Sean Crawford, YEN Member Insights, January 2011

Sean Crawford, SEMA YEN Member of the Month, January 2011

JE Piston’s Sean Crawford on… How to Navigate Corporate Waters

Sean Crawford, 28 Years Old
Marketing Manager, JE Pistons; YEN Member

At the tender age of 28, Sean Crawford is in the impressive position of directing JE’s multi-million dollar marketing efforts. Working within the much larger corporate structure of Dover Inc., Crawford has become an expert at developing new creative ideas, getting buy-in, and executing them with a wisdom that belies his age. Crawford gives YEN’s younger executives some valuable insight on how to navigate corporate waters.

Give us the biggest risks for a young executive, where are the biggest pitfalls to watch for?

“As a young executive, it's easy to become eager to take action quickly. This is directly related to the speed we've become accustomed to receiving information. This is a risk. Even if the answer seems simple, it's good to slow down and evaluate the situation before moving forward. This "slower" style of response is usually more consistent with existing management and will pay off in the long run.”

Tell us your history before you started your career. How did you get into cars?

“Thanks to my father, I’ve been around all things motorized since I was a born. There wasn’t a time in my childhood where some form of project wasn’t around. I can recall helping him work on everything from classic Chevys to Pettibone tractors. We built several classic cars including my first car, a 1969 Ford Bronco that I still own today. Later, I worked at a very specialized race engine shop that provided me with a several years of experience working with high end racing engines. At the same time, I was studying Marketing at a University nearby. Eventually, the gear head and marketing side came together to get me where I am today.”

Tell us about your career trajectory at JE. Where did you start, where are you now, and what happened in between?

My first year at JE was spent in Technical Sales. This was a great experience and allowed me to become close to many of our customers. More importantly, it allowed me to further understanding of our customer’s needs and values. Shortly after, I transitioned into the Marketing Specialist position that I held for nearly 4 years. During this time, I attended dozens of trade events and set out on several international business trips throughout Europe and Australia, some lasting as long as 6 weeks. The amount of exposure to international markets I received during these trips was incredible. 

In the 4th quarter of 2009, our parent organization Performance Motorsports Inc. (PMi), acquired Innovate Motorsports. Since then, I have been actively involved with the marketing of Innovate’s products. This is a great opportunity and has given me a new perspective about other product lines in the performance aftermarket.  Recently, I was promoted to Marketing Manager for JE Pistons. 

What are the top 3 things that you would advise a young assistant starting under you - what should they do to advance quickly.

“Use your age to your advantage. There are a lot of changes going on right now in the marketing world and the younger generation is on the front lines. While many organizations are still trying to understand social networks, online forums and other new forms of media, the younger generation uses them intuitively. In many cases, a 20 year old has a better understanding of “new media” than an experienced marketing executive.

“Educate yourself. This applies not only to marketing knowledge but also technical knowledge. The amount of information available at little or no charge today is amazing. Subscribe to a relevant marketing blogs and buy a few books. You can learn a lot from others marketing “adventures”.”

“Be part of the community on and off-line. As a marketer, it’s easier to make decisions when you understand the values of your customers.”

Do you feel ageism exists in our industry? Where might your opinions not be considered because of your age. How do you make yourself heard?

“Ageism exists in almost every industry. I personally have not had many issues in this area but when I do, I simply present my viewpoint in a way that’s easy to understand for all parties involved. As long as your view is valid and well supported, age doesn’t matter.”