I think it’s easy to say Mike Sinclair is one of the godfathers of the skateboarding industry. After 15 years in the game, he still has the drive and patience to manage some of the largest brands in skating and nurture the talents of some of the greatest skaters in the world. Between his busy schedule as T M for Nike SB’s Am team and his management duties at TumYeto, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask him about his day to day operations, his experience at Nike, and what’s to come for the future.
Back in the day, you were sponsored by Endless Grind Skateshop. How did your skating career translate into being a team manager for so many well known brands?
I worked for Endless Grind Skateshop in Raleigh, NC off and on for many years. I grew up in Durham, NC and just to go to work at the shop it was about a 45 minute drive. I just loved the shop, the crew, the history and Reggie Barnes is a good guy to work for. I owe him a huge thanks for letting me work there and come and go as I did. I was just working at the shop one day and wanted a change so I made some calls out west and packed my bags in Jan 2001 and have been working for companies out west ever since. I met a lot of people that I work for now back in the 90’s skating on the east coast and just traveling around meeting new people. It’s a small industry and everyone is a familiar face. I’m just happy to be here and thankful that I am able to do something I truly love.
I think it’s sick that you had the foresight back then to see that this could be a viable career option in an era when the industry wasn’t as big. Was there a moment when you realized things were working in your favor?
I don’t know if it was really foresight as much as it was just me wanting change at the time. I didn’t care about money or “what if this does not work out” I just packed up and made the best of it.
With all the work you’ve done over the past 15 years, it’s hard to keep track of who you’re running with. How many teams do you currently manage and what are they?
Currently I work for Tum Yeto which is now Toy Machine, Foundation & Pig. I recently just started working for Nike SB and I also work for ESPN.
What are the day to day operations like for a team manager in your position? Is it difficult to adapt to the personalities between teams?
My day to day is a lot of scheduling, tracking, emails, calls, texts, planning, shipping, meetings and making sure everyone is happy. When I’m on tour that stuff does not stop so I do it all from the hotel or van. Adjusting to different personalities is always fun and keeps things interesting.
What was it like going from a skater owned company like Dekline to a corporation like Nike?
I have worked for other skater owned brands and other corporations so it was nothing shocking or surprising to me. Dekline was awesome and I loved working there but it wasn’t working due to the bottom line. Tod Swank was the owner of the brand and he invested his own money into the brand and he told me it was like investing a million and only getting a thousand back. Dekline wasn’t losing money but it just didn’t take off or grow. I respect Tod’s decision to pull the plug and I thank him for sticking with it for a decade. Every business owner wants to see growth and it just didn’t happen for Dekline. Working for Nike SB has been amazing. I have a budget, I have a plan and I go out and get things done for them. I love it!
When hammering out the details of your job description, how did Nike’s expectations for a person in your role measure up to what you’re used to doing?
Nike hired me to focus on their up and comers. I have done this for many years with guys at other brands so it’s a perfect transition for me since Dekline folded and I wanted to keep working with a footwear brand. I’m super thankful for the opportunity Nike SB has given me.
Is there a universal motivational tactic that you use to get skaters to do things? I imagine you have some tricks up your sleeve.
It starts with the skater, if the skater wants to make it happen for themselves it’s a lot easier. I have worked with a lot of different personalities and if there is one thing I have learned is that you can’t want it more than the skater. If the skateboarder is the best ever but does not have the drive or care it’s fighting a losing battle to put a ton of work and focus into that person. I have little things I do to try to keep the guys on track and not lose focus on what they want to accomplish. Drugs is a big one that will mess anyone up and get them off track. I’ve always been sober but don’t preach to the kids, it’s their choice to do what they want but if I see them getting off track I will sit them down to see where their head is at. Some snap out of it and some just keep doing what they want to do and when it ends for them they are usually the ones most shocked and have the biggest problem getting adjusted to the normal working world. Day to day, it’s just staying positive, having a good time and trying not to stress anyone out to hard but at the same time not being a pushover. It’s a fine line.
Do you have any tips for those who want to work in the industry and try to do what you do?
Anyone can do what I do. I just don’t know if most have the patience or want to dedicate all of their time to a job that is 24/7.
Ed Templeton recently said the most successful board companies these days are more like garage shop operations and the world of board sponsors is changing fast. It’s interesting because I feel like skaters used to be defined by their board sponsor. Now it seems like the other way around. Can you weigh in on the state of the more well known board companies and the changes they are going through?
Ed also said in the end everyone will have their own brand and sell their 100 boards to their close friends. Everyday more and more of the board brand pie is split up. The biggest board brands these days are not big at all.
It’s a bummer Toy Machine isn’t doing KOTR this year…what was your experience like last year with the new format and what do you think of the teams this year?
KOTR is awesome! I loved it, I would of done it again if we were asked to go. I’m pulling for Enjoi but Deathwish is my bet for taking it but you can’t count out Creature those dudes kill it.
Any news on a follow up to WTF?
Foundation “Oddity” video is coming Feb 3rd 2017. We are working non stop to make it a video to remember. Don Luong is filming and editing the video right now and the dues are finishing up their parts. Cole Wilson has been on fire for the video so far. Corey Glick, Ryan Spencer, Dakota Servold, Nick Merlino, Corey Duffel, Joey Ragali, Dylan Witkin and Aidan Campbell are all putting in major work for Oddity.
Who do you have for SOTY?
I don’t think I could just narrow it down to one ripper. Jaws, Figgy, Provost, Grant and Silas all killed it and there are probably 10 more that I can’t think of right this second. I would have to vote for Provost on just being impressed every time I see him skate in person or Jaws for just being such a freak of nature.