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June 29, 2005

I can’t tell you how
cool it is to get the updates from the factory now! Everyone there is
working like crazy to bring our backlog of kayaks down to zero in three
more weeks. What this means is that for the first time in 2005 you can
order a kayak of your choice and you should get it in two weeks, if it
is not already in stock at your shop! Why is this a big deal? We do just
in time inventory, however, so far this year, we were doing, “always
late inventory”, because the demand was huge and we had to switch
molders all at the same time. Here’s the deal at the fort:

John Ratliff is head of operations there and has worked
through tons of critical stuff, like turning our creekboat designs into
finished product, switching molders, managing the entire staff, co-ordinating
with sales, and customer service (his wife Carman) and putting up with
me. As of last week, his plan has come to fruition and he is cranking
out the best boats in the industry, efficiently, and in the right quantity,
color, and getting them to the dealers in the right order, etc. If you
see John on the river, give him a high five for me.

Carman, his wife, is making customer service a good
name. I expect that all of Jackson Kayak customers be happy and that is
no small feat. One customer service person doing the job of a sales rep,
sales manager, customer service manager, and customer service rep. She
has to send me all of the reports I need weekly on orders, sales, shipping,
backlog, and help me get the numbers to tell the story we want to tell,
that we are winning. She has to train the dealers on the Happy Seat, Happy
Thruster, EJ’s River Running Dvd’s, the Hero, Super Hero,
Fun Floats, etc., etc. and make sure they are properly stocked with the
stuff, which is not easy, many dealers let that stuff slip through the
cracks, but not with Carman!

Lorraine Valet, Kristine’s mom, and office manager,
does what a mom and office manager is supposed to do: She controls 100%
of the cash, and worries about it daily! She does fulfillment on all accessories
from the website, and for dealers, while, keeping the books, paying the
vendors (she still stresses on writing the big checks, which she has to
do weekly), collecting cash from the dealers, which isn’t too hard
because we have a simple rule- pay for the boats you already got, or forget
getting more boats, period. We don’t except taking the cash you
got from selling a Jackson Kayak to pay for another brands past due invoice.
This keeps us in more of a cash and carry situation, while not perfect,
it eliminates major issues. Lorraine approaches her job as the mother
of the owner, and reports to us like that, which is a huge asset for a
business in which the owners are on the road.

Don Klein: Don is our assembly manager and his job
is being pushed to the limits right now, having to make a huge push to
stay ahead of our molders, so we can outpace our sales and backlog by
the end of July. The entire assembly team is working like crazy, pulling
as a team, to make this happen, and it would impress any visitor to come
to our plant and watch for a few hours (but don’t start talking
to them, they can’t afford any distractions right now other than
a daily paddle in the hole!)

Goat: Goat is shipping record numbers of kayaks, by
himself, (pulling any help he can from the assemblers, or Carman or John
when he can) and he just says, “I can do that.” No matter
how big the challenge is. His dedication and willingness to help in any
way at any time on any project was identified early on by Kristine when
she would come to the plant to help last year. We found a gem in Goat
and he never lets us down.

John Dean: is our purchasing, inventory manager. It
is his job to make sure that when the guys are assembling 4 Funs, that
they never run out of any one part that would prevent the boats from getting
built and stopping the show. So far, we have not had one show stopper
in 2005, other than not having hulls to build (which was fixed once we
switched molders). John is also a skydiver and I am looking forward to
jumping out of a plane with him.

The rest of the crew: I would love to discuss Jase,
Brad, Corey, Adam, etc., etc. but I can sum it up with: these guys are
a “Go Team” getting it done, and wanting to make it work no
matter how tough it may be. They all kayak, they all care, and most of
them have been with us since the beginning.

So now is the time to get your new Jackson Kayak, and
not have to wait for it for very long!

EJ 🙂