Beth Cross co-founded Ariat in 1993 and continues to serve as its CEO today. She’s incredibly bright, business savvy, successful by all definitions of the word, and she runs one of the most dynamic companies in retail. In 10 brief questions, she reveals her approach to leading the powerhouse that is Ariat, her commitment to balancing family and work, and so much more.
English and western riding are known to be very different cultures within the horse community. How have you been able to bring them together at Ariat?
At Ariat, one of our core values is a shared love of horses and the outdoors. This bridges all disciplines and allows people from a variety of interests and backgrounds to connect in a personal way with our brand.
Outside of work, what kinds of horses do you own and enjoy riding?
I grew up on a horse farm in Pennsylvania and was one of those horse-crazy kids from the time I had my first pony. I love horses and the sport, and the people involved in it. I enjoy both English and western riding, and all of our kids grew up learning to ride both. We live in town, so don’t own any horses with the kids all in college now.
You are known for your passionate insistence on a work-life balance, having said your three kids and successful marriage are your greatest accomplishments. What has informed your passionate devotion to this balance?
I strongly believe that if you’re successful at home and have a strong, positive connection with family and friends, then you’re successful at life. I grew up in a large family; I am #7 out of 8 kids. Both my mom and dad ran small businesses – my mom ran the farm and my dad ran the family business. I grew up with a strong belief in hard work and commitment to family, and there seemed to always be enough time for both.
Looking back, I realize how hard my parents worked raising 8 kids while working full-time, and that has given me a strong belief that it’s possible to do both. I have to credit my parents for exposing me early on to the great balancing act of working, having a loving family, being a responsible person, and making the time to seek your passion in life.
You’re often described as “down to earth” by folks who have met you. How have you managed to stay so relatable and approachable despite your laudable success and celebrity within the business community?
It has been such a privilege to be a part of Ariat from the beginning. Every day brings a new challenge – and usually something to laugh about. I have always felt that I still have more questions than answers about business and life, and I know that keeps me humble!
As you know, Murdoch’s is based in the Rocky Mountain West. When you spend time in our neck of the woods, where do you like to stay, and what do you like to do?
I went to college in Colorado, and many years we spend at least a week in Buffalo, Wyoming. I love to ski at Snowbasin (in Utah), and I am headed to Montana today to visit friends from college for the weekend!
You’re known for your adventurous spirit, including a stint working on a fishing boat in Alaska. What’s your ideal adventure at this point in your life?
Each year our family takes two weeks in a remote location completely off the grid – no phone, no technology and usually very few other people. It’s totally rejuvenating for all of us and keeps us connected as a family. Working at Ariat gives me so many opportunities to attend “dream come true” events, from the PBR Finals in Las Vegas to major English horse shows in Europe.
Can Murdoch’s customers look forward to any upcoming Ariat products geared toward life in the Rocky Mountain West?
In 2016 we have an incredible line-up of new styles of footwear and apparel for outdoor activities.
You have said that a CEO must visualize the full potential of a company in order to “build a road map.” Has Ariat’s growth followed the road map you envisioned? How has it deviated?
The first products we made offered advanced cushioning and stability technology for both professional and backyard riders. We started out with an idea to revolutionize the equestrian footwear industry with performance technology and have remained true to the original concept.
We have had many twists and turns along the way in the past 23 years, but we have always stayed true to our original vision of building the most advanced performance footwear and apparel for the world’s top riders. Today, we also have a full line of work footwear and apparel for people who live and work on a ranch, and for the jobsite. It seems like almost every day someone on the team has a terrific idea for a new product, which takes us into new and exciting directions.
As the founder, you have to be able to visualize the full potential of the company and the brand – to see it in your own mind so that you can build a road map to the long-term vision, and start to work out how to get there. Culture is the other critical part of the CEO’s job, which requires a continual focus on the core values and day-to-day character of the organization, always making sure that the organization stays true to those core values.
When you offer advice to entrepreneurs, do you offer unique advice to women entrepreneurs? That is to say, do you feel women have unique opportunities and face unique challenges as entrepreneurs?
I have such respect for each of our employees, most of whom come to work every day and give us their best while also managing the daily challenges of life at home, which can include a marriage, kids, elderly parents as well as dogs, horses and lots of other responsibilities. These pressures are not unique to women, but I do believe that women entrepreneurs can face unique challenges when starting a business. I try to tailor my advice to the specific person who I’m talking to, in the context of their own life.
What’s the story behind the Ariat logo? We’ve heard rumors about three original owners, and one horseshoe for each.
Our logo was designed by Jay Vigon. The company was founded by me and Pam Parker, and when Jay showed us the logo he had designed, we felt that the three horseshoes in the shield would give us the luck we would need to survive the many challenges we were likely to face along the way!
Murdoch’s has carried Ariat clothing and footwear since 1997. Our sincere thanks goes to you, Beth, for taking the time to give Murdoch’s and our friends a glimpse into your heart and mind. What a class act, now and always!