For the past three years Confluence has been showing up in Salt Lake
City with a story that vendors usually try to avoid. While the company
has innovative new products, and creative marketing plans, it is
usually apologizing for late deliveries, incomplete deliveries, and
inconsistent quality and telling the story that they will be better
next year. One year and one week ago, BOSS ran a story about
Confluence’s new warehouse and new ovens that were supposed to turn the
boat around (See BOSS_0726). These initiatives worked to an extent –
the warehouse is much more efficient and the manufacturing equipment is
all top notch – but the systems and personnel and training were never
brought up to speed and the delivery and quality problems continued.

This year, Confluence is telling a similar story. The difference is
that there is a new face at the helm, and he may have the know-how to
fix the problems in Confluence’s Easley, S.C. plant. Tom Nathanson came
from the consumer products industry as an engineer who worked his way
up to the executive suites from the production room floor. He started
his career as a process engineer with the Home and Automotive Products
Division of Union Carbide and eventually became president and COO of
Nutramax Products, Inc. He now works for American Capital, the private
equity fund behind Confluence. ACS is hoping that his expertise on the
operations side will help put the proper systems in place at Confluence.

Nathanson’s priorities are to take over Confluence as the interim CEO
and also help find a permanent replacement in the CEO position. In an
interview with The B.O.S.S. Report, Nathanson said that he recognized
the unique situation confluence is in. “I want us to step back and take
a breath. I want us to not focus so much on the bottom line. Instead I
want to focus on our employees and our customers and I want to make
that right first. Then, I think the numbers will come.”

However, Nathanson is trying to do this without interrupting
deliveries. “I think it will have the opposite effect,” he said. “If I
were simply bottom line focused, and looking at things like labor cut
backs, or pushing Kelley (Woolsey – Confluence VP of Sales &
Marketing) to go out and get more and more sales, or pulling in orders
from next year to inflate our top-line, I am not doing that. We have
our orders; we are steady here. I don’t want to do anything out of the
ordinary. This will allow us to service our existing business better.
Basically, I am going to spend a lot of money here rather than cutting
back on money and worrying about the bottom line.”

The additional investment that ACS is making into Confluence is in the
seven figure range, according to Nathanson. While Nathanson will be
on-board in order to re-structure the operations side, he will be
making some considerable new hires that will include new personnel in
production supervisory roles, production training, R&D and customer
service. In addition to the new personnel, Confluence will be
restructuring sales and marketing. Nathanson has also decided to show
up at OR with a strong product offering. Previously, Confluence had
planned to cut back on new products until the operations were in order.

Initial feedback from the people working for Nathanson is positive.
“Time will tell, but the first few impressions are certainly good and
his intent is to get this back to being a fun place to work,” said
Woolsey. “I’ve been in outdoor sports my whole life and I’ve seen a lot
of people try to come into this industry from other industries and
fail. It’s not because they aren’t smart. It’s because they don’t
realize that what we do in this industry is unique. We aren’t selling
trash cans or laminates – we’re selling a lifestyle. Tom gets that.”