Being a Brand Ambassador

For those of you who know me, you are aware that I get excited about things. My friends always laugh and say, ” Really Pat, is this the best?” I say, ” this is absolutely the BEST!” They chuckle and laugh at my enthusiasm for a wide variety of products. Recently, I went camping with a friend and used an instant coffee called Alpine Start out of Boulder, Colorado. Now I am a bit of a coffee snob but cranking up my Jet Boil, I got the water nice and hot and used the packet of Alpine Start which is a convenient instant coffee for the outdoors crowd. I was pleasantly surprised and so was my friend when we sipped the absolutely delicious coffee each morning. When I tell you it is the best, believe me, it is. I can hear my friends, but try some Alpine Start.

As part of my enthusiastic nature, I usually contact a company and tell them how much I like their product. In some instances, like with Alpine Start, they made me a “brand ambassador.” I am not on the payroll, I just get some courtesies for promoting the product and a nice SWAG box full of goodies. It is their way of saying” thank you” and hoping that I talk it up with my friends. So what makes me a candidate to be a “brand ambassador” for anything? Well, lets go to another example from my friend Niall who is in the bicycle industry. He asks me from time to time to post something on my blog about new lines that he carries. For that courtesy, he makes me a “brand ambassador” and I get more SWAG and some courtesies from his companies that he represents. I don’t do it unless I believe in the product, but Niall says that I cover a wide swath of outdoor people with whom I interact and that makes me, in his eyes, a good brand ambassador. I am not a pro athlete, I am not on the payroll, the companies just see me as an enthusiastic guy who might exert some influence on my friends in the outdoor world to try a particular product.

When I became certified as a ski instructor back in the day, it opened up another similar opportunity to take advantage of “pro deals” which gives me deep discounts on ski equipment and clothing. For this courtesy, these companies rely on us to use the product when skiing and generate some conversations on the chair lifts which may result in a sale of the product to the public. Again, not on the payroll, just promoting the products in exchange for some nice discounts on products which I would normally use anyhow.

Taking this a step further, being a brand ambassador can be applied to recommending a shop with whom I am comfortable. I like Dirty Harry’s Bike Shop in Verona, Pa. and recommend their products and services. Barry and the boys are always nice to me down there when I buy something or get my bike repaired. I appreciate their friendship and great service and recommend them mostly because they are my friends. I am not on the payroll, just promoting them because of their friendly expertise.

Taking this a final step, our marketing department for the company where I am employed recently had a lunch and learn where they said that we all are “brand ambassadors” for the company when we interface with customers, carriers, and suppliers. When you think of it, if you are employed, you are representing your company every day. In exchange for a good job, benefits,culture, and the occasional SWAG, you should promote your company like I do with Armada. We do a great job for our clients like McDonald’s, and they appreciate the hard work and ethic that we have in servicing their supply chain needs.

So again, you don’t have to be a pro athlete to be a brand ambassador. I do it as an employee of my company. I also do it for companies like Alpine Start where I believe in their product. I promote my local bike and ski shop. I also promote product which I believe is superior in the outdoors industry such as Stockli Skis, Lange boots, and Patagonia clothing. Yes I get a pro/bro deal, and it helps my financial bottom line, but I would not do it if I did not believe in the product. You have to be true to yourself, otherwise, you are just a deal monger and your influence and recommendations are nothing short of shallow. So, think about it. You can be a brand ambassador. If you are enthusiastic about a product, email the company and tell them. You never know, they might come back to you and ask about your sphere of influence and make you a “brand ambassador.” I doesn’t cost you anything other than the specified guidelines for promotion and your good word. Thanks for reading.

Coffee- The Great Motivator.

I was not always a coffee drinker. In fact, the first time I ever drank a cup of coffee was when I was on a trip with my wife in San Diego. She said, ” it would be really nice if you would sit and have a cup of coffee with me.” I always thought that coffee was for ” big people” and that it stunted your growth as my mother taught me. So, up until I was in my mid thirties, I had never had the pleasure of experiencing the warm, tasty, caffeinated slide of liquid down the old gullet. It was a revelation. images-1

Fast forward and I found myself in the land of coffee- Seattle, Washington where Starbucks and Seattle’s Best reign supreme. img_0576
I took advantage of all that coffee had to offer there but the fun part was finding the small , boutique coffee stands in places like Enumclaw, Washington on the way to ski at Crystal Mountain. You pull in and order a custom crafted cup of Java from the smiling, female baristas and make your way to the ski area with a warm, travel cup to start your day. mount_rainier_from_west

I often find myself drinking the Java on the way to work or to a work out like cycling or skiing. Aside from the purported benefits of reduction of risk of Type II diabetes, Alzheimer disease, Parkinsons, heart disease, and colorectal cancer, I find that coffee gives you a degree of sharpness in the morning. I find that if I drink a cup on the way to a cycling outing, it gives me a little jolt that is needed because as you age, it takes more time to warm up. But the coffee helps you get out of the parking lot a little easier and I notice it when I don’t drink before I ride. Same benefit with skiing. When I finish the coffee in the lodge, and strap on the boards, my first turns are more focused and the rhythm of the ski turns are assisted by that initial caffeine boost in the morning. Even going to work, it give me focus to begin my day. But aside from the caffeine benefits, what is so special about the proverbial cup of coffee that warrants discussion? images

