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SBD Global/August 8, 2014/People and Pop Culture
Hangin' With ... Connor Sports VP Of International Sales Andrew Gettig
Published August 8, 2014
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On joining the company ...
Andrew Gettig: I was a volleyball coach in the Peace Corps and then I went to graduate school at Ohio University. While there, I interned at the U.S. Olympic Committee and I put together a goodwill tour of professional athletes down to the Caribbean. The athletes were totally cool and were willing to pay their own way and do what they could to help, but they were concerned about playing on a concrete slab. Most of these countries didn't have any indoor facilities and they had no outdoor courts other than asphalt or concrete. So I contacted Sport Court because they had a relationship with USA Volleyball and they made outdoor courts. So I led this goodwill tour, and I helped sell the court to the prime minister of Saint Kitts and Sport Court offered me a job. So I finished grad school at Ohio University in 1991 and moved to Salt Lake to join Sport Court. Sport Court merged with Connor eight years ago, so that's how I came into this business. One thing leads to another. I was a Peace Corps volunteer and I actually read in Newsweek, the international edition of Newsweek had a new technologies section and they did a half-page profile on Sport Court and their outdoor courts. And I said, "Wow, that would really be something because a lot of the world needs safe courts to play on because they just play on outdoor slabs of concrete." So I joined the company, and 23 years later I’m Vice President.
On new projects ...
Gettig: We have a team of engineers whose focus is largely on developing the next generation of products. We have a product called Green Play. It's brilliant. It's a hybrid of our wood and synthetic floors. Some people said, "All things being equal, I'd like to buy a green floor." But they wouldn't buy a green floor if the ball didn't bounce on it or if it was less shock-absorbing or less safe than our other floors. We were able to create a product that featured the best of our synthetic and wood systems, that meets the highest international standards for shock absorption and performance.
On the company's emphasis on innovation ...
Gettig: Even now, it's not about, "Oh hey, we have the No. 1 product." If we just sat on that, then everyone would catch up and eventually find their own new products. We're already working on the next generations of indoor and outdoor products. ... It's a constant process of innovating and improving on what we have and it's part of our company's culture to innovate, to make safer and more shock-absorbing projects for our customers.
On growing Connor's int'l business ...
Gettig: We’re a North American-based manufacturer. We have two manufacturing facilities in land-locked states. We manufacture our wood products in northern Michigan. We manufacture our synthetic products in Utah. Those companies set out to be the best companies they could be. They were surrounded by the United States, they were American companies, that's primarily where we saw the opportunity in the business. Since 1999, it’s been my responsibility to develop our business outside the United States. I think prior to ’99, it was a much smaller priority for the companies. We were an American company selling American products to an American audience. If people contacted us from outside the United States, it was like found money. ... But we have for some time now been methodically approaching the international market, building our international distribution, building our international reputation. And it’s worked. What was a happy day when someone from outside the country called us up and sent us some money, now it’s a very significant part of our ongoing business.
On his favorite sports ...
Gettig: I grew up in Cleveland wrestling. That was my first sport. I wasn’t very good at it. In college, I went to Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., where I played on the men’s volleyball team. That led me to a position as a volleyball coach in the Peace Corps for two years in a small country called Saint Kitts. That was a phenomenal experience. People join the Peace Corps to put someone else first for two years, to put another country’s needs and interests first. You just can’t go from the richest, most powerful country in the world to one of the smallest and poorest without having a phenomenal experience yourself and a very impactful change of perspective on life and the world. I love playing volleyball, I love watching basketball and soccer. My family comes from Swansea in Wales. Swansea has a team in the English Premier League right now. I support Swansea and Real Salt Lake, our local Major League Soccer club here. Being from Cleveland, it’s a genetic thing, you have to support every Cleveland team. So I’m a fan of the [NBA] Cavs, the [NFL] Browns, the [MLB] Indians, and anybody else, even Drew Carey.