“All in the family”is an idiom that often applies to the retail industry. Oftentimes, a family business is passed down through generations. Sometimes a familial pastime blossoms into a passion so fervent it grows into a business. Such was the case with Kevin Howell, owner of Davidson Fly Fishing in Pisgah, North Carolina.
|Kevin in Argentina|
“My father owned a custom fly tying and fishing rod building company. So growing up I
enjoyed spending time with my father, tying flies and building rods for customers,” says Howell. “One of my favorite parts was watching clients picking up their new rods and the enjoyment that brought them.” Despite his early love for the sport and the business, Howell didn’t mature right into fly fishing retail. Instead, he veered in a different direction, studying engineering. But his heart always yearned for those early years and the simple joy that came with sharing the sport of fly fishing with his father’s customers. “After a few years of teaching and working as an engineer,” Howell notes, “I decided that my true calling was to share my knowledge and enjoyment of the sport of fly fishing.”
Howell’s passion was struck anew with Davidson Fly Fishing. Just as the rest of us can jump on a bike and easily find our balance after years out of the saddle, Howell immediately reacclimated to the outdoor industry. Just as before, Howell’s zeal for sharing the sport drove the course of his days. “My real passion is working with the true beginners and introducing them to the sport and watching their growth in the it,”Howell says.
Although Howell grew up in the industry—selling fly fishing gear was practically second nature for him—even he felt that he could use some help in honing his store’s industry. So he looked to the Mann Group.
Howell attended a recent session of Mann U, and the results began showing themselves in his store almost immediately. Though Howell always appreciated the impact he could have on customers and found it easy to share his passion with them, he had trouble passing that enthusiasm on to his own employees. “In just a few short weeks, Mann U has enabled me to communicate better and more effectively with my employees,” says Howell. “It has also given me the ability to better train and instruct my staff in a positive and non–threatening environment, which has lead to overall increased sales and better experience for the staff.” Everyone at Davidson Fly Fishing prospers through Howell’s experience with the Mann Group.
Before, Howell found it difficult to train employees across positions. “As the owner of a small fly fishing outfitter, I have to train people in multiple roles in my business, from office manager to sales associate,” says Howell. That’s a lot of responsibility—and a huge disparity in training methods. But everything Howell learned during Mann U was applicable across every position level. “I found that all of the information I gained from Mann U could be applied across the board to all of the different training scenarios that I encounter all too frequently.”
Mann U defined and simplified the entire training process for Howell, right down to the interviews. In fact, Howell attests that the interview training was the most impactful part of Mann U for both himself and his store. “It has allowed me to search out and hire new employees knowing that I have dramatically reduced my risk of having to let them go,”Howell notes. A principal lesson of Mann U is that hiring the right employee eliminates the need to re–train or break bad employee habits, saving you time and money. “It also taught me to always be on the lookout for new employees and to be looking in places outside of the fishing industry. It is so wonderful to be able to hire the correct employee.”
Howell easily incorporated the lessons he learned at Mann U into his training process and his business, which is indicative of the quality of Mann U itself. The Mann Group doesn’t present aged business proverbs or scientifically accurate measures that are impossible to actually enforce; these are real–world skills presented in a real–world environment that trainees can readily understand and integrate into their existing business structure. “Mann U has a great way of sharing new information or presenting information in a different manner, then reinforcing the new ideas through workshops and in–class exercises,” says Howell. “These allowed me to see the process applied to a real world situation and figure out how to adapt it to my business.”
And adapt he did. Howell’s business is now more successful than ever, thanks to the applicable skills and training methods learned during his time with Mann U. Davidson Fly Fishing, like so many outdoor retailers, may have been born of passion—and that may still be what drives them—but with the realistic business acumen gained through the Mann Group, Howell’s company (and so many others like it) can continue to pursue and share that passion for generations to come.
When I’m on vacation, all I want to do is relax and avoid my phone and computer.
My favorite Retail Sales moment is when they tell me that we have the nicest fly shop they have been to and what a pleasure it was working with my staff.
If I’m camping, my sons are my favorite companions and fishing gear is the one thing I can’t go without.
When I think of specialty retail, I think of the outdoor industry.
My favorite long hike is hiking along the Big East Fork Trail in the Pisgah National Forest.
Of all my accomplishments in retail, I’m most proud of being recognized as a store with great customer service.
When I’m outside, you’ll most likely find me on the water.
My favorite item I sell is Sage Fly Rods.
A great night in always includes my wife and a movie.