I have found that there is a whole culture out there of coffee aficionados who revel in the relaxing atmosphere of a coffee shop. Starbucks, McDonald’s and smaller boutique shops encourage folks to relax and enjoy the coffee with soft music and the opportunity to use the internet conductivity to conduct business or just browse the internet while enjoying a fresh cup of coffee. My wife and I enjoyed this type of atmosphere at La Prima this Christmas in the strip district of Pittsburgh. A simple cafe that specializes in the coffee experience. We marveled at the artistry of the frothy creamy decoration on the surface of the cup and just enjoyed the experience instead of getting a “to go” cup and slamming the beverage down during our shopping outing. sawada-coffee-10dec2015-003

But I have to tell you that most of the time, I am slamming the coffee on the way to something. I remember coaching my son in his early soccer years and pounding a cup of coffee before the Saturday morning game. My wife always said that me drinking coffee was like pouring gasoline on a raging fire as I became an enthusiastic, motor mouthed, raging lunatic of a coach. My son cringed as I loudly encouraged them to shoot the ball, defend, and die for the team- all in a grade school soccer game. img00002-20091022-1737

So, the caffeine thing is not lost on me and the benefits of coffee to begin my day or as a performance enhancer is recognized as I slam the coffee down my throat. img_1301

Janet is always telling me that I have to relax and I try to get into the cafe, coffee shop experience, but most of the time I am slamming. Even after all these years, I am a rookie when it comes to the true taste of coffee. I like a strong cup but I really like a little coffee in my cream and sugar. My associate Steve Elliott, with whom I work, says that to really enjoy the taste of coffee, you have to drink it black. I am not there yet and although I am trying to wean myself off the cream and sugar, I have a long way to go. But in the meantime, I will enjoy the sweet, creamy, experience of a slammed cup of Java and thank my wife for introducing me to one of the small pleasures of life. As I age, I notice the smaller things and appreciate them. Hopefully the coffee will appreciate me with healthful benefits that supposedly exist. Enjoy a good cup of steaming coffee and thanks for reading.

Flying Solo

From the Best of

photophotoMount_Rainier_from_west So here I am out in the Pacific Northwest for a meeting in Sumner, Washington. As is my custom,I take a personal day to do something fun as well and today, as I am driving up the rural road to Crystal Mountain, I thought of my dad. It was 52 years ago that he and my mom took my sister and I skiing for the first time in a raging snowstorm in Pa. What a great gift he gave us and look what he started. The gift that kept giving all of these years. I had a chance to think about it on the drive because I was by myself and had time to think and enjoy the drive through the Cascades. I was supposed to connect with a friend who lives out here but she and her daughter were still in Vail and we could not coordinate schedules. But, you know what, that’s ok. I don’t mind being by myself and I don’t mind skiing by myself. Not to appear conceited but I do enjoy my own company. I have the time to talk to myself and sometimes I get answers. But all in all, when you are flying solo, you get to do whatever you want, ski whatever slope or trail strikes your fancy, you can stop for that relaxing cup of coffee or stop by the local ski shop and browse without having to meet someone or others. There are no conversations that say,” what do you want to ski? I don’t know, what do you want to ski? I don’t know?” You just ……do it. I was the first guy up the gondola today and the skies cleared for a moment as if my dad was looking down and had a conversation with the Big Guy up there and asked for a break from the rain. In the Pacific Northwest you can get anything at any time but that is what Gore Tex is for and that is why the locals don’t even think about weather. They just put on the Gore Tex and ski. The mountains are beautiful and even though Mt. Ranier hid from me today like a shy kid, I still saw wonderful scenery, had a great day of skiing…………flying solo.

I have a friend who owns a marina up on Lake George in the Adirondacks and he hates to ski by himself. I was always puzzled about this. Lots of times you can meet the nicest and most interesting people on a chair lift ride. There is a lot of lift time during a day of skiing and if you are the least bit personable, you can strike up a conversation if you like or you can keep your head down and nobody blames you in the least because they figure you are keeping to yourself. But the opportunity is there if you want it. I am a social guy and all the disclaimers to my friends and family, I like to do things with them. Especially fun things like skiing. But there are days like today where you have the whole day to yourself without any obligations and dagnabbit… is enjoyable sometimes. As much as I say I enjoy being by myself, it is still amazing how many people I still engage in conversation. It started with the coffee ladies at one of the many coffee shacks here in the Northwest. They are neat little places that say,” Coffee with a Purpose” or ” The Best Coffee in Enumclaw,Wa” The ladies are friendly and I converse with them and then I am on my way. I talk to the lift attendants and thank them for their attention in loading the chair. I rode up with the ski patrol on several runs and also skied with a bunch of hairbag locals who engaged me in conversation, although my lingo and theirs are a little different. But the language of skiing is universal if you can turn em both ways. So, as much as I say I was by myself flying solo, I really was not if you consider talking to complete strangers and feeling comfortable.

Mountain Biking is my other passion and as much as I like to ride with my friends( and I do!!), those days when you hit the trails solo are really enjoyable. No pressure to keep up or decide on which trails to take. Just ride and enjoy the day. If you can get a day where you see no one, it is ok. It is just you, the trails, the woods and ……………the silence. Sometimes you see people on the trail and you say hello, but it is a brief moment in time and then you are flying solo again. Sunshine, rain, whatever…..the days are enjoyable when you don’t have to make any decisions. Sometimes you need that. We all have stress in our lives and sometimes you just have to get away. Nothing like a solo chairlift ride or a solo ride that can recharge your batteries and get you back to feeling positive again.

So, today was a gift in the Cascades. I can thank my dad for starting it all. I had time to think about that. I thought about my family back home and shared some text thoughts with them. I met some nice folks and we had a lot of conversations about how bad the weather was and how good the snow was and really…who cares anyways. We were having fun. I arrived early and left late and enjoyed the day…..flying solo. Thanks for reading and enjoy your own company will ya?