In my nearly thirty years in running publishing, one of the most memorable people that I have had the pleasure to meet, to interact with, to admire is Kirk Richardson, now president of Keen Footwear. I met Kirk in the early nineties at the old Atlanta Super Show. At the time, he was the running director at Nike. He had been there at Nike for fifteen years by then.
Kirk always liked a good challenge, and still does. I saw him this past Outdoor Show in Salt Lake City, Utah, and he had his outdoor uniform on--short sleeve shirt, khaki slacks and Keen shoes. He looked relaxed and happy.
I enjoyed our repartee. There were notes, like " Why did you give that brand a gold medal? " ...I would respond with some thoughtful comment, to which he would fire back another good jibe.
I have always kept my list of top footwear executives, that, if I had the luxury of money and would put together a footwear business, and do it right, how I would staff it. Kirk Richardson would be on the short list.
Reason? Richardson loves a good fight, he has, as one of my first editor's described it, " fire in his belly". Kirk does not just do something, he possesses that activity. A happy Zen warrior. Allow me to explain.
Kirk is good at finding the right team to get a specific job done. Empower them. Find people to do a job you can't better than you ever could, is the key to good management. Challenge them, yes. But a good manager keeps the lion away from the door, and the corporate detrius that slows down real innovation in any corporate environment. My observations told me that Kirk was good at developing his teams. And his teams were loyal-they loved the guy.
Kirk, I believe, has kept the skills he learnt when Nike was young and entreprenurial and those skills will help him at Keen. But, the life skills, the DNA from his parents, their love of the outdoors, his climbing and his love of his family will all play a part in his future success.
When I heard that Kirk had left Nike to go to Keen, my feelings were mixed. Selfishly, I had enjoyed working with him, and respected him for keeping up the good fight at a company that was having a challenge remembering its beginnings. But, on the other side, I was very happy to see him going to a company that he could finally use all of his skills.
Richardson is living his dream now. After 27 years at Nike, he has been president of Keen for just over a year, I believe.
His wife, Charlotte, a super coach, former groundbreaking distance runner, is a fine film maker. Her film, Run like a Girl, is a study of the some of the icons of the sport. Lyrical, well written and wonderfully photographed, it should be in everyone's film collection.
For the past five or six years, I would catch up with Kirk at the Border Clash, checking in on his wife, Charlotte, and his sons, Hank, who is 19, and Sam, who is 23. I enjoyed the pleasure he got out of both, in sharing stories about school, their likes and goals. It was fun to see someone who so obviously enjoys life, passing that enjoyment of life onto another generation.
Kirk liked challenges and he loved a good arguement. I remember the first time I pitched him and his team about my publications. I was there by myself and his team, who were not familiar to me, asked good questions, but I was pretty nervous. During the presentation, as I explained why I started our magazines, and the love of the sport, and the lack of funding, Kirk warmed up. He asked questions and he said he would get back to me. He did get back to me.
I remember sitting in the stands at the 2000 Olympic Trials, watching a couple of events with Kirk and catching up. He enjoyed the sport and was a keen observer of it. All good habits if one was, as Kirk was at that time, head of the largest running brand in the world at the time.
I am thinking of Kirk today because our footwear editor, Cregg Weinmann, a fellow alum of Lewis and Clark college, sent us a story on Kirk from the Lewis and Clark alum magazine. It is a good, thorough piece on our friend, a man who helped shape Nike for 27 years, and who now, will help shape a new company, Keen.
One final story. Last summer, while I was working a golf tournament for Rainbow Hospice, I met a doctor who runs ultra marathons. I saw his Keen shoes on his feet and asked him how much he liked Keen? " Well, I love them, I have ten pairs."
Kirk and his team at Keen will find a few million like souls, who love Keen shoes and also what the company stands for-great product and good works. A nice combination for any corporate environment. A great place for Kirk Richardson.
Good people never go away, they fill one's life with good memories.
To read a great story on Kirk Richardson, from his former college alum publication,