Friday, September 16, 2016

The Old Bull

I have been running around like a crazy this week…guiding, chasing down employees, and dealing with random BS that seems to show up more days than not anymore. Although I am not looking forward to the slow times ahead in November, December, and January, I am definitely looking forward to normalcy finding its way back into my world. Running a global empire whilst living up to the moniker of "World's Greatest Fly Fisherman" is a constant burden; but one that I meant to bear…so onward I march.
Actually…no BS here…I am getting very excited for my return to Brazil at the first of October. I don't know what it was about the remoteness of the Amazon, but it has been calling me back ever since I cam home last November. Hell, I've even been tying flies for the trip the last couple of days. I've never been or seen anyplace so big and empty as that part of the world, can't wait to get back.
In addition to the Rio Marie trip, I am also going to do a scouting trip in the southern Amazon the following week. This lodge is known for having a ton of different species that I have never caught before, have big teeth, eat the crap out of shit, and live in fast-moving water. It all sounds like an adventure that I am particularly looking forward to. It will be great to check out for awhile!
Speaking of checking out…no the Simms saga is not over. I have another couple thousand words that I could write, explaining it all in detail. But, I'm kind of over it and think it will be best to just give you a summary of where things headed and how ended up at a place where Simms just blew us off.
Months went by before the sales manager ever really stopped to actually get together with us to discuss things. Keep in mind that I placed an order in June 2015, expecting to take delivery in November 2015. I had a sit-down with him and the Simms sales rep in June or May of 2016 to discuss where things we at. Yeah, it took them a year to actually give me the courtesy of getting to know me and our business. A year AFTER I agreed to carry their products and allocate merchandising, open to buy dollars, and marketing efforts. Although we are only a few hundred yards away, it took a lot of phone calls on my part to get them to give me the courtesy of telling me what was going on. Even then, they couldn't tell me what was going on.
This is the summary?
The dude told me that they needed to discuss it internally and with the guys at the Rivers Edge West. Made sense to me, I think I was just shocked that he was telling me this a year after everything should have been taken care of. It really is preposterous and sickeningly irresponsible on their part to have let this thing drag on for SO long with any potential client…especially one that is just down the road from them…like a longshot off the back tees away.
Anyway, I got the "we will get this taken care of get back to you in a few weeks" story once again. I told him no rush we could take care of it at IFTD in mid-July. "No, no he said…I'll have this taken care of before that. I think you know how that played out. I reached back out after IFTD as I hadn't heard anything as of yet to see where things stood.
Finally, after over a year of getting jerked around, lied to, and ignored…we had resolution and clarity. The internal sales manager at Simms gave me the courtesy of responding to an email I sent him inquiring the status of things. I would copay and paste it here, but that's probably illegal on some level. The nuts and bolts of it went something like this: Simms likes Fins & Feathers and many of their employees enjoy being customers at our shop. Yet, they could not see why they should expand their distribution at 4-Corners when they REW is right there and represents their brand so well. So, they decided that they would rather not cause any waves with the REW and focus on that relationship rather than expanding their distribution to include Fins & Feathers.
Honestly, I liked that answer and could live with that. The part that makes me want to puke under my desk…right now…is that it took them almost 15 months to give me a 100 word explanation of why they didn't want to expand our relationship. Ive always been able to handle rejection, I'm just not good at being ignored. I get particularly angry about things when it goes beyond the point of ignoring and crosses over into the world of disrespect.
So, I/we are ok with where things ended up overall. I don't like the fact that I was lied to, over and over again…month after month. I don't like the fact that Simms chose to not resolve this issue before it became an issue. It makes me sad that they have become too big of a company that no one in the internal management even cared enough to stop and discuss the situation with me.
I did have a great conversation with one of the execs over a quick bite one day during all of this (he was very nice, honest, and likable) but the conversation still had to be initiated by me.
In the end, it really was all just a bunch of drama. Our business continues to grow with a variety of brands in the store. We all keep on fishing because we love to fish more than we love to read transactional details and analyzing margins. People like to come in the shop, and it's good to be able to finally answer that question of "Why don't you carry Simms?"…honestly.
We continue to wish to support all the great folks that work there and our members of the greater Bozeman community. They seem like a pretty "fucked-up" organization when it comes to communications and relationship building skills, but that's just my take on my experience in dealing with them. Perceptions sometimes can be off, but experiences just are exactly how they are. Simms does do a lot of great things for their employees though and I really am happy that they can keep 100+ people rolling with good wages and benefits in my hometown (of 25 years). I think it's great that they still actually make a handful of their products here in Bozeman and that they have been able to become so competitive in so many product categories made overseas (boots, luggage, packs, clothing, waders, jackets, etc.) They have a beautiful facility just down the road from us and we really do wish them all the success in the world. We would love to do our part to help them be even a larger part of the Bozeman fly fishing community…but so be it.
The part that I won't tell customers in the store..but I will tell you is this. They absolutely did not give a shit about supporting Fins & Feathers. Their rationale for not expanding distribution in 4-Corners or Bozeman is bullshit. Somehow it's ok to have fly shops throughout the west carry Simms within spitting distances of one another, but it's not ok to have two shops located within a half mile of their headquarters carry Simms? Come on man…don't treat me like I'm stupid!
Think about that for a second…every fly shop in Missoula, two on the Bighorn(maybe 100 yds apart), shops across from one another in Island Park, West Yellowstone, Jackson, and on and on. Yet, you can't have two completely different specialty retailers located just a few miles from the busiest airpot in the region, in one of the fastest growing towns in the west at one of the busiest intersections in the state represent their brand. There honestly isn't any logic to it…and they really are very smart if nothing else….it just comes down to the fact that at the end of the day….they don't give a shit about supporting Fins & Feathers.
We started this business from scratch in 2000. We are the only self-branded fly shop in Bozeman that is under it's original ownership (expect for the brand new one that is…I guess). We have an extraordinary staff of "real-deal" fly fishing professionals. Our staff and our customers drive me, everyday, to do everything I can to make their lives and fly fishing experiences much more than a transactional experience.
There is an old story about the young bull and the Old Bull, we've all heard it. I don't need to repeat it for you and it would take me forever to type it anyway. I guess, you could say, when it comes down to it….I have realized that I AM that Old Bull sitting on top of the hill, looking down at all of those cows. I think I'll get them all, one at a time….

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