“If we had a best dressed award, Shawn would win without a doubt.” So said Tabatha Johnson, Director of Partner Development at Netrush, who has worked with Shawn Fenton for nearly three years. She’s not wrong. The consistency of his wardrobe game is impressive. We’re talking matching shoe-to-watch combos. “I respect his reasons,” Tabatha continues. “He once told me that dressing up to work is no different than preparing for football. You put on your uniform, and get in that mind-set to play the game.”
That attention to detail extends to his work, too. You’ll see him pacing from department to department through the day, pushing for information and answers to feed his brands, staying hyper-connected.
This week, we caught up to talk more about the role that brand managers play and how this has evolved as the company has grown.
Shawn, what does a brand manager at Netrush do from day to day?
Being a brand manager is about collaboration. It’s being active in talking with internal teams, speaking to our partners by phone or email, or physically getting out there to meet people. I’m communicating all day. I don’t think there’s a day where I don’t talk to someone in just about every team here. This is not the type of job or company where you can fly under the radar. You’re going to have to talk to people and be accountable and get involved.
Shawn and Leatherman founder and creator, Tim Leatherman, at the 2016 Outdoor Retailer Summer Show
What are you talking about during those conversations?
We’re ordering, forecasting, looking at numbers, strategizing over future marketing initiatives, giving feedback, giving input. It changes day to day, hour to hour. We’re the ones who are responsible for keeping brands in the know. We have to give them a clear scope of what’s happening at Amazon and what needs to be done across a broad range of issues. So much of this job is making sure that our brands understand what their opportunities and options are, and what the process of taking advantage of them looks like.
There’s a side of this that feeds back to our teams, right?
It’s also being accountable to our teams. Making sure that you’re setting out visions and strategies. We have incredible teams here who can execute anything, just so long as it’s clearly articulated. Embracing possibilities is one of our values and it’s a big part of what we do. You’ve got to think on your feet and be willing to act on opportunities as they arise.
Shawn making a Sunwarrior smoothie
What do you need to be a good brand manager? Were you experienced when you started here?
No, I was fresh out of college when I started here. I went to business school (Eastern Washington University) and have always been into marketing, but there were no classes that taught me about a business like this. I found out about the company through a friend that worked here and was won over by the people.
I think that if you show up and you’re committed and have a great attitude, and you’re willing to learn, there’s no reason you can’t succeed here. Having good communications skills helps a lot, too. Being an athlete and playing on teams (rugby) has taught me to work with people, which is really important when you’re building a company.
What’s the best part of the job?
Seeing ideas come to life. Seeing things we dream up in meetings and draw on a whiteboard, and then working with various teams on making those plans a reality. You have so much freedom and trust, and the ability to work with amazing people to make things happen. It’s a big responsibility, but that’s part of what makes it exciting.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Being in contact with people constantly is a challenge. You’ve got to be present. There are a lot of teams working to push a brand forward, and making sure that everyone is on the same page, working hard towards a common goal, all informed.
This also goes back into what makes the job rewarding. You work closely with amazing people and amazing brands. The relationships we form are really special. I feel lucky to work with brands like these.
What does it take to work with our brands?
It’s a lot of hugging. I often feel like I’m an employee of MegaFood, of Leatherman, of Innate Response, and Sunwarrior. When they see how committed we are to their business, they recognize that dedication. We’re committed and love working on their brand and don’t ask for much in return — just a chance to work together.