Sierra Designs is not the same company it was just over a month ago. Sure, the name remains the same, but in the wake of the jump from California to Colorado, only three employees elected to tag along with the moving vans, and only one of those has any longevity with the company.
Mark Herbert, who joined the company in October 2002, coming over from Hind where he worked as the company's vice president of sales, has replaced industry veteran Sally McCoy as the company's president. Also making the jump were Hunter Shoop (the only one with any longevity at SD) and Andy Genowick.
Gone are recognized industry names such as Ted Ganio (still deciding where he wants to play), Cammie Harris (now with Mountain Hardwear), Bryce Thatcher (also weighing options) and a host of other talent. Reasons given to SNEWS for folks not opting to stay on and move with the company were wide and varied. Bottom line sentiment was that if Sally wasn't leading, they were leaving.
Insiders have told us American Recreation Products (ARP) officials were hardly surprised at the attrition and perhaps even expected it. Regardless, it left new president Herbert in a challenging spot -- replacing respected and veteran design and company leadership in 90 days or less.
"Though you simply can't replace the folks who were at SD over the last few years, we had done as well as we can and, I am thrilled with the talent who wanted to work here," Herbert said.
Indeed, Herbert has done an admirable job of replacing a team of SD veterans with new blood that is saturated with industry veteran experience. Lonnie Drosighn, a senior developer with CamelBak, is now SD's senior operations manager. Nate Smith, III, left his sales manager position at Gregory to become sales manager for SD. Kristine Carey, from a few Mountainsmith restructures past, is now SD's marketing manager. Phil Mesdag, who outlasted seven presidents while at Mountainsmith, is now in product development for SD. Other staff members have joined SD from Salomon, Marmot, Hind, Schwinn and EMS.
While many retailers and reps have openly questioned whether SD can survive the change both to Herbert and to SNEWS, Herbert reminds everyone that, "There is nothing that I can point to and say, 'This is the magic elixir that is going to change SD's fortunes.' ARP made a business decision and now we need time to prove that this new team can execute.
"This group will come up with good stuff. My biggest challenge as leader of the company will be to keep them focused and to get the SD name back into the forefront of specialty retail market," said Herbert.
Be sure to change your address books for SD to: Sierra Designs, 2011 Cherry St., Ste. 202, Louisville, CO 80027. The phone has changed to: 303-262-3050
, although the 800-736-8592 remains the same.
SNEWS View: Herbert has his work cut out for him, as does the rest of the team. We'll be honest here. As we began watching the processes unfold and hearing daily updates as to who was not going forward, we began to write SD's epitaph. However, this new team has amazing talent and industry experience and there is no way we will bet against them -- yet. With spring '04 already in the books under the old team, it will really be six months before we are able to say, with any certainty, what direction the new gang will be taking SD. There are those who are grumbling about the loss of culture to be sure. We'd remind them that this may not be such a bad thing. No, it is not the old SD, but SD has been through so many changes in the last 15 years, who's to say what the real SD culture is? There is little doubt that SD is now firmly under the backroom guidance of ARP officials who will expect better financial returns than they were getting recently. Whether they will be able to get them remains the BIG question. Sleeping bag and tent sales remain challenged at best and if SD wants to remain competitive, it has to come up with compelling reasons for retailers and consumers to care about it, beyond a color or style change. We've heard rumblings ARP wants SD to increase and broaden its distribution, whatever that means. Playing the price point and larger retailer distribution game will not be a solution, as that gets SD into Kelty's arena and Kelty will simply eat its sister brand for lunch. One area SD could make a mark in is an area that has been historically troubling for it, save for a very few successful forays -- apparel. As for Ultimate Direction, without Bryce Thatcher, UD's future certainly becomes much cloudier (ARP never locked him up under a non-compete, if you can believe it). If ARP dreams for a minute that with Camelbak experience on board, it can turn UD sales into Camelbak-like numbers as an insider intimated to us recently, we'd suggest the folks there stop inhaling their own marketing smoke. UD has always been and will always be a niche brand that has a very passionate following among ultra runners -- many of whom probably don't even associate the name UD with the product they're using, but that's another issue altogether.