It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Live to Play Sports’ (formerly Norco Products) retired CEO and past president, Jim Harman on Saturday, January 12, 2013. Jim passed away from complications following a stroke, and will be dearly missed.
The bicycle business is about people, relationships and shared experience, and Jim Harman understood and lived that every day. We see his passing as an opportunity to share and to celebrate an extraordinary man: a leader, coworker, keen listener and pioneer in cycling.
Jim enjoyed a long and rewarding career with Norco Bicycles that began December 1, 1977 in Winnipeg where he set up Norco’s distribution branch. Four years later, Jim moved to the West Coast and to Norco’s head office in Burnaby as a key buyer within the Merchandising department, managing Norco’s busy domestic assembly factory in Canada. This facility went on to build more than 1 million bikes and 2 million wheels.
Early on his warmth and listening skills established Jim more than just a well-liked colleague and partner, but a natural leader among staff and vendors alike. Jim was inspirational in creating a family spirit and culture in what we know as Live to Play Sports today. Ultimately, it was the combination of Jim’s passion for learning, respect for people and his gift for seeing the bigger picture in all situations that enabled Norco to establish many of the best practices for the cycling industry that still stand.
In 1992 Jim was promoted to vice president and focused his keen business sense and foresight towards the goal of building a global platform for Norco Bicycles. This was a considerable undertaking, but Jim’s entrepreneurial streak and pioneering manner led to Norco’s success starting with a single customer in Mexico.
Establishing new vendor relations and adding international distribution was an innovative strategy that Jim pioneered in Canada. Jim never turned down a good business opportunity and over a 10-year period he went on to build Norco’s export business in 25 countries.
Jim also held a deep sense of compassion that extended beyond his own family. Years ago, one of Norco’s key parts vendors lost their complete facility to an industrial explosion and fire, resulting in a complete loss of their operation. Jim’s response was swift and sure, immediately placing a large (for us) order and ensuring purchase orders would be there on hand when the factory reestablished its production capabilities.
Steeped in the competitive culture of cycling, Jim’s goal was to win, but always within the rules. He felt it was vital to establish a win-win for all parties. His sense of fair play, combined with an outlook on the long term for Norco’s business, always created room for better questions, patience and the principle that it was always more important to understand rather than be understood. He earned the trust of colleagues and partners alike as a person of his word. A handshake with Jim was as solid as any written contract, right up until he retired in the summer of 2009.
He also saw the fun side of competition and was an early adopter to sponsor and promote a Canadian BMX race team. This team went on to win three national titles and was the foundation for Norco’s Factory Race team that still thrives today.
Jim was a pioneer in so many respects and the development of mountain biking was no exception. In 1984, Norco was the first to design and manufacture mountain bikes in Canada, and the Rampage was born. This was the start of suspension-specific design that became the industry standard. The Rampage was the first front suspension-specific production mountain bike in North America. It was clear that Jim fostered a culture that valued people and their ideas as any success would be predicated on our ability to first listen, innovate and ride.
This philosophy continues to thrive within Norco Bicycles today, as his legacy can be seen through Live to Play’s cycling advocacy support and charitable efforts. Jim felt that it was very important for the company to actively give back to the community while promoting the sport of cycling. Under his tenure, Norco continued to support and contribute to many causes, including the Ride to Conquer Cancer, MS Ride for the Cure, United Way, Sprockids, Bikes Belong and many other national and local cycling advocacy groups.
Jim maintained a well-balanced and passionately active life – he truly loved bicycles and rode regularly. He could also often be found with friends and partners enjoying the cut grass sections of his local golf course. He and his family regularly gave of their own time to participate hands-on with local charities close to their home.
John Williams, president of Live to Play Sports adds: “Jim always carried himself with dignity and class and he kindled a culture of generosity through fostering relationships with all that he touched. He will be sorely missed but to know him meant a deep, personal friendship that lasted a lifetime. He touched many and our staff at LTP have many fond memories and his spirit will carry on through all of us.”
Jim is survived by his wife Polly, daughter Maren (Paul), son Quinn (Leila) and 14-month-old grandson, Jack James Harman. In lieu of flowers, the Harman family requests that donations be made in Jim’s name to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.