Larry Weidel: Today we’re with ski shop owner Lee Keating to discuss working hard to succeed!
Let’s talk about Aspen—It is a very down to earth place.
You could never tell who lives in these mansions on the Hill, the million dollar homes, and where they get their clothing, it’s Lee. They go to Lee Keating at Performance Ski.
In fact, according to the magazine 80% of your clients are regulars.
And for most of them, when their plane lands in Aspen, Lee is the first person they call.
Lee’s husband, Tom Bowers, and co-owner of the store, is a former world cup ski racer.
If you’re coming to Aspen, you want to see Lee for your clothing, but you’ll want to see Tom and get your helmets and your skis and your poles, and your boots and all of those things.
You’re dealing with the best.
Go inside and ask for Lee and Tom. You’re going to feel like a local because you don’t have to ask around the stores and go in all the other stores to find out where to go.
You’ll be in the spot.
Lee, when you think back when you started, it had to be a little bit scary. How did you come to be this person? How did you get up the guts to give this thing a try?
Lee Keating: It was just by accident. 33 years ago my husband, Tom, had just retired from the US ski team and a friend of his was starting the ski shop.
Tom’s last world cup race was here in Aspen. And a friend said, “What are you going to do when you’re done?” And he said, “I don’t know.”
His friend said, “well, I want to start a ski shop. You want to do it with me?” And Tom said, “sure, I don’t have anything better to do.” So he started the ski shop shortly thereafter.
I was out here. I had known his friend. I was a customer of his when he had a shop with his parents and I met he and Tom. And within a year, he decided he really didn’t like doing this, Tom and I started dating.
And it just kind of happened. It was not anything that was planned.It's all about working hard. Click To Tweet
In fact, for seven years before we were married, I commuted back and forth from New York and worked at the ski shop and did my job in New York.
Then we got married and then a couple of years later we had a daughter. And then I think it was two years after she was born when I finally moved to Aspen and started working at the shop full-time.
LW: I saw your daughter more or less grow up in the store. I didn’t know which one your daughter or your son was the oldest. So is your daughter the oldest?
LK: Yes. she’s the oldest.
LW: Seems like she did ski racing. Cause I remember she and I were next to each other on tables getting rehab one time over here at that place that is across from the museum now.
LW: But she’s not doing that anymore, is she?
LK: Yes. Both children ski raced. She’s now at UCLA, and my son is in Austria right now training and still actively ski racing.
LW: When you got this thing started was this similar? Were you in retail in New York?
LK: No, I was a financial planner. My only experience with retailing was I like to go shopping so I had absolutely zero experience. I would travel out to see Tom, and I would just naturally help people in the store.
So it just evolved. And I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun and one thing led to another, but I had zero experience in the retail world.
LW: There’s rights and wrongs. There’s ways to be productive and nonproductive.
Can you think back as to what stuck out to you as doing things the right way versus doing things the wrong way as you came out from New York and got in a new town.
You were in a new type of business, you had to have your antenna up because you know, you’re looking around and seeing how people do things. What stood out to you?
What lessons did you notice from the beginning that you feel like had stayed with you all the way through?
LK: You have to just go with what feels right.
I look more now at what competitors do. Then I don’t even think I ever looked at a competitor. I just got here in the store and people would come in and I would try to dress them up in the best ski outfit and my feeling was always to make people look really good.
Don’t send them out of here in something that looks bad. It just was all about hard work and being friendly and being helpful.
Working hard, being friendly, being helpful, selling somebody something that they’re going to love, not something that they want to get rid of. I think that’s made us successful and it’s not any secret. It’s not a secret recipe.
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