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Jackson Kayak hires the man, the myth , the legend,
John Ratliff as Chief Operations Officer

October 15, 2004

We had many great applicants over the past 5 months
for the “top level production job”. I did extensive interviewing,
with the goal of finding the perfect fit. It was tough, because we had
mostly engineers, with masters in business, or masters in engineering,
with 10+ years of experience as top level production managers with auto
companies, Jack Daniels, etc., etc.. All of them are kayakers, of course.
There have also been some “off limits” people who could also
do an incredible job for us, with direct experience in kayaking. However,
the way things work, patience is often a virtue, and in this case, the
saying rings true.

John Ratliff works at the ultimate manufacturing plant
for kayak outfitting, Rogers Foam. Rogers Foam is the place where I make
my seats, thigh pads, walls, and hip pads. It is a great company that
will continue to be my supplier. However, I taught John to roll this spring.
Then he got a 4 Fun, and took it to the Ottawa River for a clinic with
me. At this point, he went from a guy who just learned to kayak, to a
Kayaker! Now, the goal of any person who becomes a kayaker, is to go kayaking.
Not just on the weekends, but as often as possible. Where does a person
go who wants to kayak everyday? Jackson Kayak is certainly one option,
especially since it is part of our company mission to hire only kayakers,
and assure that they have the opportunity to kayak daily.

John is married to his lovely wife, Carman, and has
two cute little girls, Em, and Abby. I am sure Em is short for Emily,
but we call her Em and that is all I know. I was worried that Carman may
not want to move from their home town near Lexington, Kentucky, to Rock
Island, Tennessee, but she welcomes the change and they are looking for
a house with property on the lake, with a dock. The lake here is a great
place to live.

John will be in charge of all operations at the Jackson
Kayak plant and coordinate with the Ranch. His experience with R+D, production,
management, his personality (this ranked number one most compatible with
our staff), and his desire to make a difference with a small company make
him the ideal hire for us. Of course, like anything, his job is about
to start, and potential is nice, but results is the only measure of a
job well done. When posed with this idea, John just smiled and said, “bring
it on!”.

What improvements will John’s position create
at our small business?

  1. John will help us in many aspects of R+D that include
    sourcing, design, materials, pricing, etc., that he has years of direct
    experience with.
  2. He will be responsible for improving our efficiency
    in all production tasks, eliminating wasted dollars, so we can spend
    that money making the product better and the company healthier.
  3. He will be my single point man when I am on the
    road for 6 months a year for all reports, and implement any changes
  4. He will also be the extra horsepower needed to take
    us from a 2,500 boat/year company to a 4,000 boat per year company in
    2005 in the production facility.
  5. There are many more areas that John will positively
    impact, but that gives you an idea.

When did I know he was the man?

There were many moments that added up to the decision,
however, a few key tests were laid out for him, of which, none were disclosed.

  1. He didn’t hesitate to surf the hole at Rock
    Island- and dropped dead center into the middle- even though he could
    barely ferry that far out, he paddled extra hard to get to the middle.

    1. This is a personality test- 90% of everybody goes to the corner,
      especially at his skill level. He went for the center, and that
      will be how he attacks all challenges in his job- I’ll bet
      on it.
    2. He still acts like a kid. This is key for working with me, and
      the young crew at Jackson Kayak. I want somebody who can be serious
      and get the job done 100% of the time, but when the job is getting
      done, it is about max fun and being on the same level for what entertains
      our brains.
  2. He plays to win, but can be getting the beat down
    and is still positive and still going for the win. We played the “dice
    game” and I did my typical EJ luck moves on him, where I call
    my luck and usually get what I call, it seems. He was having bad luck,
    but played well to the end and beat me. This is not unlike the roll
    of the dice he will get on the job daily. I need him to win in the end
    everytime, regardless of the odds he faces, and he must be positive
    the whole time.

OK, enough of that. Here are the stats:

John Ratliff-

Starts as C.O.O. on October 27th , 2004

Sold his house already

Getting his new JK cell phone this weekend while he
looks at houses.

Paddles a 4 Fun

Wife is awesome

Kids are awesome

Welcome to the JK family, John, Carman, Abby, and Em!



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The Man – John Ratliff

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