Confluence Watersports has named Sue Rechner president and CEO, effective, December 17, 2007. Rechner has more than 15 years of experience in consumer products and was previously president of Victorinox Swiss Army, Inc. She also simultaneously served as CEO of Victorinox Swiss Army Watch and Victorinox Apparel.
According to Rechner, who resigned from Swiss Army over the summer and finished up the transition in September, the opportunity to join Confluence was both timely and exciting.
“I was interested in doing something that was slightly different. I am an avid, active person, and I think the outdoor world is a little more connected to who I am personally. So, I started exploring things that were out there,” she explains. “When I started chatting with [Confluence], I began to recognize that although they have gone through some challenges-as every company does from time to time-the basis and the foundation of who they are is incredible. The heritage brands, the legacy of these brands and the history is really cool.”
Rechner continues, “I think [Confluence] is underdeveloped. I just got very intrigued by the whole opportunity of partnering with and joining an organization that has such an incredibly passionate culture about paddle sports. To join and to have the opportunity to lead an organization like this is exactly what I was looking for in terms of my next opportunity.”
Confluence currently manufactures and distributes products under the Mad River Canoe, Wilderness Systems, Wave Sport, Dagger, Perception, Mainstream, Harmony and AT Paddles brands. Rechners first order of business will be to seek out new growth opportunities for the company.
“Confluence has done an exceptional job over the course of the last five to six months of getting the operational house in order,” said Rechner. “My focus is going to be to maximize the companys opportunities, and really continue to return to the roots of our brands and make sure that were maximizing our attributes and strengths.”
Towards this end, Rechner stresses the importance of product innovation, as well as improving on the basics.
“We want to be sure our [retail] customers have the opportunity to provide a variety of options and solutions for consumers in the paddle sports world. I think were also going to have to focus on continuing the legacy of developing and launching super-high-quality, innovative products,” she says. “Not only does that help Confluence, but it also helps the paddle sports industry because the more innovative the product can be, the more interesting it appears to consumers This is where well start-getting back to fundamentals…”
The company currently has no plans to make other executive changes, citing the existence of “a solid and dedicated team.” Tom Nathanson, Confluences chairman and interim CEO, will work in tandem with Rechner to keep the company on an even keel. “Tom has spent a good portion of the past several months implementing significant changes in manufacturing and operations, and we are now poised to utilize these as strengths,” notes Rechner. “Tom is my alter-ego and partner. He and I are incredibly connected philosophically, are completely aligned on where the organization has to go, and are complimentary in our skill sets. Hes operationally exceptional and has done a great job. I come out of the brand, marketing and sales world, and well be able to partner together to make sure everything is operating at full potential.”
While Nathanson intends to remain focused on the operational side of Confluences business, Rechner will bring a fresh eye to the companys branding and marketing, and will concentrate on identifying new growth opportunities. In fact, Rechner has already started to identify a few broad, yet potentially lucrative, consumer paddle segments-namely, the youth and Baby Boomer markets. “I do believe theres an opportunity for growth, and how that manifests itself is going to be the question,” Rechner said. “There are different kinds of kayaking and canoeing. Youve got white water, which really caters to the younger-minded and younger-spirited individual, which is a great opportunity to engage younger people into the sport-get them started and liking it, and then evolve them into recreational touring when they get a little older. But I also think the 40-plus crowd is not completely penetrated. The 40-plus market is huge, [recreational/touring] only requires moderate buy-in, and you can do it anywhere.”