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  • Writer's pictureDoug Ragan

Networking Now

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

I am preaching to the choir if you are a member of Oregon’s best outdoor networking group (OOA), but hearing a few “verses” may reinforce your smart decision to be a member. Personally, focusing on networking within the paddlesports industry is something I wish I had done more often earlier in my career. It has done nothing but benefitted my companies, my employees, my causes, and my career.

Our outdoor industry is one of the easiest to develop connections, and one of the hardest. In is so effortless to unlock commonality with folks in the outdoor industry. Our mutual passion for our playgrounds is our invitation at any venue. We are all brothers and sisters when we relate to the outdoors.

The challenge with the outdoor industry is we still relatively young compared to other business sectors. The traditional networking avenues such as organizations and events have not been established that long. Even prior to COVID, over the last five years our opportunities to connect in-person have even declined with the reduction in trade shows, industry gatherings, and consumer events.

OIA’s Rendezvous, a once great learning and networking event, was last held in 2016. Yet, the advantages of networking through virtual has increased the opportunities much more too. The most recent OOA Beer:Thirty presentation was a great example.

Here are some of my networking tools... Although I am very ready for in-person connections to sprout more often post-COVID, the virtual tools such as LinkedIN groups and other social platforms are easy and quick. In the paddlesports marketplace I am a member to nearly a dozen groups, most of which I monitor rather than engage, yet it is a great way to notice trends and issues. Second, my brands have always had a strong program for Team Ambassadors. As a Sales Manager I checked-in regularly to hear the latest about my products and our competitors in the field. Great resource for news that you don’t get from official company channels. Third, working with independent reps allowed me to reach out to their other brands’ sales managers. Connecting with my counter-parts provided great information to learn and share on the market intel, best business practices and, prospects for future staff. Lastly, once our in-person shows and events return then the post-work day gatherings are vital for meet and greets. Earlier in my career I wanted just food and sleep after a trade show day. In hindsight this was not smart as I missed a lot of quality networking.

Networking is an important element of our outdoor businesses. It should be on our to working agenda to devote a minimum of fifteen minutes each week for a Zoom, call, text or email with an existing or new connection. Recently I caught Desiree Linden, Oregon’s own champion marathoner, say that the race isn’t over for her until fifteen minutes after it ended. She keeps her focus to work on a rigorous post-race regime for her body. I am striving to find that same determination relative to networking after my “work day” officially ends.

Doug Ragan is an active OOA Board Member. He has worked with

Dagger, Perception, Yakima, Werner Paddles, and Jackson Adventures.

Currently he’s consulting for several companies in the US and Europe.

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