Student of the Week: Maile Spung of Ute Mountaineer

When did you first know you were on the right path in the specialty retail industry?
I used to work as a guide before I was in retail, but wanted a more stable lifestyle so I started working for my dad at the Ute. When I realized I could still influence people’s outdoor experience by selling them the right gear for their adventure, I knew that I wouldn’t miss out on the part of guiding that I enjoyed most: making sure people got the most out of their experience with the natural world. Although I am not out there with clients anymore, I love knowing that I have contributed to the success of their adventure by getting them the perfect set up for what they want to do.

What’s your favorite part of your job?  
Getting people in the right gear to have a great experience in the outdoors. I truly believe that if people have fun outside, then they will want to be better stewards of our natural world and will help to take care of it for the future. I love being a part of the “a-ha” moment for people on their first outdoor experience and seeing them understand why we are so passionate about being outside and preserving that for generations to come.

What’s the most valuable lesson you learned through Mann U?
That having the conversations to correct problem behaviors is not a personal attack. It enabled us as a business to get our employees on board with our standards and has made those conversations much more effective when they have no personal or emotional attachment.

Give us one pointer for developing a genuine relationship with your customers. 
Gaining their trust is essential. Engaging with them on a non-sales level is a great way to develop a relationship based on being part of the same community. We try to take part in social events and put on races that invite people to be part of our Ute community, whether or not they spend money in our store.

Your bumper sticker would read, “I’d rather be… ___.”
Playing outside with my favorite partner—my dad!

What was your favorite part of working with the Mann Group?
I really appreciated the concrete solutions that we left with. We have attended plenty of management seminars that work on big ideas and lack actionable solutions to take home and implement. I felt like when we came home home from Mann U we could put what we practiced to use right away. I think our managers have done especially well with implementing the interviewing/hiring process and we have gotten a ton of compliments on our staff since we started using the Mann principles for hiring.

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