Bode Miller (40) is in his element. A new element. The Olympic skiing champion is presenting the latest collection from US outdoor brand, Aztech, in hall B1 – and he is always on the lookout for new kicks in the halls of the ISPO in Munich.
“It’s fascinating,” said the best professional US skier of all time, who is a four-time world champion and today co-owns the US brand Aztech Mountain: “You come here and you think that you have seen everything in sport – and then you see these innovations and it blows your mind. I really like the power that comes from the ISPO Munich.”
ISPO.com: Bode Miller, how’s your second career going – your life as a businessman?
Bode Miller: It’s a hard business. We have a lot to do. But it’s going very well. And it’s great fun controlling the fate of a dynamic, innovative company. We are still quite a small team, but a really strong one, here at Aztech.
While I was still competing, I already had a lot to do with products and I gave it a lot of thought, how you could improve them. But now I am responsible for that, both in the development and in the business. And that’s a lot of fun.
What’s harder work?
Sport was harder for me. This business is a lot of fun for me and at least there’s no torment, as there often has to be in competitive sport. And it’s a very creative process. We can move really quickly. That’s quite an advantage over bigger companies who are slower to get going. Every change always costs such a lot for them.
A year ago at the ISPO Munich, as you presented the new collection, you announced: “I will keep pushing the guys, just like I always did as a competitive sportsman.” How well have you been able to push Aztech Mountain in 2017?
There are always so many gaps in our market, the outdoor business is always on the move. And there is so much that we could do better. But we are a small company and you have to watch out. If you try to do too much too quickly, then you can quickly run into problems. We have been so successful with the products which we make and love, that has become a balancing act: To drive on with innovations and to push them, while improving the portfolio at the same time, which is not so easy. But we have succeeded in that.
So, what was the result?
Our aim is to do it better than the others. And we’re on a good path there. We have grown bigger. We have secured our share of the market from our competitors. That is good for us. But we do have clear target groups. We don’t have to reach everyone. Aztech Mountain stands for high quality clothing. We don’t prodce mass products.
Is that why your name doesn’t appear on any of the Aztech Mountain products? That would be quite a boost – your own Bode-Miller collection.
No, we don’t need that. The Aztech Mountain brand should stand by itself. I am a co-owner, I have a share in the company. I can open doors, sure. But we have a distinct, high quality target group who we want to reach. My name would address a broad spectrum, and that could bring a quick boost, but that is exactly what we don’t yet need at this moment in time.
We have to support the dealers, the retail market is important for us. I can make a personal appearance without my name on our jackets. To be quite clear about this, every store that we visit, every dealer wants to take up our brand into their portfolio. And sometimes, we just have to say no, because we couldn’t keep up with the production. So then we say, place a bigger order for the next time!
You seem so committed as a businessman. Where it was just one year ago that you gave up your active career. Don’t you miss the skiing, the competition for gold and money?
I enjoyed being a professional racer. But in all honesty, I don’t miss the racing. Not a minute.
Not even now, when the Winter Olympics are just around the corner?
Well, I’ll be there. As a commentator for NBC. But that is business too.