Ted Manning recently stepped through the doors of the Ibex world headquarters in White River Junction, Vermont, as our company’s new CEO. With the gravitas of any other like-minded company, we suited up and welcomed him with an agenda of focused strategy meetings, a high tea meet and greet and a rousing round of product line introductions.
It was kind of like that, but with more mountain bike rides, no suits, a few beers and without the boring meetings. Oh, and there may have been a few harmless practical jokes, too.
Just because he’s the head honcho – el jefe – doesn’t mean he escapes the Ibex welcome wagon of irreverence. In all seriousness, we welcome Ted to the team. We’re impressed with his tenacity already, given the fact that he joined us during one of the hottest summers in Vermont’s recorded history and that he didn’t immediately fire those of us who thought his car bumper might benefit from some added flair (details below).
As for the future of the company and the brand, Ted fits right into the Ibex family. We are a community that extends far beyond our Vermont roots to the people who wear our clothes and the people who share our passion for treating both each other and the natural world well. We always make time to pet the dog and let our imaginations wander to the next adventure. Ted is no exception.
We look forward to moving forward with Ted’s leadership. With no further adieu, please meet Ted Manning, CEO of Ibex.
Ibex Question (IQ): Welcome to White River Junction. You’ve lived in New Hampshire, but we’re going to try to not hold that against you. What are your first impressions of life in Vermont?
Ted Manning ™: First off, there are a ton of hills [laughs], so the bike rides are different. I’ll certainly get good at climbing. Genuinely, I love small town New England living. I love the idea of reachable communities: people who are connected through a love of place and of landscape and sport. On a daily basis, I love knowing the person on the other side of the coffee counter. I have lived in a small town in New Hampshire since 1997, so this community feels really familiar and warm. My family is really comfy, too, which is important to me.
IQ: This is sort of a “Dating Game” question, so pretend you’re wearing a really wide lapel. What were the top three things about Ibex that made you want to be part of the team?
TM: This one is easy.
Number one: Ibex makes great products. I believe in the brand in terms of style and function, and that it stands for something beyond more than just top performance and lifestyle apparel.
Number two: Ibex is a brand that believes in positive change. I’m not here just for a paycheck, and I don’t believe anyone else here is either. As we work together to grow the brand, we are collectively building a platform for positive change.
Number three: This is a really fun group of people. I’m honored. It’s a fun, active company that is easy to embrace. My hope is to lead by way of empowering this talented and creative crew.
IQ: You’re joining Ibex from Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS), where over the course of an 18-year run you held positions from retail associate on the sales floor to executive vice president. Having built a career in improving the customer experience at a premier outdoor specialty store, how are you hoping to foster the retail experience for Ibex customers?
TM: I think the answer is not unique. It’s just what great brands do. Our value proposition is broad. We believe in a number of things: natural fibers are great for performance; we make a great product; we want to contribute to the greater good. My approach is to be really clear about where and when these things intersect and how we are adding value to our community around these points.
Ibex is a much-loved brand, with a wonderful, committed customer base. How do we as a brand maximize how we connect with them and add value to their lives? And how do we expand our base? It’s important to transcend the economics. I think we connect on certain rich and compelling touch points: we seek out people who love riding as much as we do, who welcome dogs, who engage in life in similar ways.
Ibex is more than the product it delivers. In a lot of ways, brands are defined by their willingness to create relationships. Of course, we imbue our product with sense of brand, but every touch point has an opportunity to reflect a sense of brand on equal level with the shared philosophies of our community.
IQ: Short of Ibex world domination, do you have any goals for the brand and company that you’re willing to share?
TM: We have business goals, of course, and I want to build on our foundations with wholesale and other channels. I have another goal that’s more directly related to our company culture. I want to make the right business decisions and properly support the team so that in three to five years Ibex is recognized as the company where everyone in the outdoor industry wants to work. Ibex already has all the raw ingredients. The bar has been set high. If we’re on all the “Top Ten Best Workplace” lists in three to five years, I’ll know I’ve done something right and it’s our moment to shine.
