The new age of connecting with consumers: Dutch Schultz and Jason Steris on growing businesses in current landscape

Hailing from long careers in the surf, skate, snow industry, Dutch Schultz and Jason Steris are now imparting their decades of knowledge by working with brands to help them grow in an increasingly challenged market.

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Jason Steris and Dutch Schultz of RESINTANK.

Based in South Orange County, RESINTANK — the collective brainchild and agency formed by Steris and Schultz — is ramping up to help companies globally by driving innovation and progression, looking at ways to run a business more efficiently, and ultimately understanding what is driving consumer shifts in spending.

“We are both passionate executives that share a deep history and commitment to the action sports business,” Schultz said. “Personal involvement and collaborating with the creative people who drive innovative brands is what inspires us.”

Steris and Schultz understand that the current economic landscape may not allow brands — especially smaller, independent start-ups — the luxury of hiring on seasoned veterans to oversee and direct their vision for growth. With RESINTANK, they hope to offer this service in a way that’s both beneficial and accessible to brands in and outside of our action and adventure sports space.

We had a chance to talk with Schultz and Steris about the new endeavor, where they see opportunities in the market, and how they envision RESINTANK’s platform taking shape in the near future.

Interivew has been edited for length and clarity.

Why does it make sense to launch this type of platform in today's current market?

The RESINTANK platform was born as a result of this ever-changing environment and the opportunity to provide brands an executive level resource without the long-term financial commitment. Market conditions and the shift in consumer behavior has put extreme pressure on organizations growth strategies, expense structure and profitability performance. Our model allows brands access to executive level guidance and services for a concentrated period of time to help implement change, jump start growth initiatives and benefit from programs long after we have gone.

Related: Industry vets launch new business development platform

What opportunities do you see for brands, both within our endemic space and outside of it?

In pivotal times such as these, businesses that are pro-active with transformation and maintaining relevance with their core consumer will have a competitive advantage. For example, just focusing and understanding the shift in why a consumer is making his or her purchasing decisions and building initiatives around those findings creates a massive white space for brands, let alone the "how, what, where and when" shifts.

In terms of businesses large and small, opportunities exist for both. For example, identifying new ways of working within strategic planning, process improvement and organizational alignment provides a variety of growth potential. And it's important to note, that growth can be achieved not only with top-line revenue and profitability, but growth in personnel output and improvement in company culture, which ultimately all contribute to a more positive financial outcome.

What Type of companies is RESINTANK targeting as your potential clients?

In order to maximize growth opportunities for our customers, it's important to work with organizations that are comfortable with change. Embracing transformation and taking an innovative approach in the current environment is critical for any brand, large or small.

You have well established brands shifting their strategies and re-evaluating their resources in order to best leverage expenses and create growth opportunities. Independent specialized services such as RESINTANK offer a variety of high-level solutions that have now become a viable resource model and give companies access to top talent without the fixed overhead of full time employees.

Beyond the more mature brands, we see opportunity for small to mid-sized brands seeking strategic guidance. You have up-and-coming companies with really talented people, but possibly lack the operational and financial resources that are required to move the business forward. Hiring full-time expertise places a heavy financial burden on small businesses and this model provides organizations executive knowledge without the long-term commitment. We see this as a quick win for companies to leverage our services and experience which will lead to a strong return on their investment.

Related: Jason Steris named Volcom CEO

Explain how your individual experiences at major global brands like Volcom have primed you for this next chapter? What key learning's did you take away from those roles?

Coming from a global organization that was active within both the private and public sectors, we were fortunate to have been challenged with growing a brand through multiple stages of its lifecycle. Some of the best lessons came post-recession, on how to leverage expenses during turbulent times. In other words, become more efficient with human resources. For us, focusing on profitability, maintaining a sustainable business model and meeting shareholder expectations is always top priority.

Also, the vital importance of purpose! Purpose in your brand, your products, the decisions you make, etc. Without purpose, you have no position, and your people have no visibility or ability to roadmap the future, which can make it difficult to stand out and achieve any type of longevity.

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RESINTANK’s path to change is simple: create, plan, commit, execute.

What are the advantages and challenges to starting a new brand in the current landscape? What about for heritage brands?

The greatest advantage for a new brand is their timing. It allows them to develop a contemporary business model at the early stages that aligns with the modern consumer. Whether it's an innovative way to communicate their brand messaging, quicker to market timing, or an innovative sales model, they have the opportunity to be nimble and share an intimate relationship with the consumer from the start. One of the biggest challenges for a new brand is raising and maintaining enough capital to support the required operational resources.

Specific to heritage brands, managing expenses at a level where you can support all functions yet still meet profitability targets has become more challenging. There are inherent difficulties with maintaining margin with large SKU plans that are built to serve a variety of distribution channels. The good news is that by diligent analysis, challenging existing ways of working and implementing innovative initiatives, there are opportunities to fuel growth. It's not easy and often takes a "game of inches" approach with addressing multiple areas in order to provide noticeable gains. Internal teams are often fully occupied by the daily requirements, so we hope that RESINTANK can be a valuable resource in assisting heritage brands with specific profit improvement initiatives.

What words of wisdom would you give to those looking to start their own business and /or breathe new life into an existing business?

First and foremost, respect your brand mission and core values. This will guide you in making sound decisions, allow clear communication with your teams and customers, and help ensure the longevity of your brand.

Secondly, focus on talent. When you find people stronger then you, hire them. Then make sure they completely understand the vision and provide them the necessary tools to execute.

Next, focus on the fundamentals; maintain healthy margins, respect your budgets and calendars, and track your business daily with discipline and consistency. And last but not least, make decisions with fresh eyes and a forward-looking mindset.

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