July 29, 2015

24 hours with Pete Forras, co-founder and owner of XTM

After representing Australia as a professional skier, Pete Forras wanted to start a business based on his love of snow sports. Forras shares a day in the life of running XTM Australia from his beach house in Torquay.

After representing Australia as a professional skier, Pete Forras wanted to start a business based on his love of snow sports. With two friends, Gary Rae and Bill Dalton, he came up with the idea of creating a brand specialising in ski apparel and accessories, which launched in 1999. Forras shares a day in the life of running XTM Australia from his beach house in Torquay, a renowned surf spot on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.

XTM, an abbreviation for the term ‘cross the mountain’ or ‘X-The Mountain’, has carved out a niche supplying accessories and skiwear internationally.  A close relationship with some of the world’s best athletes has been instrumental to the development of the business, helping XTM pick up the sole glove license for GORE-TEX in the southern hemisphere. Working with the world’s most advanced materials and technologies, it manufactures about 300,000 units each year in China, which are sold in 24 countries.

All the best days start with a Surf

5.30am: I’m out of bed between 5am and 6am most mornings and start the day with a meditation. I’ll drop into the office so I can power through my to-do list while there’s no one else there. I’ll take my dog Ollie with me. We operate out of a house that’s been gutted inside and remodelled to have a showroom, five different office areas and a design area. From the outside you’d think it was just an ordinary suburban house. We’re based out of Torquay because I love to surf; the internet allows you to be based anywhere you like. We’re selling ski gear but we’re by the sea – that’s the whole dichotomy, the quirkiness and madness of it all, but it all works. Being active is part of my life – when I stopped downhill ski racing there was a big hole to fill as I was used to racing down mountains at 120-kilometres an hour, so I was lucky to find big-wave surfing. The feeling you get going fast on a really big wave is like skiing down a mountain.

7:30am: We’ve got three kids – two boys who are still at school and one who’s just finished school – so I’ll go back home and help get them ready for school. Afterwards I’ll do a 15-minute yoga session. The surf’s good so I’m at Bells Beach by 8am for a 45-minute surf. On the days that the surf’s not very good I’ll do some more yoga or head to work early.

9:30am: We have 18 staff, but only eight are full-time, the rest are contractors and work remotely or part-time. I’ll do the rounds of the office to see if there’s anything urgent I need to do. I get an update from the general manager Paul Manders on a promotional offer for this winter’s range that’s going into one of our major retailers; pop into the design department; say hello to the admin team; meet with sales and marketing manager Alan Dower; and Paula in finance. I’ll then hide away in my office to go through emails and make some calls.

11.00am:A lot of my focus is on design at the moment so I’ve got a longer meeting with Charlotte Fisher and Neil Campbell in our design team. Our design process started back in January when our teams travelled to the main trade shows in Europe, America and Japan to see what they’re doing in the northern hemisphere for their next winter. Once we have our initial designs worked up we’ll send them to our factories in China who’ll make up samples or print out the prints and put them into the products or garments and bring back prototypes. We’ll go back and forth until we get a sample range we’re happy with, and then we’ll produce a catalogue, which we pre-sell. Right now we’re finalising the colour palette and prints, which has to be done by the end of March. We work on 250 styles and each one has three or four colours, so we end up with 800 to 1000 different options for products. We’ll launch our new range on September 1 by going out to our customer base directly and attending trade shows, closing off orders by mid-to-late October. We manage the production from December-to-February to ship January-to-March.

Lunch in the sun, Afternoons in the office

1.00pm: Like most days, I head to Pete’s Place, a local sandwich shack that has amazing salad rolls. The sun’s out, so I sit outside and take a breather.

2:00pm: We’ve just finished our annual strategic conference and have a big action plan, so I spend some time working through that. I spent yesterday in Melbourne having face-to-face meetings so I’ve got some admin to work on. I spend one day a fortnight in Melbourne and try to fit all of my meetings into one day. Yesterday I had eight meetings including some of our retail customers, the OWIA and Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management, which manages the Mt Buller ski resort, and dropped into the third-party warehouse we use in Laverton to check on stock levels. I also go over our carbon-neutral documentation to check that we’re up-to-date. In 2010 we had our business audited by the Carbon Reduction Institute to ascertain our carbon footprint. We use voluntary offsetting to negate our carbon footprint and reduce the environmental impact of running the business.

3:30pm: I catch up with some of our sales reps that are getting ready for in-store training. Because we’re in the accessories game we’re not always front-of-mind for the retailers, so we get a lot more orders by checking our stock levels, prompting them and making XTM front-of-mind.

5:30pm: My final meeting of the day is with the information technology department, going through the progress of our two new internet sites. We’re working on a business-to-business platform, which has all of our products online and shows how much stock is available. It’s in a really user-friendly, easy format so retailers can jump online any time of the day to place orders. It’s also a useful forecasting tool. Before we show the new range we sketch out an order based on what they sold last year. We’re also working on a business-to-consumer site aimed at the international market – it’s already attracting good sales out of the UK, Ireland and parts of Europe, but there’s still work to do.

My work here is done

6:00pm: I meet the kids at Bells Beach after their daily surf. I usually have to run them to their next sporting event, whether that’s basketball or football, but they don’t have any other training on today, so I get a second surf in. We go home, have dinner, they do homework, and I take Ollie for a walk. I might watch some television or read. I’m in bed by 9.30pm so I can get a good night’s sleep before getting up to do it all over again.

This article was first published in Business View magazine (Winter 2015). For more articles and interactivity, download the iPad edition of Business View for free via our app, NAB Think.

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