Student of the Week: Dave Bartholomew of Ascent Advising

When did you first know you were on the right path in the specialty retail industry?

My role in the specialty outdoor industry started while still in business school when I had an internship with REI doing their first formal market research. I had idolized the company all my life, and once in the door, I knew that the specialty outdoor industry was my love. After graduation I became the newest, youngest and highest ranking employee of what was then a tiny company, MSR. One of my first strategies was to embrace the specialty retailer (both outdoor and bicycle; we made bicycle helmets in those days) as my customer, not an evil intermediary between me and the consumer. It worked famously!

What’s your favorite part of your job?
In my current role as a business advisor, as well as when I worked inside companies, I loved working with a small team of highly motivated people toward mutual success. What a blessing that is!

What’s the most valuable lesson you learned through Mann U?
JWD JWD. Mann U helped me understand that the reaction to someone who is motivated but mistaken, versus someone that really is not on the team, is quite different.

Give us one pointer for developing a genuine relationship with your customers. 
Be your customer. Market research is what large companies do to make up for the fact that they are not in their own target market. Market intimacy is when a company of any size is at one with their market, and is a much more effective tool in knowing and meeting the customer’s needs.

Your bumper sticker would read, “I’d rather be… ___.” 
Creating.

What was your favorite part of working with the Mann Group?
Clearly the roleplaying exercises were the most valuable. This is an age-old exercise that is radically under-utilized.

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