IQ: Any first impressions of the work atmosphere at Ibex HQ?
TM: Three standout impressions:
On day one, I got pranked – not once, but twice. When I first walked in to my brand new office, my desk was set at 24-inches off the ground. I couldn’t even get my knees underneath. It took me awhile to figure out that I was being messed with, but I finally got it and laughed out loud. Then, at the end of the day, I saw that my car had a new bumper sticker: “Cowboy butts drive me nuts.” I knew I was in exactly the right place, and the sticker is now hanging in my office! That said, you won’t know when and you won’t know where, but that bumper sticker will reappear in the future [insert evil laugh here].
Ibex has a weekly Tuesday night mountain bike ride, which I joined my first week. I got to connect – which is what I really love – with people and with a new place and in an environment far more suited to doing so than an office.
The last impression is not of laughs, but it stands out. Stan, an Ibex dog passed. In watching how this place embraced Stan and his owner, it was hard to not be left with a strong sense of feeling. It shifted my perception of what dogs are like here. I thought we had a human culture with a lot of dogs around it. I didn’t see it right. Dogs and humans are woven together into an inseparable culture of their own creation. It framed my perspective on Ibex.
IQ: RIP Stan. Our sincere condolences to Stan’s family. Word on the street is that one of your top priorities is getting a dog. Congratulations. This clearly shows the decisiveness and vision of any good CEO. What kind of dog are you looking for? Who has the final word – you, your wife or your kids?
TM: The deal was very clear: find a job, get a house, get a dog. I don’t have full authority on breed. My wife plays a large role. I grew up with Brittany Spaniels and I love sporting dogs. But they’re very active for a busy household with two boys – ages 8 and 9 – and a 2-year old daughter. My gut tells me we will find a lovable mutt.
IQ: When you’re not CEO-ing, how do you spend your time?
TM: My first priority is being outside with my family. Especially with a new 2-year old, most of my time is spent wearing them out. We like to ride our bikes, paddle, camp and ski.
I can’t draw a hard line between work and play on this, but part of what I like about the outdoor industry, and Ibex specifically, is the opportunity to advocate for wild places. I’m really pleased that Ibex is a member of the Conservation Alliance, an organization I have been closely involved with over the years. It’s important to me that we can continue to ensure there are places protected for play and wilderness. I look forward to finding more of these types of organizations locally, and I hope to help them in their mission.
When it’s just me, I’m way into fly fishing and mountain biking. I’m also a big reader – fiction, military and political history.
IQ: What are you reading now?
TM: I usually have a few books going at the same time. Right now, I’m reading:
“Ocean at the End of the Lane,” by Neil Gaiman. It’s creepy but well written.
“The Guns at Last Light,” which is the third book in the Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson. It’s nonfiction about World War II. And,
“Drive,” by Daniel Pink. It’s a business and a lifestyle book that examines personal and professional motivation. I’m inspired by the idea that we should apply the same enthusiasm we apply to product innovation to innovating our lives. The book is a reminder of the values of acting with positive intention and finding new ways to engage. I’ve read it several times and I wanted to dig into it again with this new start at Ibex. I want to stay in this inspired space and ensure that I remain open to new ideas, uniqueness and freshness.
IQ: Do you already have an Ibex piece that you can’t live without?
TM: Easy. I’m loving the Seventeen.5 Polo. My first week here was the hottest week in New England in years. The Seventeen.5 is lightweight, sharp, fits great and looks great. I’ve got a little Johnny Cash in me, so my color is black. It’s a true black. My palate is fairly foundational.
IQ: Anything else you’d like to add?
TM: I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who is part of this extended Ibex family – internally, nationally and globally. I’m thinking of this next phase as “Ibex 2.0.” We’re going to continue to make great product and do great things. We intend to have a bunch of fun and bring you along with us.