President of Bogs Talks About Today’s Business Challenges and Running a Family Business

Dustin Combs, president of Portland, Ore.-based Bogs, may have grown up in his family’s business, but he’s been busy leaving his own mark on the company, known for its performance outdoor footwear inspired by the Pacific Northwest.

Here, Combs talks about his earliest shoe memories and executives who have inspired him along the way.

How I began my shoe career

“My brother Riley and I joined Bogs full time in 2009, but our history goes back further. [Our family] owns Burch’s, a family shoe store in Eugene, Ore. We used to do stock work for candy when my grandparents were involved in the business. That progressed into working the sales floor through high school and then in the warehouse when the wholesale business started.”

Best advice from my father, Bogs founder Bill Combs 

“He’s always focused on the customer in all facets of the business. He ingrained that in me.”

My managerial style

“Our Portland office, which handles product, marketing and sales, is small, with just 10 people on the rare day everyone’s in town, so there’s little bureaucracy. It’s a highly collaborative [atmosphere], with everyone involved. We’ll also bring in an intern and have them contribute to product meetings on their first day.”

What it’s like working with family

“The best part is spending so much time together. [However], the worst part is that little of that time is personal, though I think we do a good job of balancing things with time outside the office.”

Most rewarding part of my job

“A lot of [employees] have young kids, including myself. Bogs’ charitable [initiatives] fund outdoor-education scholarships and grants. These organizations practice what Bogs is all about — getting outside — which was a big part of my childhood growing up in the Pacific Northwest.”

Biggest change I’ve implemented at Bogs

“We’re launching an industrial line for spring ’18, building off new technologies from our core rubber boot business. It’s been a significant investment by our parent company, Weyco Group, and part of a renewed focus on work [footwear], which could become [half] our business.”

Our company culture

“Employees are encouraged [to head outdoors] anytime. David Cook, our VP of marketing, and I run in the park on a regular basis. My brother goes rock climbing and does yoga at lunch. It’s something we encourage.”

Business leader who inspired me

“Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia continues to lead the outdoor industry. [His brand] has long been the kind of values-based organization that consumers are interested in supporting.”

Executive I’d swap jobs with for a day

“The big athletic guys in Portland are on a nice run. I wouldn’t mind poking my head in to see what they’re up to.”

Biggest challenge facing the industry

“We’re seeing customers lock in on one [of our] core items — even down to the color. That’s challenging for a seasonal brand like ours, growing beyond the heavily insulated product where we started. We feel there’s a lot of room to play beyond our core lineup if the product is fresh and compelling.”

The Bogs executive weighs in on his …

Relaxation method

“We run at the office regularly. There’s a big trail network at the foot of Forest Park.”

Most inspiring read

“‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight. Growing up in Eugene, graduating from the University of Oregon and watching my parents build this business, it struck a chord. ”

Alternate career

“Maybe something totally different, such as running a barbecue restaurant.”

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