Chairman of the Board
Jake Burton, founder and chairman, Burton Snowboards
By Oliver Ryan

(FORTUNE Magazine) – IN 1977, AT AGE 23, Jake Burton left a job at an investment firm run by Victor Niederhoffer for a wood shop near Stratton, Vt. His goal: transform the Snurfer, a precursor to the modern snowboard, into a sporting good that might rival skis. Three decades later, privately held Burton Snowboards has become an icon of the $2.3 billion snow sports industry, selling a full range of gear and funky apparel. Burton (he sometimes uses his full name, Jake Burton Carpenter) now presides as maverick chairman, recently pushing his Burlington, Vt., company beyond winter sports with the acquisition of Channel Islands Surfboards. FORTUNE's Oliver Ryan caught up with the 52-year-old executive just before the spring thaw.

DON'T DO IT FOR THE MONEY. In the beginning this was sort of a get-rich-quick scheme. But I realized very quickly that wasn't going to happen, and I became passionate about proving there was a sport there. I just started looking out for the sport. Ever since then, it's looked out for me.

LIVE YOUR WORK. There are people here who don't snowboard, but I think that would be tough. Top management snowboards before our meetings. And if it snows over two feet in 24 hours, we close the company.

LISTEN TO THE PROS. We gather top snowboarders about every six weeks for what we call "the process," and we go through our entire line of products. The importance of listening to that kind of feedback is a lesson I had to learn.

CHANGE YOUR PACE. Sometimes you've got to stop and mix up your routine. About five years ago my work routine had gotten to the point where I'd become bitter. So my wife and I took the kids out of school and traveled the world for ten months. It was an incredible experience. And a bonus was that others at the company stepped up.

TAKE NOTES. When I'm riding, I've got a little digital recorder I use. I can e-mail the voice file to my assistant. I also carry my Sony Cybershot to capture epic moments or a product issue.

STICK TO YOUR GAME. When we started to become successful, I saw how others who had made it in the ski industry were parlaying it into an opportunity to play golf. I swore I'd never go that route. I ride at least 100 days a year. It's an important discipline for me.

KEEP IT REAL. People have said, "Hey, you need a mission statement." And I never react well to that. Our mission is just so implicit in everything we do. F