In honor of Surfside Sports’ 25th anniversary yesterday, we asked partners Duke Edukas and Paul Burnett for some words of wisdom about what they have learned over the years.
What was the best business decision you ever made?
Duke: Number one would definitely be moving to our current location.
Second would be making the decision to carry snowboard products, and being one of the best at it.
Third would be figuring out who to trust and partner with when it comes to the brands that we support.
Paul: Some of the best business decisions have been:
Joining forces with Duke AKA my "little" brother-in-law.
Buying Surfside – though it was very scary at the time.
Moving the store to 17th Street (a much larger location off the beach) also turned out to be a good decision, though it was even scarier.
What was the worst business decision you ever made?
Duke: Carrying snowboard products in a state that was experiencing six years of drought.
Paul: Waiting so long to quit selling on the internet. Long story there.
Paul, you can’t tease us like that. Tell us more.
Paul: When we first started selling on the internet, Becker was the only big surf retail player and none of our vendors were selling direct.
One by one, more retailers got into the act and then so did each of the vendors. When the vendors got into it, they stopped featuring the retailers who were selling online.
Then it became a battle for keywords and how much you were willing to spend to have your name show up first on the list with Google.
Amazon started selling surf stuff and Zappos got into the act and let's not forget Swell and Killer Dana.
It all became a race to the bottom line and who could sell the cheapest.
We never got that big on the internet. We did not have all the right resources, like money and people to do so, but the good side of that was when things got tougher and tougher, we were not hurt as much.
When you are not vertically integrated like a Forever 21, it’s tough to compete, particularly against your own vendors who went on sale way too often and with very deep discounts. The vendors still are doing this.
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the industry in the past 25 years?
Duke: There are so many, I really don't know where to start!
First, is the over proliferation of avenues in which the consumer can purchase product, from direct-to-consumer business models, to mega web-based businesses such as Amazon.
Next would be how social media has changed the way we market ourselves. Gone are the days of Yellow Page advertising, newspaper ads, and direct mailers. Enter the days of various types of social media, and trying to figure out how to utilize them to their fullest potential.
Paul: The up and down cycles of surf, skate and snowboard. Shortboards are over 6', then they are less than 6'. Longboards are out, then they are back. It’s all about cycles; same for clothing companies and styles.
Other big changes include all of the bankruptcies, both wholesalers and retailers.
Any advice for making a business partnership work for the long term?
Duke: One word: Respect. Knowing and acknowledging your own weaknesses, and recognizing your partner's strengths.
A business partnership is like a marriage, some don’t last long, and others last forever. Always be on the same team with the same common goal: your business. Choose a person to partner with who has the same level of integrity that you would want in a wife.
Paul: Find someone who balances your weaknesses with their strengths and for whom you always have respect.
Any advice for someone interested in getting into retail today?
Duke: It takes more than passion to start your own business. Figure out a business plan and have three to four backup plans when the others don’t seem to be working.
Learn who to trust, and know who to be cautious with.
Never think you've finally “made” it, because tomorrow is right around the corner. Always evolve.
Paul: Love what you do.
Be prepared to not make any money for several years.
Have a very understanding wife.
So again, you had better love what you do.