Conversation with James Dean with TAW Sports/New Balance ATL

James Dean, GM, New Balance Atlanta, and his family.

The GM of TAW Sports/New Balance Atlanta on the importance of prioritizing your agenda, finding the grit and fortitude to get things done, and why his mom’s words are still the gospel he follows today.

What is the most cherished item in your home office?
I have a 1:24 scale model of an Aston Martin DB5 from the James Bond films. For many years, I have revered “Bond” and his team for the ability to adapt to whichever situation may have been thrown at them. Obviously, the movie and book industry can play a major role in this, but nonetheless I like the idea of having the right tool for the job. I have had the model for over 20 years, and slowly throughout those years I have figured out why I have always been drawn to the franchise.

What is your favorite time to get things done?
Midday has always worked for me. I wish I had my “to-do” list in front of me each morning, but my day runs a little different than most. My obstacles usually pop up as the day gets underway and stores all begin to open up. Running operations for stores that operate in the Central and Eastern time zone means having to be available at all times.

What is the soundtrack that plays in the background of your office?
Sadly, I have to admit I listen to talk radio. Maybe not the most interesting, but just a background of discussion keeps my mind headed in the right direction. I love all types of music, but I associate music more with relaxation than work actually getting done.

What does a typical work day look like?
I usually start my workday at about 8 a.m. I prioritize my agenda, and use the quiet hours to get the items that have to be done that day. Many of these hours consist of inventory procurement for stores, creating and adapting our operating procedures, especially recently. By afternoon, I hope to have spoken to each location’s manager to get an idea of their challenges within the store, and how to navigate through those challenges.

(L-R) James Dean, and Shayne Jackson and Bryan Cole from the Georgia Swarm NLL Lacrosse team.

How are you staying connected with your team? Customers?
Like many, phone, email and Zoom meetings. The phone has always been a key piece for us, but as we ventured into the quarantine days, we have had to adapt to meet not only the customers’ needs, but also our suppliers’ needs. Sales representatives have not been able to travel. We have marketing meetings through Zoom to discuss advertising campaigns.

What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a job site?
Earlier this year, we had a location broken into during my yearly sales meeting here in Atlanta. It was early morning and someone drove a truck through the store front. We all received phone calls from the alarm company as well as the local police. The amazing part was how quickly we mobilized to make sure we did not miss a moment of business. Window repair teams were called, all managers and sales members came in and cleaned the entire store free of broken glass, and the tape from the cameras were given to the police. It ended up being one of the busiest days of the year.

Name the band you cannot take off your playlist.
Always one of the hardest questions for me to answer. It really just depends on the mood I am in. For the most part, I would say Thievery Corporation always has to stay on my playlist. Their collection of music spans so many genres, and I can always find a song or that will either find the mood I am in or change the mood I am in.

What are you binge watching right now?
“Bosch,” “Jack Ryan,” and “Yellowstone are the three shows I cannot get enough of. They are well acted, well produced and the story lines are not contrived.

Favorite comfort food.
BBQ of any type. Pulled pork sandwiches or brisket would be preferred, but I rarely discriminate if the person smoking knows what they are doing.

Best advice you ever received?
Remain optimistic. Do not let society dictate your thoughts or feelings about people and their habits or actions. The last few months have definitely come into play. The easy path these days is to throw in the towel, but as many have had to deal with adversity, I know only to wake each morning and push through each day’s challenges.

Biggest influence in your life?
My mother’s work ethic. As a mother of five, she did what needed to be done to provide for us. She always found a way to create an opportunity for us. She also never had time for complaints or “whining.” She would always say, “If you do not like the situation you are in, make it better.”

What trait do you most admire?
Grit or fortitude. I have always loved it when someone can demonstrate a “can-do” type attitude.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Remain patient. Opportunity is created by you. Always try to put yourself in the best position to win.

What is the first thing you are going to do when you are able to get back to some sense of normalcy?
Take a family vacation. It really doesn’t matter where. My wife and I have already discussed getting out of dodge and focusing only on our family. When travel restrictions begin to lift and operations get back to where they should be, we hope to find ourselves someplace relaxing and quiet.

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