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Inside Snow: Mark TrailsInside Snow: Mark Trails

Inside Snow: Mark Trails

March 2024

Mark Taylor is the managing director of his own sales agency, Mark Trails, who handle the UK wholesale of Nordica and Odlo to all UK retailers. We caught up with Mark to find out what it takes to setup up your own business in the UK snowsports industry.

SIGB: How did you get started working in the snowsports industry?

MT: After living out in Canada doing ski seasons I moved back here to the UK and worked for a year in Sheffield in a running shop. Towards the end of that I was conscious that I needed a bit more money, so I started looking around and found a job on Outdoori with TKC Ltd. They used to be the UK distributors for Nordica and I ended up working for them for seven years as a sales manager.

SIGB: How did you come across the position? Did you just know to look on Outdoori?

MT: Back then it was just a lot of looking around and literally typing outdoor industry jobs into Google. But once I found Outdoori, I realised it was a good place to find jobs. I was applying for loads of stuff on there and Matt at TKC kindly gave me an interview.

SIGB: What do you think interviewers in Matt’s position at a snowsports equipment sales agency are looking for in potential employees?

MT: People skills. I think that’s probably the number one thing. The ability to interact, entertain and engage people is really important in sales. Definitely a business acumen is helpful, in terms of understanding numbers, where you might be able to try and make more sales, and what not to spend money on, but I think you need enthusiasm and people skills and then the rest of it can be learned. Probably the ability to drive a long way is quite handy as well!

SIGB: How did you end up running your own business?

MT: I was at TKC for seven years and basically it was a bit like an apprenticeship, I learned a lot of lessons in business. My job was to run Nordica as a brand, along with Lowa walking boots as part of the sales team. Then in 2020, due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, I was made redundant and TKC stopped dealing with the brand, but Nordica asked if I would be interested in taking on the company as a self-employed agent. I had no idea what that was or how it worked really, but fortunately my wife had a good job and we could just about manage, so it was worthwhile having a try.

I think everything I learned before that was helpful for the job, but working out how to run a business over the last three years has been a very steep learning curve… Being Jack of everything and Chief Dog Walker, as well as Chief of Accounts, Head of Logistics and so on.

SIGB: What’s your best advice for someone who wants to take a similar path to you?

MT: Whatever job you are in currently, just ask questions from every department. Try and learn as much as you possibly could because you're in a really good position that you don't necessarily realise. Whilst you might be working really hard in your area, you've got to try and start to learn a more global view of how everything works and the best people to ask about that are the people who are doing those jobs. Learn everything you can in the place you are and then one day it is just a scary jump to have a goat doing it all yourself. And if it fails, well at least you tried and probably learned how to do it better next time.

SIGB: What’s the best thing about working in the UK snowsports industry?

MT: I think it's that we're a pretty tight-knit group of people that share a love for the sport. Whilst there is competition between brands, you've got that constant knowledge that in reality you’re a small industry, so it's more like snowsports versus every other sport on the planet rather than internally between brands. Everyone's kind of rooting for you to do well and there is help offered and given, whether it's a retailer or from a someone working for another brand. There's a lot of teamwork to make things happen, which is really encouraging. You don't feel quite so on your own, as long as you make the effort to become part of that community.

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