How Did I Get Here?: The Ascent of an Unlikely CEO Hardcover – Oct 5 2010
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‘…entertaining review of his entrepreneurial endeavours.' (Business Life, December 2010). This is no sham celebrity business book…packed with lessons for entrepreneurs.' (Director, December 2010).
From the Inside Flap
When Tony Hawk got his first skateboard at age nine, he had no intention of ever making a living at iteven as he rocketed up the sport's amateur ranks. And of course he had no idea he would become the most famous skateboarder of all time, let alone the head of several successful related businesses. The same focus that drove him to pick himself up off the pavement again and again, that kept him riding through skating's lean times, and that fueled his celebrated ten-year quest to land the elusive 900 (two-and-a-half midair rotations), also helped him build his brand into a worldwide empire.
From skateboards to clothing to sports tours to video games to online media, Tony Hawk has dominated markets with a laid-back style that masks his formidable business sense. Now, in How Did I Get Here?, Tony reveals the convictions that enable him to navigate between the skateboard and the boardroom.
How Did I Get Here? takes you back to Tony's first business, the still-thriving Birdhouse Skateboards, which he and a friend started long before he had mainstream fame. He describes the lessons he learned (some of them hard) building Birdhouse on little more than a home-equity loan and the street cred he'd gained within the tight skating subculture of the '80s. You'll also find out how, by staying true to his passion and his instincts, he's been able to build his businesses into a global juggernaut.
Whether working with tiny skate shops or national chains like Kohl's, Tony found long-term success by insisting on authenticity. You'll see how he very consciously brings skating's homegrown style, DIY ethos, and underground heroes to each of his enterprisesfrom start-up Web sites to mega-selling video games. True to Tony's twisted sense of humor, How Did I Get Here? also doesn't flinch from what didn't work (pink backpacks, anyone?), recounting his entrepreneurial mishaps in gruesome detail.
Tony Hawk is living proof that you can stay close to your roots while going big in business. Discover the secrets to his successeverything from brand strategy to the real meaning of "Boom Boom HuckJam"as Tony answers the question How Did I Get Here?See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is not only a business book, but a story, actually a drama of sorts, that provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the life of a most unique man. One who has been able to somehow bridge the gap between a very structured corporate world and a very anarchistic and sometimes rebellious youth market with great accuracy and success.
In many ways, you've seen this story before - you know, the typical rare planetary alignment that brings about a kid with ridiculously supportive parents, the right amount of obsessiveness... the hyper overachieving computer nerd with an abundance of natural athletic talent and endless energy. Add to that a little self-made luck, and you have a true success story in the making. I use "in the making," as it is obvious that Mr. Tony Hawk is far from finished with the story.
There is a certain freshness to this book, I think primarily due to it actually being written by Tony and his family, no professional "hired hand" writers involved. You can immediately feel and sense the nights that Tony, his sister Pat, and brother Steve must have spent together either in each others presence or in emails and drafts, organizing, reorganizing, writing, re-writing, checking grammar, reviewing punctuation and everything else that goes into creating a book of top form.
This book might best be described as a "business autobiography," one filled with fun and very interesting experiences that drive along a good narrative, while providing a reasonable amount of insight into the strategies of marketing a bigger-than-life image and the vast array of product attached to it. The product in this case, in addition to skateboards and apparel, runs the gamut from philanthropic endeavors to television cartoons and radio shows, 30 million copy selling video games, Internet startups, and world tours with enough equipment and semi trailers to rival that of the largest of rock concerts. Through it all, we see how Tony successfully navigates the fine line between celebrity, businessman, and "core" skater, without "selling out" to any one side.
"How Did I Get Here," although topical in format rather than chronological, primarily covers Tony's "business" life from 1982 (at the age of 14) straight through to the summer of 2010, the time of publication. You live through almost 30 years of rises and falls, often matching that of the rise and fall of the actions-sports industry as a whole.
If you are familiar with skateboarding history, Tony's professional career is rooted directly back to the original "Lords of Dogtown." Stacy Peralta, one of the original Z-Boys, formed skateboarding powerhouse Powell Peralta and with it, the Bones Brigade skate team. One of the first members he recruited was 13 year old Tony Hawk. We briefly follow this time through to see royalty checks with the Bones Brigade grow from .85 cents to over $5,000/mo. while still a teenager.
With the beginning of the skate recession of the early 90's and Tony soon to be pushing the old age of 25 (there were no pro skaters over that age at the time), things were getting to look rather bleak.
Thinking that his time as a pro skater was limited, he tightened his belt and sold his Lexus, bought a Honda Civic, refinanced his house to acquire $40,000 in cash, got a partner from his Bones Brigade days who could invest also, and started his own company, Birdhouse Projects along with his own skate team. Despite the skateboard industry taking a nosedive, they viewed it as an opportunity that would weed out all the wannabes for them. They were one of the those fortunate enough to weather it out.
