Pelican Sports, a Montreal, Canada-based paddle sports company, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer, and its new Executive Director of Sales and Marketing, Kelley Woolsey, is genuinely amped about what he feels will be a coming out party of sorts.
Woolsey’s excitement about his new gig is palpable. If you call his Montreal office and get his voice mail, you’ll hear Woolsey say energetically, “It is great to be here and I look forward to chatting with you.”
When Woolsey left Confluence in January 2008 (click here to read story) he told us that there was no way he was going to work for another paddlesports company. When SNEWS® asked him about that statement in early June, he told us simply that he was completely bowled over by the quality of the company, the management team and the culture at Pelican, and had a change of heart.
“I met everyone at the company and saw all that they had, and I believed in their message and culture and I chose to become a part of it,” Woolsey told us. “They are family owned and operated, and offer a very similar situation to what I enjoyed while at O’Neil.
Even though Woolsey knew of Pelican, and had seen its boats around, his perception was, he suspects, like many others in the industry: that Pelican was a value-focused, big-box only style brand and nothing more.
“Boy was I wrong,” said Woolsey. “For one thing, the number of people that paddle here on a daily or weekly basis would outnumbers the people that paddle regularly at many other specialty paddlesports brands in our industry.”
Woolsey said he was especially impressed with the facilities that Pelican owns, including a 300,000-square-foot plant with more than 400 employees and a brand new thermoforming machine dubbed ‘Big Mac’ that will increase factory capacity by 25 percent.
“I also very much appreciate the philosophy of the company under our COO, Francois Bernard, that if you have good people working for you and with you, you will develop the right product and be profitable,” said Woolsey. “That is the right order of things…people first, product second and profits will follow.”
Of course, Woolsey has had to overcome a language barrier of sorts to implement some of his motivational techniques and communicate his ideas about company culture.
“Everyone knows I like to use acronyms a lot to communicate things like mission statements and even product lines, so when I got here, I asked them what their mission statement was and they told me, simply, Merci,” said Woolsey.
While the word “Merci” and all it entails may have been appropriate for the company, it didn’t translate into an acronym that was understandable, so Woolsey and his team created the acronym C-Diet: Customers; Devil in the details, Integrity, Efficiency, and Teamwork.
“And teamwork here is a slightly different meaning too, which I love,” Woolsey added. “To this company, teamwork is not just about the employees, it is about all the people with a stake in the company, including the families.”
This summer, Pelican will unveil a new line of boats in its Elite series. When SNEWS® pointed out that they did this last year, Woolsey told us it was a soft launch and not executed with the focus the product line deserves.
“With the Elite line, the sleeping giant of a company, Pelican, is awakening and it will be noticed,” said Woolsey. “From a sales perspective, I have worked with great sales teams before, and this is no different. Our director of sales, Noel Basque, is an amazing talent, and together we are going to be able to do some amazing things.”
The Elite line will only be available to specialty dealers, including REI, EMS and L.L. Bean, but not traditional big box retailers Woolsey told us. “I had a chance to paddle in the new stuff, and what impressed me is the boats are on par with boats that are much higher priced…it will be an industry first in terms of what we are able to offer our dealers in terms, margins, quality and service.”
For Pelican, targeting specialty stores with a specific line is something new, so Woolsey worked up yet another acronym for his team to underscore the importance they all place on this effort. Elite, for Woolsey’s team, stands for: Educate, Listen, Integrity, Teamwork, and Enthusiasm.
“Educate and listen are especially important, and we know we are going into a category we’ve not been in before, so we need to listen and learn,” said Woolsey. “Integrity and teamwork are borrowed from the mission statement, and then enthusiasm because if we are not having fun selling product for having fun, what is the point?”
At a recent dealer advisory council meeting, Woolsey told us that the reception to the new Elite line from the likes of Appomattox, Sunrift, Powers Outdoors, Midwest Mountaineering, River Sports Outfitters and more was inspiring to his team.
“We are a company full of people who love making great product at a great value that offers years of enjoyment and has the service to back it all up. And getting the feedback from retailers already buying into the Elite program is great for all of us,” said Woolsey.
SNEWS® View: Well, count us among the many who did not necessarily think of Pelican as a specialty brand. We do know the company makes a broad range of products that sells via a wide distribution network. Its product lineup includes pedal boats, fishing boats, canoes, kayaks and even a cargo box that could go head-to-head with the likes of Thule or Yakima. Pelican also makes stuff you might not expect, including pools and inflatable for summer use, and toboggans and sleds for winter.
While it is hard to verify numbers from private companies, it does appear that Pelican is close to establishing itself in the number three slot in terms of paddlesports companies, with Johnson Outdoors and Confluence still firmly holding onto the number one and two slots.
With Woolsey on board, we do expect to see Pelican’s name more frequently on the minds of specialty dealers and Pelican-branded boats more frequently in the mix of the specialty outdoor selection at many paddlesports retailers.
We have been asked by some retailers to sum up what is different about Woolsey at Confluence and Woolsey at Pelican, and we’d put it this way. It is the same Woolsey at Pelican without the weight of the world on his shoulders. He had great people to work with at Confluence, that’s a fact, but the situation always seemed to be one of damage control and scrambling to shore up a bottom line and keep retailers satisfied in a less than supportive corporate environment. Here, Woolsey enters a company that is healthy financially and also eager and able to provide him all the support he needs to succeed. True, both Woolsey and Pelican are in that enviable honeymoon period with a new product launch that has high expectations. So, time will tell if the mood remains a year from now. However, from all we’ve seen and heard so far, Pelican is a place that has Woolsey practically skipping across the water with joy. You can hear it in his voice.