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On July 11, Cascade Designs will welcome a new president, one with an Irish brogue, allowing co-founder and current board Chairman John Burroughs to relinquish his title of “interim president” which he’s held since Lee Fromson resigned earlier this year. Joe Mc Swiney, currently vice president of European operations for Cascade Designs Ltd., the European subsidiary of Cascade Designs Inc., has been working for Cascade Designs for the past 12 years from the company’s Midleton, Ireland, office.
For the presidency position, Burroughs told SNEWS® that he wanted to first look inside his company as he had a pool of 400 employees to choose from with many years of experience in the business.
“We have a rather unique culture with a technical, engineering-oriented company that was founded by former Boeing engineers. MSR, which we acquired, was also founded by a mining engineer,” said Burroughs.
No surprise then that Burroughs’ next choice for running Cascade Designs is, yes, an engineer. Mc Swiney holds a Bachelor of Technology in electronics engineering from the Cork Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in business administration from National University of Ireland.
When asked what he would be bringing to Cascade Designs, Mc Swiney told us, “I bring a global perspective to the job, considering that Europe represents a third of the world. In a sense, I am also both an insider and an outsider. I’m an insider with the brand, but an outsider as a new employee of CDI.”
Acknowledging that he has some catch-up to do when it comes to understanding the U.S. business, Mc Swiney said that he has a strong history of working well with Burroughs, something he did directly before Fromson became president of Cascade Designs.
“I believe I am very well positioned to integrate John’s vision with respect to new opportunities and developing new products,” Mc Swiney told SNEWS®.
Burroughs added, “There have been some really good things we accomplished in the last four years and improvements in the way we present our brand and promote our products and we want to continue to do that.
“I believe there was a period, though, where we promised more than we delivered. Cascade Designs had won the SNEWS® Retailer Survey ‘best company to do business with’ award for 16 years running and not being recognized on that survey, and even appearing as one of the more difficult companies to deal with was a huge step in the wrong direction,” Burroughs told us.
“We will promise less and deliver more,” he stated.
Mc Swiney remains responsible for operations in Europe, so his appointment as president of Cascade Designs means Europe gets to keep his vision.
“In Europe, we have a very strong team. My expectation is that with a number of candidates, if my position is to be filled, it will be an internal appointment. However, you take every opportunity when change presents itself to evaluate, and we will do just that,” he said.
What should Cascade Designs and retailers expect of Mc Swiney?
“Since I won’t be taking the position until July 11, it is still a bit too early to share any grounded ideas,” said Mc Swiney. “However, my management style is as a consultant. I want our company’s focus to be on building Cascade Designs as an indispensable retail partner.
“It is my intention that any store that wants to be authentic in relation to any outdoor pursuit has to have our products, wants to have our products. We need to have best-in-class service that supports retailers in such a way that it maximizes their return, minimizes the administration of their account, and provides best possible service to their consumers,” added Mc Swiney.
Noting that Cascade Designs’ growth has been driven largely by acquisition, Mc Swiney told us he would not lose site of opportunities for diversification if the right opportunities present themselves.
Mc Swiney will relocate from Ireland to Cascade Designs’ offices in Seattle.
SNEWS® View: We know of Joe Mc Swiney’s reputation from our European contacts and from our coverage of the European market, and it is a stellar one. At first blush, and after a 30-minute phone conversation (and no, we did not need a translator), Mc Swiney looks to be the right man for the right job at the right time. Cascade Designs could do with a little ship tightening; Burroughs is right. The on-again, off-again stove introduction over the last two years was very un-Cascade-like. We look forward to Cascade once again moving up to the top of the SNEWS® Retailer Survey chart in the “best company to do business with” category. Cascade is not alone in recognizing the importance of the SNEWS® survey and the power of the retailer voices who vote — several other companies have told us this year they are tying bonuses or other forms of recognition for the customer service departments on the results from the SNEWS® Retailer Survey.
With tongue firmly planted in cheek, we find it intriguing — and are making a note to never misquote or anger Mc Swiney as a result — that he is an accomplished kickboxer of multiple disciplines. We’re looking forward to the first time Pete Frickland, who is still consulting for Cascade Designs, and Mc Swiney get into a disagreement over a particular product design. Frickland (a black belt in karate) once went toe-to-toe with a date (also a black belt in karate) at a restaurant when she asked him to show her what he had. Oooo, product development meetings just got a whole lot more interesting.