From about 1992 to 1994 Birdhouse Projects appeared to be on life support. With his wife pregnant, an attempt at a "regular" job was made. With $8,000 loaned from his parents, meals of Taco Bell and lots of Ramen Noodles, he put together a makeshift video editing system in an attempt to make a living as a video editor, but alas it did not work out as described in more detail in the book.
Things took a quick swing for the better in 1995 at the first of ESPN's annual "Extreme Games", later simply the "X Games," the action-sports answer to the Olympics. As detailed in the book, Tony quickly became the "face" of the games and as a result of both his added name recognition and the elevated profile of the sport due to the X Games, Birdhouse sales took off. By 1997, licensing deals were abundant also.
1998 saw the advent of Hawk Clothing, with exclusive rights eventually sold to Kohl's. Between that and his foray into high-end apparel in 2002, many lessons were learned that could probably fill a book on its own.
During the 1999 X Games Tony treated the world to the first "900" ever, a maneuver that entailed 2 1/2 midair spins off a giant "vert" ramp. The anarchist attitude of the entire subculture influencing the ways of corporate culture were quite evident at this event. A big take-away for any business reader.
The seeds of "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" video game franchise were spawned in 1997 which would produce its first incarnation in 1999 and continue year after year through publication of this book. Tony delves into the offers and strategies from its inception to becoming the best selling action-sports franchise of all time. Here we have an instance where against all advice, business decisions that only he could make, paid off more handsomely than anyone could ever have expected.
The early 2000's brought about new and very different ideas which in turn brought about even more financial reward, in most cases, or at the very least, a whole lot of excitement.
From a "corporate shake-up" in his Blitz distribution company to one of his most ambitious projects ever, Tony's brand continued to soar. Details on the creation of the Boom Boom HuckJam "arena tour, taking 14 semi-trucks for equipment and 8 tour buses for a 60-person crew, demonstrate the creativity and energy Tony possesses. Along the way we see how he makes adjustments to the show year to year as he tunes it into a well-oiled, fun, and profitable machine.
We round out the timeline with the power of the Internet as harnessed by Tony. He makes this power more tangible in fewer and more direct words than I've seen in just about any publication. From the success and craziness of his Twitter Easter Swag Hunt to the once potential closing of his ShredOrDie.com social site, lessons abound in this chapter.
Before we come to a close here, we can't forget to mention the lighter side of his trials and tribulations in Hollywood that are interspersed throughout the book. Like the time when he tried to get that 3D movie deal done with Tom Cruise, or that follow-up to Michael Jordan's "Space Jam" entitled "Skate Jam", and certainly we must note that bio-pic where Tony had to describe his "first encounters" with a screenwriter, which I believe he called a concept of "supreme existential strangeness."
Finally, we would be terribly remiss not to mention or minimize the final chapter entitled "Giving Back" that begins to document his philanthropic endeavors. Coupled with his more personal chapter featuring excepts from blogs and journals we are taken to places like Sierra Leone and his involvement in the "Sport for Good Foundation." One of their programs provides traumatized children a chance to simply be kids again through sports. These were the ones who had been forced into combat, labor camps, and other horrible situations, some ongoing, mostly during that country's darker war-torn years. A very touching moment. Domestically, the Tony Hawk Foundation continues to work year long to help neighborhoods in need. True to form, he ends the book as he states in the books' very first chapter, when talking to his more youthful readers, "If you get some extra money in your pocket, give back." He obviously lends a lot of credibility to this advice by truly leading by example.
The only difficulty I may have found with the book was a little ambiguity as to who the intended audience was, however that may have been due to a worthwhile attempt to try to make it accessible to everyone, from those with a passing interest in the Tony Hawk story, to the businessperson who has an interest in action-sports or marketing in general, or the teenager with dreams of becoming a pro skater. This is most notably exemplified when providing advice...
"Gravitate toward sponsors and licensees that are willing to
collaborate on, or even give your team control over, the look
and feel of marketing material, no matter how seemingly
insignificant. It's allowed us to weave a thread of graphic
continuity through a wide range of products." (Obviously to
or "Don't rebel for rebellion's sake. In fact, rebellion shouldn't
even factor into it. If the thing you love and do best is
viewed as rebellious, then, yes, embrace your inner Che
Guevara. But don't let the cool police dictate your dreams.
Think of it this way: If your passion is dismissed as mainstream
and dorky, that makes your insurgency all the braver. Do it because
you love it, not because you're worried about what others-teachers,
friends, that hot emo chick who sits alone by the bike rack at
lunch-will think." (Obviously, NOT to the businessperson.)
This is a great read. If you're even remotely interested in the action-sports industry, or possibly a pro skater looking for some sound advice in handling, or how not to handle, your business affairs, or just a young kid wanting to know what it takes to "Be like Mike... or Tony", you can't go wrong with this book. I loved it. I'm sure you will too.
