I'd already been a massive fan of Volcom for years before that but working at Rider's House allowed me to meet and spark a friendship with the sales rep at the time for San Diego and Arizona, Lenny Jones. During that time, I absolutely fell in love with the brand and everything about it.
After high school I enrolled at Montana State University and moved to Bozeman, Montana, without knowing a single person. I just wanted to snowboard as much as humanly possible. During those years, (2000-2004) I was able to meet a solid group of friends including BJ and Jim Linnberg (Ride Snowboards Global Director), Josh Fisher (Burton Rep out of Salt Lake City) and Dan Sorcinelli (K2 snowboarding, Electric and Roark Rep in the Northwest).
Dan was a tech-rep for K2 snowboards in the Northwest at the time and I forced him to give me an internship. After college graduation I moved back to San Diego with a shiny new degree and no job, fully thinking I would go get myself a "real job".
I ran into Jon Blanc from Hanger 94 at the local burrito spot and he informed me that Milo Myers was opening a second location down the street from my parent's house and they could use an extra set of hands to get the store ready for opening. With the intention of only staying a few months, I ended up working there for a year and a half.
One day out of the blue, Lenny Jones (Volcom Rep) called me and let me know his sub rep had just put in his two weeks and asked if I was willing to come work for him. My memory is a little fuzzy but I'm pretty sure I said yes right when I heard "my sub rep is quitting."
It was my first look into how building strong and genuine relationships was the most powerful tool. He gave me Volcom Snow on my own in 2006 and the nod to pick up Electric on my own in 2007.
What services do you provide your clients? How does this differentiate from independent sales reps who are not part of a rep group?
Yes, we handle sales but we also handle inventory management, replenishment business, merchandising, marketing, events, regional teams, product feedback, the list could go on and on. We are not only a full service stop for the brands we work with, but for our retail partners, as well.
An independent sales rep has limited capacity both mentally and physically. There is only so many hours in a day and so much brain power. You can get burnt out before you know it and I found that out very quickly. With three people on the team, we can spread the work load and focus on our strengths. It is super important to me that everyone who works with us is not overworked and happy. Overworked and unhappy people do not operate at their best and are not excited to come to work everyday.
Another added bonus to our program is the fact that we have a showroom in Encinitas where accounts can come and see all of our brands. It allows us to bring them into our world and away from the distractions of seeing a line or having a meeting in their store. It's way more efficient and meaningful and allows us to solely focus on re-orders, merchandising and connecting with employees when we are in the stores.
Where do you see the future of reps headed, with the rapidly growing e-commerce culture?
I have been discussing this topic a lot lately with friends who think the days are numbered for reps and it gets me fired up in a positive way.
The future roll of the rep is going to evolve so much further than showing the next season, reeling in the order, making sure the order ships, doing a re-order and then repeating the cycle until they die or the brand goes out of business.
The reps of the future will become extensions of the brands in their designated territories more so than they are now. They will be like regional sales/marketing managers holding more shot-calling ability than ever before. They will manage marketing budgets, accommodation budgets, make the call on if a movie premiere stop in their territory is worth the investment, and whether a full-section remodel makes sense at "X" store.
These things are happening already at some level but it's mostly the rep waiting for approval from management at the brand. A rep's responsibility and accountability is going to go through the roof. Those willing to adapt will have a job as long as brands exist. Those who do not will go into real estate.
At the end of the day I want nothing more than to fly the flag as high as I possibly can for each of our brands. I feel happy if someone buys one of my brands, regardless of where they purchased it. The biggest question is how we get the brands to compensate us for that and how we prove to the independent brick and mortar stores we are reinvesting that money back into them.
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