Feature Manager: Kelly Knight of Sun & Ski
By Emily Glaser
For most of us in this niche of the retail industry, we’re empowered by passion. We love almost every facet of our jobs: the look on a customer’s face when they find the perfect bike or running shoes; watching an employee successfully complete their first big sale; and, most of all, getting to share our love for our sport with a wider community. But not every part of this job, especially in a managerial capacity, is perfect—that’s why the Mann Group offers Mann U.
Those who have enrolled in Mann U are just like you—passionate, ambitious, and eager to make their store the best it can be. Kelly Knight, District Manager of Sun & Ski, fits the mold perfectly: “I landed my dream job at 17,” Knight says. “In 1988, I began my career in the ski industry as a shop technician for Ski Chalet, a family–owned business in the DC area.” Like most of us, Knight is driven by passion and love for his work. “I wake up every day feeling like the luckiest guy in the world. I have never lost my passion for the sports, the business, the partnerships and the friendships I have made. Every year in this business is a new adventure for everyone involved.”
After Ski Chalet was acquired by Sun & Ski Sports out of Houston, Texas in 2005, Knight stepped up to take care of ten stores spanning the East coast, from New Hampshire to Florida. The retailer focuses primarily on specialty winter sports gear in the colder months, seamlessly transitioning to casual outdoor furniture the other half of the year. To say that Knight has his hands full is an understatement. When he needed help fine–tuning his business and managerial skills—especially in training new hires—he looked to The Mann Group.
“I have been working with Dan and TMG for about 6 years now,” Knight says. “Most of our efforts have been concentrated on elevating our sales training and streamlining our new hire training.” Like many of us in this business, Knight faced a challenging task in training seasonal hires. “Training seasonal hires has always been challenging due to the compressed nature of the business. Dan really helped us develop a cleaner on–boarding development program. Along the way, Dan became a very powerful mentor for me and a strong influence on my professional development. Dan made me feel good about the fact that I have basically only had one job my entire life by qualifying me as a true Outlier.’ I have exceeded the ’10,000 hour rule’ a few times over!” What began as a simple quest for better training strategies turned into much more; Knight’s journey with The Mann Group came to define more and more aspects of his professional life.
After years of banking on the benefits of The Mann Group’s training, Knight knew it was time to take the next step and enrolled in the 5–day Train the Trainer Course. This course is unique; rather than looking at the operations of your store as a whole, this program digs deep into your personal performance as a manager—an oftentimes intimidating prospect. “Personal development is important to me and it’s not always easy to find opportunities for improvement when you have been involved in the same business as long as I have,” Knight explains. But he came into the course with open eyes and left with a better appreciation for and understanding of his role. “I can honestly say that the week I spent with Dan provided the most impactful growth I have experienced in many years. I desired to become a better teacher, and Dan’s ability to identify areas of opportunity is uncanny and the system he has developed to teach and improve on these skills is excellent. I have been involved with training my entire professional life with varying degrees of success. Dan’s program provided me with such a simple and effective method to train; I immediately knew I would be so much more successful in my position. It felt great!”
Knight left his 5–day intensive course feeling not drained, but exhilarated. He immediately began implementing those lessons he gained through the program at Sun & Ski—to unparalleled results. He began first with his managerial staff: “After Mann U, I made the education and improved training development of my managers the first priority. I held a series of regional training events where I assumed the ‘Dan Mann’ role. The feedback I received from them gave me confirmation that it was time well spent. I achieved strong buy–in from my managers and witnessed their development first hand—it was a very rewarding experience for me.”
But the effects of Knight’s training didn’t stop there; with a noticeable trickle–down effect, he witnessed improvement all the way down the line, through all his employees at all of his stores. Like many who attend Mann U, Knight recognized a vital lesson: consistency. “One of the biggest benefits to come out of this process is the consistency established between all of my stores, managers and associates. We all train the same way and we all speak a similar language in regards to training now. This consistency really allows me to identify opportunities and react more quickly. The skills I learned at Mann U grant us all the ability to develop and assess our people with so much more efficiency and success. This process ensures we are having the single biggest impact on our people and using our training time as effectively as possible, which has absolutely been a game changer for my organization.”
Again and again, The Mann Group proves to be the most successful and efficient tool in improving your business—and yourself.