However it lacks in depth lessons for young entrepreneurs. The book proved that Tony may be a great entrepreneur but not a good at teaching and mentoring, or he got there by just luck. Hence the book is just a biography of his life with little things to apply to your business.
When I got the book I was excited with the design, layout and presentation but I got to the last chapter still wondering what I have really learnt.
Another issue that was hidden from the book is his personal life. You cannot write a biography and exclude your personal life from it. It is possible there are issues that were not in order in Tony’s life and had not dealt with them.
Hawk employs very interesting chapter titles. Chapter 2 is called The Birth and Death of Our First Business, while chapter 3 is about Risking Our Home to Make T S-Shirts and Hats. He is already telling you something about how he did it. It's about failure and risk taking. It's about a mother who had the willingness to allow him to pursue his passion, no matter how unreasonable that passion may be - SKATE BOARDING.
Without ever going to business school, he picked up on what it takes to run a successful business. It came down to this:
* Countless hours of hard work
* The sacrifice of family time
* In Tony's specific case the physical sacrifice of countless hours of training
* An absolute love of what you do
There are some things you must learn the hard way. In 1998, when he needed the money he was paid $50,000 by the Fruit Loops Company to appear at Chelsea Piers in New York City. The whole program was orchestrated for him ahead of time. He didn't like what happened, and it taught him about relinquishing control.
For Tony, success in life was based on the following observations. They are sprinkled throughout the stories that he gives the readers.
A) Find out what your passion is, and then you must run with it. Don't listen to your peers, and don't listen to career counselors. They are working towards the norm, towards the middle, and you are taking a different approach.
B) If you are going to rebel, do it for a reason other than rebellion's sake. If you are rebellious, Hawk uses an interesting term. He tells you to embrace your inner Che Guevara.
C) You must love what you do, but as long as you love it, you must put in the tremendous effort necessary to be the best at it. It's alright to be obsessive as long as you're good at it.
D) Be a pioneer among pioneers and innovate.
E) Stay grounded, be humble. Be willing to acknowledge the genius of other people. Be admiring as opposed to resentful.
F) You must encourage the younger people who will be replacing you - You should be a mentor.
G) Take it all in, and then clear your mind and go with your gut.
H) Always be willing to take risks, but make sure you have a good lawyer before you do.
I) When you have an extra buck or two - give back
J) If you are a skater, never stop skating.
The most intriguing belief that Hawk espouses in this book is that you should never, ever sell full ownership of your name to any company, or any person, for any reason. This is regardless of what they offer you. Hawk made the mistake of doing this with Quicksilver the clothing company. However when he negotiated later on with Kohl's, the department store chain, he sold the license to use his name, instead of his name itself. So always sell the license, not the brand.
Tony Hawk's name now appears on items as far ranging as T-Mobile cell phones, bedding, shoes, sunglasses, and different foods. The book is absolutely fascinating in that it shows how a young man can successfully navigate going from sports athlete to international brand. He brought many members of his family into the business, and they all seem to be with him more than a decade later. Even the outsiders he brought in are still with him, from lawyers, and accountants to consultants. He knows how to keep people which are crucial to any business. If you are into business, I think you will enjoy this book, and thank you for reading this review.
Richard C. Stoyeck
As a franchise, he's been successful, seeming to catch on to pop culture trends (like Twitter) early on and manipulating them successfully. Raising a family as well as his business hasn't been easy, but mistakes that were made were usually overshadowed by successes soon after. A team mentality endures in Tony Hawk Inc., which sponsors skate boarding and other sports events as well as designing merchandise to market to fans. Some considered him a sell-out for selling Tony Hawk bedspreads for little kids, but he justifies it expertly, explaining that given the popularity of skateboarding, somebody was going to make little kids bedspreads with skateboards no matter what, so why not do it and make them cool? This justification goes on into his endorsement of numerous other products.
Going beyond the fame though, he also creates the Tony Hawk Foundation that raises money for different nonprofits and assists low-income areas to create community centers for skating as a means of socialization, positive peer influence (yes, but while he hangs out with Bam Margera!), and exercise.
So, does the book offer savvy business advice for other wannabe entrepreneurs? Not really-and it doesn't intend to. Instead it's more of a history book of the era of skateboarding, MTV, social networking, video games, and hoodies. A snapshot of the time period, it is enjoyable to read but hardly in-depth. A fan would enjoy it, and he does give some valuable advice (although the generic kind). I found it a pretty light read but did enjoy seeing how a brand name is made and the challenges that come with what is essentially marketing yourself. He seems a genuinely nice guy with refreshing honesty and candor, and that may be why one of his suggestions for success involves having good lawyers!
rec'd by publisher for review, contents of review not affected by receipt of such