Back in 1962, when brothers Bill and Don Kirschner founded their ski gear business, they could barely have imagined the global giant that K2 Sports would become. With 15 brands across multiple businesses, the group is a complex entity manufacturing, marketing, and selling a complete range of ski and snowboarding equipment and accessories. CEO Robert Marcovitch has a unique way of keeping it all in perspective.

“I like to tell people that we are actually making sandwiches,” he says. “And what I need to do, to make sure that you keep coming back to my business, is to make sure that every sandwich you get is exactly the same—not only the right amount of lettuce, but also make sure that the lettuce was grown by the same farmer, so you won’t turn around and say ‘well this isn’t as good as the last time.’ That’s why a good supply chain is so important.

“We have 10–12 key strategic suppliers with whom we cooperate significantly in almost every aspect of our collective businesses. We work very closely on product development, and commodity enhancement for materials, we work on the logistics side of things to improve our ability to get to market on time—with multiple brands, businesses, and commodities it’s really important to coordinate those activities as best we can for everybody involved. When you want to get skis and poles and boots all out at the same time, it takes an enormous amount of coordination and we are continually looking at ways to improve not just our products, but our processes, too.

“We have a very sophisticated short-list of suppliers because it’s very important to reduce or eliminate any product failures. The products that we sell are used in extreme conditions, where it’s often very cold. They’re used very rigorously, and safety is paramount—we’re almost making precision medical instruments in that respect. So we need to make sure that there is that level of sophistication on the part of our suppliers, and our manufacturers. We need to make sure there’s continuity, and we need to make sure there is continuous monitoring—not just by us of them, but also their own monitoring. It’s one of the main things that we’re concerned about because we’re dealing with active sports activities and we have to do everything we can to ensure that we reduce any chance of failure.”