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Outdoor Movin' & Shakin': Lathrop departs Jetboil, Woolsey leaves Confluence

Outdoor movin' & shakin': Chris Lathrop resigns as vice president of sales for Jetboil. Kelley Woolsey departs Confluence.

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Chris Lathrop resigns as vice president of sales for Jetboil

Eight months after announcing that Chris Lathrop was leaving his rep agency of 15 years, Lathrop Associates, to become Jetboil’s vice president of sales, a newly created position, SNEWS® learned Lathrop had resigned. Both Lathrop and Perry Dowst, CEO and co-founder of Jetboil, told us the decision was mutual with each wishing the other well.

SNEWS® View: We suspect that differing philosophies as to how to run marketing and sales for a small, entrepreneurial company was at play, and that’s OK. Sometimes marriages between two very good and capable folks don’t work out, and such is the case here. Both Lathrop and Jetboil will be just fine. For Lathrop, he told us that he’s actually going to take some time off for himself, something he admitted he has not been very good at. Amen to that Chris! May it be spent paddling, hiking, climbing or just sitting and reflecting at a quiet listening point in some wild setting — taking time is all good.

Kelley Woolsey departs Confluence

One month after announcing Confluence Watersports had finally appointed a true CEO (Sue Rechner, an employee of the company, not an acting or temporary one working for American Capital Strategies), Kelley Woolsey, executive vice president of sales and marketing, resigned, effective Jan. 8. Also a member of the Paddlesports Industry Association board, Woolsey will remain active there until a replacement is found. “He deserves all the credit in the world because Kelley was the guy that kept the retailers as happy as possible during the years. We wish him continued great success in his new endeavors,” Rechner said in an interview with SNEWS®.

Woolsey told SNEWS®, “I am leaving Confluence at a good space in time, both for me and the company. Confluence is well positioned for success in 2008 and the future. Preseason orders are at their best ever. Marketing and sales are focused and strong. A key area that the company knows it needs to deliver on is operationally — ensuring the boats it delivers this year are of the high quality the retailers deserve and expect, and that deliveries of orders are accurate and on time, as retailers also deserve and should expect. The company has a great plan in place and I do expect that in the next 60 to 90 days, retailers will begin to see the results of that plan.”

SNEWS® View: Quite simply, Confluence would not be in a position to possibly succeed (finally) if it were not for Kelley Woolsey. He was the glue that held a very talented team together during some extremely challenging times for the company over the last three years. Though we would have liked to see Woolsey stick it out for a few more months at least during the transition under Rechner, we also agree now is a good time for him to leave. Knowing both Rechner and Woolsey, the departure is no surprise to us. It is the differing philosophies about how to run a company in play yet again, and to both their credit, the separation was conducted with dignity and class. Change for the right reasons, done in the right way, is always good for everyone, we have said before — and will likely say many more times.

Looking ahead, the waters do look mostly (though not completely) smooth for Confluence, IF, and we do say IF, Rechner listens to a lot of industry people carefully and does not move too quickly to insert her people into positions — like heading up marketing and sales — without full and complete understanding of what is best required to fill those positions. We certainly hope that Rechner spent much of her first few weeks in the job, prior to Woolsey’s departure, listening to him, and taking in all he had to share. She’s got many others we’d recommend she listen to as well, such as Joe Pulliam.

The team that remains, at least on the sales and operations side, is a strong one. All are company veterans and include: Patrick FitzGerald, vice president of sales and marketing for international business; Mike McDonald, East Coast regional sales manager; Greg Larson, eastern Great Lakes regional sales manager; Dave Larson, western Great Lakes regional sales manager; Joel McBride, West Coast, Rockies and Gulf regional sales manager; and Kevin Henderson, regional sales manager for Canada. We tip our hat of respect too for Buff Grubb, brand manager (but so much more than that) for Harmony and Mad River brands, and Bob MacDonough, vice president of R&D.

If we have one worry, it is with the extremely new factory staff. It was only one year ago that the company, under then acting CEO and American Capital Strategies henchman Bob Sharp, laid off 100 individuals. Shortly after that, in the infamous drug-testing incident, 60 more were either shown the door or left. We’ve heard from our sources in Easley that quite a few more recently left the company for reasons unknown in December. Now, if our math is correct, Confluence typically staffs up with 300 or so factory workers. That means more than half the staff are new since March. And that IS a worry.

Confluence has been saying and, from what we have heard, doing ALL the right things so far, starting with ACS man Tom Nathanson taking over from Sharp in June 2007, to a retailer fly-in at the headquarters in November 2007, to the hiring of Rechner. But Confluence has just one more shot at this, Rechner and Nathanson kudos and retailer fly-in glowing aside.

IF the company stumbles badly again with on-time deliveries and boat quality as a result of all the new staff on the factory floor, we suspect Confluence will not be given any more opportunities by retailers for yet another do over. It is proving time. Pressure is fully on Rechner now, and she relishes it, we suspect. We’re not betting against her, that’s for sure. But the clock is ticking…and retailers are waiting for tangible examples that things are truly different now.

As for Woolsey, he’ll resurface quickly, we know, wherever he wants. For those wishing to stay in touch with him, you can reach out via email at