His name commands over $1 billion in video game sales and he still rides a skateboard around the Vista offices. Could Tony Hawk, the company, be the best place to work in San Diego? The author of recently released How Did I Get Here: The Ascent of an Unlikely CEO breaks down the business for us.
Number of employees: Twenty-four; 35 when on tour.
Revenues: More than $200 million annually in Tony Hawk branded products.
Video games sales: More than $1.4 billion to date.
Tony Hawk Foundation: More than $3.8 million in grants awarded to 481 skate park projects in 49 states since 2002.
Twitter followers: More than 2.4 million (Hawk personally writes all of his own tweets).
Facebook fans: More than 1 million.
Behind the numbers
Perk if you work there: Half-pipes in the office.
The coolest part of your job: "Honestly, it’s traveling the world on other people’s money."
Latest venture: "Tony Hawk’s 900 Revolution, a series of teen books, based on action sports, which focus on skateboarding, snowboarding, and BMX. The goal is to try to get more kids interested in reading. There’s a thread to the series, so there’s a reason to get each book."
San Diego projects through the Tony Hawk Foundation: "Our focus is low income areas so generally San Diego doesn’t qualify, but we did fund a park in Imperial Beach, and there’s one being built in Tierrasanta, which is where I grew up, so that is close to my heart."
Advice to young entrepreneurs: "The main lesson I have learned is to keep control of your brand. Whether you are working with others, or if someone wants to license your company, make sure that you have final approval. Once someone else has that freedom it’s not going to be your vision of your product that has been your passion."
Greatest business success: "The video games have been amazing. They have changed my life, absolutely, in terms of my income, but also my recognition factor and the resonance my career has had. They broke me out of niche—it’s not just the skaters who know my name now, it’s a whole other world of people. This has definitely led to more opportunities outside of skateboarding."
Who is one of your heroes? "My dad taught me a lot about encouraging kids. He was very supportive of me being a skateboarder, and my mom, too. At a time when skating was not considered a career option, or something that kids should even be doing, my dad would drive me to all the skate parks and allow me to pursue my dream."
Is there anything that no one ever asks you in an interview that you wish they would? [He laughs.] "I think somehow there is this perception that because what I do is skateboarding, that it’s an easy life, so to speak—that you wake up late and you just do it when you feel like it. But you have to work at it, put yourself out there and continue to challenge yourself. And now, having my own kids brings a whole different element to my life—before, I never had to schedule when I was going to skate. Now, literally, I know that on this specific day I have this window of time to ride my skateboard based on school schedules. It’s just a strange aspect now—being a responsible parent and also being a professional skateboarder. Sometimes you have to plan skating around nap times."
Are you happy your company is based in San Diego? "I think a lot of the reason that I have gotten to where I am is because of San Diego. It was the home of some of the last remaining skate parks in the ‘80s and the weather allowed me to skate year round. I will never leave!"