Listen to Smart People, But… Defying Conventional Wisdom with Outdoor Voices and Chef David Chang
Jason Bacaj | 4 min read
A serendipitous thing happened during this year’s South by Southwest. Two of our clients — Ty Haney, CEO and founder of Outdoor Voices (OV), and Chef David Chang, who opened the Momofuku restaurants — got together and recorded a show for the chef’s podcast, The Dave Chang Show.
If you’re interested in OV or enjoy David’s good-naturedly unreserved interviewing style, the podcast is a must-listen. Their conversation ranged from Ty’s background and the mission driving OV. Plus, David at the end has a good monologue about one of the more maligned kitchen appliances: the humble microwave.
The podcast’s formal title is “Defying Conventional Wisdom,” which both David and Ty have done to great success. Ty moved OV from New York City to Austin and ignored all the eyebrows the decision raised. David does things like baking bread daily at Majordomo, even though it’s rather inefficient and uneconomical, because he feels that baking bread raises morale.
In the meantime, here are a few of the highlights, lightly edited for clarity.
Ty on why she moved OV from New York City to Austin:
“I came down to Austin for the first time, went to Barton Springs, which is the fountain of youth. It’s like a football-field sized spring-fed pool. And I looked around and felt like this is the future home of OV. If you look at the big activewear brands, having a city that becomes part of the DNA and a kind of platform for growth, Austin is it for OV.
“Going back to the investors, and rightfully so, from their perspective. They said, ‘You’re a fashion company in New York, why would you ever move?’ Well, sure enough, I said we’re moving. And over the last two years we’ve moved the entire company down here. And it’s been tremendous. It’s a playground for play and creativity.
“It was opposite what anyone would have told us… if you go to Town Lake here, it’s people of all ages, shapes, and sizes paddleboarding, jogging, walking their dogs. It’s very recreational.”
Ty on finding opportunity in a market filled with behemoth, transnational companies:
“In the traditionally male-dominated activewear space, I saw an opportunity just to speak to women and develop product. Because we have boobs and a butt and we have to think about bounce management… I think that given that 50% of the population is female there’s so much opportunity for women to start companies, more women to invest in companies.”
Ty on when you have to project confidence that you know what you’re doing when you really don’t know how to do it:
“You have to hedge your self-confidence, which ebbs and flows. It really sucks in the moment. When you have to show up and have an all-hands with your team when you’re like, ‘I feel really insecure in the moment.’ And you just have to go through it.
“I think about everyday optimism, things I say to myself when I’m in a moment of insecurity or vulnerability. But I recognize it and know I have to be persistent, I have to go into beast mode. It’s something I’ve noticed in my peer set of people who have founded companies—you have to be a beast. You have to have the alter ego.”
David Chang | John Scuilli/Getty
A key trait of successful people David admires:
“I’ve gotten to observe some of the most successful people out there, in all walks of life, and I always find that the people I admire the most are the ones who can very quickly identify what they suck at.”
What Ty was like as a teammate and basketball player:
“In high school, the physical therapist would give anybody who took a charge a pie. I think I had at the end of the season 25 pies. I was the best defensive player.”
Ty on the future of athletics:
“I very much believe that to get more people to be active it’s got to be joyful. It’s gotta be something they can do with friends, that they can do with a smile on their face.
“I very much believe that the future of athletics isn’t about being the first, but about frequency. And to drive frequency, you’ve got to free fitness from performance… at this point for me it’s, ‘How do we make being active like as foundational to the everyday as eating, sleeping, drinking?’”
David’s thoughts on why OV has become such a phenomenon:
“I think people today who are younger can smell bulls— a mile away. And if you cannot be transparent, you’re f—d. And I think that what [Ty has] done, you’re basically trying to create the company, not in your image per se, but to be as radically honest and transparent as possible—because that’s the hardest thing to do.
“People don’t respond well to brands anymore because it’s been too polluted. In my opinion and I’ve never spoken this out loud, is people will still buy something but they won’t respond to the brand. And it’s not about brands being promoted, it’s about ideology, lifestyle, and something real.”
Ty on what works for getting out OV’s message:
“We tried for six months to go the digital marketing path, and it doesn’t work for us. What works for us is this offline, in real life, community-first activation that then drives more organic and earned media that can be leveraged through digital.”
David on combining personal experience with the advice of others:
“Where I’m at right now is, how do I listen to data, listen to the smart people around me, and trust them, but also…
“For instance, we opened this restaurant, Bang Bar, and it’s this crazy idea we had. Everyone said it’s the dumbest idea we’ve ever done. Including myself. And, because of my experience, I was able to look at what I thought the smart people would find problematic. There were 13 things where I was like, ‘This person’s gonna say this, this person’s gonna say that.’ And I was ready for them.
“I thought about it. And it’s you don’t know, you’ve never done this before. So, I’m not gonna not listen to you. But I’m not gonna listen to you because where are you getting this information from? We’ve never f—ing done it, so we need to actually f—ing do it first and then pick up the pieces.”
The Rec Center has an engaging and colorful layout. It’s a fresh, consistent, branded one-stop shop for team members to find all things OV.
Expo is Momofuku’s learning platform. Their clean, bilingual layout and simple location-specific navigation make it easy to adopt the LMS into everyday routines.
BY JASON BACAJ
Jason is a content creator with Wisetail. Through research and interviews, he works to help L&D pros grow the breadth of their knowledge. He’s a recovering journalist fascinated with learning.