Core Careers: Brian White
One of the biggest changes at Nixon of late is the departure of Brian White, VP of Sales for the Americas and a well-known and well-liked sales executive in the industry.
Brian has moved into a new position at third-party logistics provider NRI Distribution, leading Business Development.
We followed up with Brian, who worked at Nixon for 22 years, about lessons he learned there and about what he thinks are the key attributes of a successful sales executive.
Why did you decide to branch out from Nixon?
Brian White: Nixon has been incredible to me my whole career, including early on as a young rep learning from a group of all-star super agents and inspiring founders. I am proud of my time there building the brand and being given the trust to lead a very successful sales group in the Americas.
Throughout my life, I have always guided my business decisions with my heart. I accomplished many of my Nixon goals and felt that this is the ideal time for me to do something new. Last year, I started an EMBA program to become a more well-rounded leader, and moving to NRI is an exciting business challenge.
What are some key lessons you learned at Nixon?
Brian White: I learned so many lessons.
- I love the principle that you should never grow into new channels without a rock-solid base. I also learned discipline. Saying no was at times the best decision for focus and future growth.
- I love Nixon’s connection to the team. It is an authentic partnership, and it allows people to grow together and help each other.
- I learned that people and, by extension, your distribution partners, are a company’s most important assets.
- The customer demands innovation in all departments.
Why did the NRI opportunity appeal to you? Where will you be based?
Brian White: I’ve been an ally of NRI for a long time. I’ve worked with them on several projects over the years. They genuinely understand the business needs of brands in our space. They have tech resources and outstanding people ready to handle business complexities. If I owned a brand, I would focus on driving culture and brand, and leave back-end logistics to the professionals who are equipped to achieve goals. I predict that many mid-sized brands will move to this model to allow company focus and assure they keep up with consumer demands.
I will be working out of their LA office but living in Cardiff, California. My goal is to be active in the trade, marketing NRI, and consulting with accounts as much as possible.
What worries you about the industry and what are you optimistic about?
Brian White: I am cautiously optimistic about everything. Like many of your readers and our consumers, I get energized by great storytelling. Brands with a purpose never water down their message and always seem to overcome challenges.
I subscribe to the philosophy that problems are opportunities for people willing to chase them.
You are a sales guy through and through. What do you think are the key ingredients of a successful sales executive?
Brian White: Good question. In my spare time, I am working on a project to modernize the sales process. I feel like a lot of education is dated.
Sales is one of the most exciting and lucrative careers but sales executives rarely practice their skills. My goal is to take my favorite business books and update and customize the messages to help modern businesses maximize sales.
There are a couple of things that stick out when you look at respected sales leaders.
- Sales execs need to have a secure connection to the brand. Old-school salespeople would get hired based on their contacts. Today it should be about how they connect departments and brand to the consumer. A sales executive’s attitude and ability to problem solve are the most important things. Contacts change, but the connection to the brand is lasting.
- Understanding the market and making a solid strategy for the changing world. A great sales executive needs to be ahead of the curve. Being able to use data as a predictive weapon is an excellent sales leader skill.
- Being a persuasive presenter is a fantastic quality in sales, but only if it’s sincere. Sales leaders can do amazing things when they have the support of their team and customers. You can never risk losing trust. Having a deep understanding and respect for cross-functional departments is a great way to earn trust. Even covering your employees responsibilities is an eye-opening adventure into their daily responsibilities.
- The bottom line is that companies expect their leaders to be well rounded and bring real skills to the operation. Market insight, data-rich planning, connection and presentation are table stakes. The role of a sales executive is more complex than ever but incredibly rewarding. The action sports industry is full of amazing talent. It’s inspiring to meet with executives from various companies.