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Johnny Schillereff of Element speaks out

  • Element Founder Johnny Schillereff. Photos courtesy of Element.

Editor’s note: Our goal at Shop-eat-surf is to share different views from people involved in the ongoing Billabong turmoil. Here are a few links to previous stories about the situation: Meet Acting Billabong Americas President Colin Haggerty, Industry back Paul Naude, Karen Sarver exits Billabong

One of the things I’ve been most curious about in the Billabong saga is how the other brands owned by Billabong have been navigating the company’s difficulties.

Element Founder Johnny Schillereff decided to speak publicly about the situation for the first time today.

Below, he answered some questions for me, including why he has stayed at Element despite the corporate problems.

With all the turmoil at Billabong, why do you stay with Element?

Johnny Schillereff and son, Camp, with the Element familyI've been with the brand since day one, why would I leave now with such big change coming around the corner? With more than 20 years of unwavering commitment to the brand, it's well worth seeing it through this particular phase.

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Element needs me now more than ever in these challenging times. Intimate leadership, and my unconditional relationship with the brand are critical, especially now.

My relationships run deep with our staff and team riders. Our people need honest conversations, and consistent communication. They trust me, and these are the times to stand strong. I would have a hard time comprehending walking away from the Element family. These are the times when true commitment shows.

Lastly, people who know me well know I'm a communicator, deeply passionate about the brand, and our culture. The day Element loses its soul is the day I'm not involved. I'm confident we will flourish through this, and grow. It’s part of our journey.

Billabong has owned Element for about 12 years. Why is your role still important?

I think it's probably more important now than ever before. The founder’s role is critical to any brand with a story, and true authenticity. Without the backing, and participation of the very individuals who dreamed it all up, it's typically a scam. Hollister is a great example of that.

I've never understood the concept of buying someone’s business based on the opportunity that the founders built, then putting them in a corner with some crayons and not listening to them.

Fortunately, the Billabong organization has incredible founders who live and die by their brands, and they are being heard. Founders have nothing but the best intentions for their brands, and care deeply, why would anyone not want to channel that?

See Page 2 for Johnny's take on some positives that have come from all the changes


 

How are you handling all the uncertainty? I am sure it must be tough, but is there anything positive that has come from it?

There is no question this has been one of the most turbulent times in my business life. But to a certain degree, it was more stressful being left in the dark while feeling somewhat powerless. I believe change is always good. There is no possible way that the Billabong organization could have stayed on its previous course.

The Element YMCA camp in the Sierra NevadasNow, we’ve had to assume greater roles and responsibilities, and been exposed to the business on another level that I don't think most of us had seen.

We've all been humbled, and become a little wiser. With the new leadership team, whether people like what they hear or not, communication from senior management has never been stronger. We have consistent meetings, with full transparency on the business, for all brands in the Billabong organization.

Johnny SchillereffWe get frequent updates on the state of the business, and the outlook for the Billabong group. You've got to give them credit for jet setting around the globe, to give us all face time, and a serious dose of reality. Launa's (CEO Launa Inman) team has been faced with a challenging task. She was appointed to her current role, then faced with navigating potential bids, while still trying to improve the broken business.

In regards to if anything positive has come from the uncertainty of the business, absolutely. Change is here, and more is coming. These are the times to stand up for what you believe in. We need to be strong and confident, innovate, be revolutionary and take chances, especially when we've got nothing to lose.

People are afraid, but afraid of what? We've seen the bottom. It’s only going to grow from here.

Are there any new ventures on your horizon?

As a result of being too deeply integrated into Billabong over the years, Element has been slowly losing its individuality, rich culture, and authenticity. In recent times, I have expressed my concerns, and the need for a level of independence. Fortunately, it was welcomed, and highly encouraged for Element to investigate what it would take to return to its roots.

That being said, I'm opening an independent creative space where inspiration, new partnerships, and collaborations will be magnetic, and flourish. I’m looking forward to a facility that will be less corporate, and embrace the contemporary culture that we live and breathe. The vision is to have a workspace with a sense of community where staff and team riders can skate, be inspired, and events can be held.

Any last words or thoughts?

I would like to thank anyone out there that has shown support for Element. We appreciate your unwavering love and commitment to the brand. Our mission is to make positive change in the world and celebrate skateboarding and the lifestyle that surrounds it. Nothing will keep us from doing that.

 

See what Johnny Schillereff has next in store by following him on Instagram @johnnyschillereff


 

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