Tony Hawk doesn't take any of his multi-million dollar business empire for granted, a business that ranges from Birdhouse and Tony Hawk brand skateboards, lifestyle clothing, and one of the most popular video game franchises in history.
In fact, the one thing that Hawk is proud of more than anything in his career is the fact that he's still relevant after all these years, even now as a middle-aged skater.
The polar caps won't last as long as Tony Hawk's relevancy.
And that's not by happenstance.
Because the singular thread that's woven throughout Hawk's business success, quite intentionally.... is authenticity.
Here's how authenticity is ingrained in Hawk's approach and how it can apply to your business:
1. Stay True to Your Brand.
True of all brands, especially so when you are the brand.
Hawk pointed out that the skate crowd is savvy to authenticity--the sport's rise is grounded in urban street culture. It helps his brand that he walks the talk by staying involved in the sport of skating in grassroots ways (now via demonstrations versus competing).
Hawk learned one of his biggest lessons as an entrepreneur early in his career when he signed a deal that gave up more control than he retrospectively wanted. The loss of control affected the authenticity of his brand. As Hawk told me:
"The company was producing products I didn't want to be associated with. I found my name on cheesy accessories of poor quality like Velcro wallets and plastic keychain skateboards. It came to a head when this company developed a skateboard bag made of cheap tent material, with a graphic of a crude outline drawing of me."
No more deals like this for Hawk.
Even in working with stalwart Walmart, Hawk held the line on creating an opening price point skateboard that was still of high enough quality to warrant his name.
While it's likely you aren't the brand you're selling, treat the brand as if it was your personal credibility on the line. Know your brand/business roots, where its core appeal comes from, and never lose sight of that.
2. Be authentic, enable authentic.
We've established that Hawk walks the talk, but he also creates an environment that enables authenticity. As Hawk told me:
"The culture of our team is based in do-it-yourself and creativity. Skating was born from counter culture--people wanting to do something different. I have a team of people that I trust that share the same values. I like to include others in the creative process, I don't want all the credit."
If you want your business to resonate authentically with customers, start right at home by being an authentic, approachable leader yourself and contributing to a culture where everyone is encouraged to bring their full selves to the table.
3. Have an authentic love of your category.
Hawk was most excited when talking about growing the sport of skateboarding:
"My intentions are for the good of skateboarding over my own personal gain. I love to advance the sport of skating. For example, it's starting to take off in Ethiopia and Cambodia--it excites me that skating can transcend such cultural boundaries."
It's critical to be passionate about growing the category you compete in, (all boats rise), not just focusing on the growth of your brand/business at the expense of competitors.
4. To maintain balance, prioritize what will have the most resonance.
This was Hawk's answer when asked: "How do you balance so many different aspects of your business to manage?"
Hawk went on to say:
"If you only chase success it will never be enough. At some point you have to enjoy it. I've really come to understand that in the past five years. That's why I'm making sure I enjoy what I'm doing, that I keep learning and growing and why I prioritize my family over everything else more than ever."
Words we can all learn from.
Hawk's love of learning and growing and a desire to celebrate his life recently drove him, after 17 years, to try the 900 again (the 900 being the holy grail of multi-revolution, insanely difficult skateboard moves--Hawk was the first to achieve it).
And yes, he nailed it. Eventually. Watch here.
5. Give back to what made you successful.
The Tony Hawk Foundation has given away nearly $6 million for development of more than 550 skateparks in low-income areas, providing a safe place to skate and build self-confidence.
Hawk doesn't just hand over a check--youths are encouraged to get involved in the advocacy process and to engage their city councils. This creates a sense of pride and ownership and reinforces the "do-it yourself" mentality that Hawk cherishes.
You might not build skateparks, but you can build confidence and deeply invest in those around you that helped make you successful.