Operation: Transparency


In a land often run by oligarchies or conglomerates, one independent company in metro Detroit is turning the tables on the standard office environment.

Owning and operating 19 websites and five stores, Summit Sports, a Bloomfield Hills-based retailer, demonstrates its transparency by featuring several running dashboards throughout its offices and stores. These screens, different for each department, constantly stream information about products, websites, profits, and losses for any employee (or visitor) to view.

Steve Kopitz, founder and CEO (or Ski-E-O, as he’s fond of saying), knows firsthand the trials of corporate life from his years as a certified financial planner at American Express. Wanting to improve his quality of life, he left the job and started Summit Sports in 1990, planning to run it as a mostly catalogue business. But the Internet changed all of that. Now, 21 years later, 80 percent of the company’s revenue comes solely from its websites.

Even more innovative than the complete transformation into an e-business is the fact that sales data is accessible to, literally, anyone in the company. “I’ve always been open with my employees about numbers,” Kopitz says. “But it wasn’t until two years ago that we completely opened our profits and losses with our employees.”

Once a month, everyone in the office meets to discuss the margins, and what can be done to improve them. Employees also have access to daily snap reports.

And then there are the dashboards.

Walking into the Summit Sport’s headquarters, three massive screens fill the lobby. Constantly altering and updating numbers, charts, and figures, these boards contain stats on everything from the number of users on each site and how they got there, to merchandise order statuses, the top products sold that day, and even a live video feed from the warehouse in Auburn Hills.

And the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Even in these fraught-filled economic conditions, last year proved to be the most company’s most profitable on record. Still better, it has experienced average revenue growth of 30 percent in recent years.

Continuing with the themes of transparency, Kopitz makes sure that each and every Summit Sports-owned website has its own personal design. “We try to give an experience (with each site),” says Kopitz. “It’s like walking into a different store.”

The company started out as just a few general sporting goods sites, he explains, but he realized after a while that specialized sites are more accessible and user-friendly. “Google likes it better, too,” says Kopitz, as the customized URLs (i.e. www.skis.com) make the merchandise sites more relevant (and thereby boost online traffic).

“All the sites that we have right now are very clear. We want our sites to be clear to consumers and to Google that this is what we do.”

Just as Kopitz left his previous job and founded Summit Sports to improve his lifestyle, he wants his employees and customers to follow in his footsteps. “We sell things that people can use in their limited amount of time to improve their quality of life,” he says.

When asked what was in store for the future, Kopitz quickly responds: “We have lots more websites to open.”