How This Asics America Executive’s Love of Running Landed Him a Dream Career in Athletic Shoes

As the CEO and president of Asics America, Gene McCarthy taps his footwear beginnings every day in order to lead his team. According to the executive, who has a passion for running, he has had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn his love of the sport into a decades-long career.

Here is how he made his dreams come true and his advice to the next generation.

His first job in the footwear business

“When I was 13, I saw the cover of Sports Illustrated [featuring] Olympic runner Marty Liquori. I told my [par­ents] I was going to break the 4-minute mile. Eight years later, I wrote a letter to Marty, who owned Athletic Attic, and in July 1978, I moved to Gainesville, Fla., and worked for the [retailer].”

On coming full circle

“I bought my first pair of running shoes at Paragon Sports in New York. They were Asics. Here I am nearly 50 years later and I’m the president and CEO of Asics America. While it humbles me, it tells me that hard work is one thing, but dreams can come true.”

The most important business lesson he has learned

“I have a philosophy — if you see it once, it’s an idea; if you see it twice, it’s a trend; if you see it three times, it’s over. There were trends that lasted six months or a year. Now trends can last only hours or minutes. The best CEOs have an insight on when to stop and move on to something else.”

How to create a strong corporate culture

“Companies are inanimate objects. It’s the people who bring them to life. When I assemble a team, [from] leadership to those who greet you at the front door, I want them to understand that value. [However], you also need people with contrast­ing personalities and skills. These dynamics are what creates a fabulous brand, even if business is tough.”

What the Asics team looks for in new members

“We’re not interested in people who love sports but in people who can help us drive our brand, cause and our mission. I tell anyone coming for an interview, if you want to be successful, don’t tell me what you want to do; we really don’t care. Tell me how you can help me and [the company].”

The biggest change in the industry

“The pace of the consumer is much faster than the pace of the industry. I [created] a mantra many years ago when working for another brand — ‘We don’t own this brand; kids do. We just manage it for them.’ Years ago, kids chased sneaker companies. Today, sneaker companies chase the kids.”

The hardest part of his job

“Being everywhere at once. You have to take the time to decipher what’s best for today versus what’s best for the future.”

If he wasn’t in the shoe business

“I’d be a great teacher. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to speak at USC, Princeton and MIT. I’m getting to a stage in my life where it’s nice to be reward­ed for what you know and not just for what you do. If that doesn’t pan out, I’d become the personal assistant for Bruce Springsteen.”

His daily routine

“I get up 4:30 a.m. every day, whether it’s Christmas or July 4. No matter where in the world I am, I need some open-eye meditation where I let thoughts rush through me.”

The executive he admires

“Tory Burch. She started her company with a simple premise — the empowerment of women, then connecting with them through affordable, accessible luxury. She’s the perfect blend of beauty and bravery.”

On life after shoes

“I’m not good at doing nothing. I want to get up every day and … be in a place where I can affect other people.”

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