James Lawrence is one of the most driven individuals in the cycling industry. He's been at YT Industries for almost five years and following some changes within the business, he's transitioned from Global Marketing Communications Director to Retail & Sales Development Director at YT Industries.
Before that, some of his previous roles included Service and Warranty Team Manager, Bicycle Retail Buyer, Account Manager and Bicycle Store Manager. He's been working in the outdoor industry his entire career, both in the UK and abroad. It's safe to say he knows a thing or two about the bike industry. But what about his role and how did he get started? We dive into his history and find out more.
In your own words, who are you and what do you do?
I'm James Lawrence, an industry professional totally immersed in the world of mountain biking. I've been fortunate enough to ride some of the most iconic spots around the globe and have spent my career working for bike brands, importers and stores. For the last eight years, I've been involved with online, direct-to-consumer brands and currently, I'm lucky enough to be a part of the YT Industries family.
What is your job?
Based at the YT Mill, Surrey Hills, I'm the Director of Retail & Sales Development and part of the leadership team, representing the UK market.
How did you get into what you do?
My journey here started with another online bike brand but I had a clear end goal in mind. I wanted to work for a brand with real roots in mountain biking and a leading online presence. Around then, YT reached out to me, and a few years down the line, here we are.
How long have you been working in the bike industry?
I have been in the industry for 14 Years. In that time, my love for the sport has only grown stronger. It feels like I learn something new every week.
How have/Have things changed since you started?
The industry transformation has been massive with a significant shift toward online brand integration. I've been fortunate to play a part in this evolution and, from a broader perspective, the growth mountain biking has seen is immense.
It's not just brands expanding either, it's the whole infrastructure. Spots such as Morzine, which were starting to gain traction, have evolved into iconic riding hubs, while newer spots like Aosta and Maderia are rising to global recognition. Fuelled by social media, the sport has seen incredible levels of progression too. It's really inspiring.
Is there anything you wish you could change about your role/job?
My role at YT motivates me and I enjoy every minute. When it comes to the industry, I think there's room for improvement, though. Information isn't handled or presented in a way that would meet the standards you'd find in other industries; a step toward the levels of professionalism seen in the automotive or major sports sectors would be a move in the right direction.
What does the average week look like?
I'm lucky to say my weeks are never quite the same. I'm constantly seeking new challenges and working closely with our business partners to dive deep into their markets/locations. I love meeting our fans and customers and feel this is key to our success as a brand. It's their feedback on the brand and products that matter most. Currently, I'm working on a range of UK market topics, including our recent launch as a Cyclescheme retail partner.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to do your job/what you do?
Get out and ride your bike. My role has a huge riding element and it's beneficial to understand the scene. Hanging out with customers and spending time on the bike is crucial, and while I may not be a pro, I find myself wanting the same things our customers look for, which helps keep their needs in mind.
Furthermore, I firmly believe that anyone can bring value to a brand or an individual. The key is to develop the ability to understand and actively listen to feedback, especially when it's critical or negative. This skill is invaluable in helping you or your brand grow.
What do you like most about what you do?
What I enjoy most is the team I'm surrounded by. It's rewarding guiding my colleagues towards roles that align with their drives and lifestyles – nothing beats seeing someone realize their full potential. Equally, I have mentors who play a similar role in my journey, providing me with the guidance and support I need. In short, it's the people, the mentorship, and personal growth that make this role so rewarding.
If you weren’t doing this, you would be?
Doing the same thing with a snowboard or kayak company.
What have been some of the highlights of your career?
My career has had some highlights which I am proud of. Back in 2020, I led YT's move into the UK and was involved in constructing the YT Mill showroom in Guildford, Surrey. We built the UK side of the business from the ground up, and I'm proud to say I was a part of that.
While I've been fortunate with what I've achieved over my career, I believe the most exciting highlights are to come. But so far, helping to build the YT UK/European team has been one of the most rewarding aspects.
The industry is in a bit of a tough situation in terms of the cost of living. Do you see it recovering any time soon and, if so, what will brands need to do to stay relevant and afloat?
It's true. The industry is facing challenges, especially with the rising cost of living. Although I think we're in for a demanding winter, I'm optimistic, and I think there's light at the end of the tunnel. Come spring and certainly within the next year, we'll find ourselves in a better position, and some difficulties will be behind us. There are external factors that could still have an impact, of course. Right now, the world is facing many challenges, and I feel for those affected.
What do you dislike most about the cycling industry?
There's so much I enjoy about the cycling industry but a change I'd like to see is in the competitive, closed-off nature brands show to one another. Sure, we're competing, but at the heart of it all, we're united by riding. I'd love to see more collaboration and camaraderie amongst brands in the future and to enjoy the sport together. Maybe this is naive of me?
How do you keep things balanced when your hobby becomes your job?
When your passion becomes your profession, balance is vital. I maintain my love for riding by setting time aside to ride with friends and hit a shuttle day every couple of months. Additionally, time in the gym helps me keep on top of work-related stress, especially throughout the winter months.
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