By Eric Peterson | Dec 06, 2016
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Fishing gear
"While it might sound like a cliche from the tech boom, Scott literally started in a garage in San Francisco, California, in 1974 by the founder and one employee," says Bartschi.
The founder, Harry Wilson, named the startup after his son and moved it to Telluride before selling it to Bill Ford of Ford Motor Company. Ford relocated the operation to Montrose in 1996 to cut costs. In its four decades, the company has made rods for everyone from President George H.W. Bush to Harrison Ford.
A lifelong angler with a degree in philosophy and art history, Bartschi joined Scott in 1990. "Moving the company from the Bay Area to rural Colorado almost 25 years ago was a great move," he says. "The access to fishing and outdoors activities is phenomenal and the strong work ethic of the community has provided a great base to build a core team to craft rods."
While much has changed, the company's core ethos remains the same. "Every Scott rod is handcrafted start to finish in our shop in Montrose," he says. "Over 85 percent of our employees are directly engaged in crafting fly rods. We use a few pieces of equipment and hand tools to assist our rod building but the majority of the work is done at a bench by hand.”
While its manufacturing is traditional, its approach to new products is anything but. "Scott was founded on innovation, and it's at the core of what we do today," says Bartschi. "The company has a long list of firsts in fly rod applications, technology, and manufacturing. We've brought new models to market like the first nine-foot, four-line rod, the first switch rods, the first bluewater rods, and the first five-piece rods, to name a few. We also brought the first hollow internal ferrules and low-mass sleeve ferrules to market to make multi-piece rods perform better. We introduced the industry's first unidirectional and bi-directional graphite scrims to fly rod design."
Scott's cutting-edge approach is critical to staying on the forefront of what is ultimately a niche market, he adds. "The fly-fishing market is very small. The total size of the U.S. market for all goods and services is estimated to be around $700 million annually. The U.S. is the largest of all fly fishing markets globally with Europe, Japan, Australia, and Canada rounding out the top five markets."
Bartschi's balancing act involves managing the company's growth, which easily outpaces market growth. "Because the industry has grown at a very slow pace, scaling the company appropriately has been a core strategic focus," he says. "Scott has been fortunate to grow at a much faster pace than the industry. We've exceeded 20 percent growth each year since the 2008 recession, and have more than doubled our staff in that time."
Adds Bartschi: "We've been able to support growth through bootstrapping which has allowed us to focus on execution rather than capital funding."
Challenges: "Living and working in rural Colorado also creates some of our biggest challenges," says Bartschi. "We have limited growth in population which can make recruitment challenging, and limited choices in services like air travel, communications, or IT support can be frustrating."
Opportunities: Maintaining a position on the front end of the market by keeping the company's focus squarely on quality and attention to detail, says Barschi. "We've been able to continue growing with a singular focus and specialization on one product in one market: handcrafting fly rods for specialty fly-fishing retailers around the world. We think there is more upside for Scott in that space with careful management of the brand and distribution."
Needs: "As we continue to grow, facility expansion and employee recruitment and retention will be our foremost needs," says Bartschi.