Norm Langlois retires, Kevin Strong promoted, Steve Allie and Brian Wahl recruited to lead in key marketing roles
MUSKEGON, Mich. (February 8, 2021) – In an age when large corporations are gobbling up smaller outdoor companies at a rapid rate, passionate customers are usually the first to notice the disconnect. Trusted brands and quality products can quickly become a shell of their former glory under non-endemic leadership. A manufacturing change to save a buck here, a dumb-down in design there, and pretty soon the formerly revered brand or product is no longer anything special; and everyone seems to see it but management, who clings to the brandmark on the tag as their strongest sell point.
Thankfully, our industry is still awash with some great leaders – and, indeed, entire teams – whose enthusiasm for the outdoors matches that of their customers.
Take Nexus Outdoors President, Aaron Ambur, and CEO, Patrick Hylant, both passionate bowhunters who live the lifestyle their ScentLok, Blocker Outdoors, and OZ brands are supporting. “I suppose it takes one to know one,” says Ambur, who makes it a point to learn about his customers by spending as much time in the field as possible – often with his son – while wearing and constantly evaluating his company’s high-performance hunting apparel. “It isn’t just Pat (Hylant) and me,” Ambur continues. “We’re fortunate to have team members at every level who live the pursuit, and their experience and expertise ultimately helps us better understand and serve the needs of our customers.”
Norm Langlois is one of those team members. Recognized as a friendly and helpful face throughout the hunting industry for the past 20 years, the Nexus Outdoors VP Sales recently announced his retirement.
Langlois, shown here with his wife of 35 years, Barb, and his two grandsons, is retiring after 20 years with Nexus Outdoors.
Langlois became a part of ScentLok Technologies in its earliest days, helping build the brand to the iconic status it enjoys today. He had an active hand in designing many well-known ScentLok products and helped facilitate Nexus Outdoors’ expansion. “I am still in awe with the way this company has expanded over the years,” he says. “Within the 20 years I have been here, I am proud of how many friends I have made – and kept – along the way. This industry is made up of some of the best folks in the country and I feel fortunate to have been a part of it.”
Aside from the many friendships Langlois made throughout his career, some of his fondest memories stemmed from the various hunts and adventures his job and lifestyle afforded him. “I have been able to go on hunts that most people only dream of,” says Langlois. “From the East coast to the west, to Canada, New Zealand… I have been extremely lucky in the places I was able to visit, and hunt in as well. This would not have been possible in most other jobs.”
As Langlois enters this new and exciting time of his life, he’ll continue to offer his expertise and experience to the Nexus Outdoors team and its customers as a strategic advisor, but will have a lot more free time to enjoy. “I am most excited to spend more time with my wife and family, especially my grandkids!” he says. “A reduction in airport travel will be very welcome as well, and there will be a lot more fishing, golfing, boating, and hunting in my future. Nexus outdoors is an amazing place to work. From every employee to the ownership, it is evident how family-oriented everyone is, and that is something you don’t see all that often anymore.”
“It’s difficult to summarize all the different ways Norm has contributed to our growth and success going all the way back to our earliest days at ScentLok Technologies,” says Ambur. “We’re grateful to retain access to his expertise as a strategic advisor, and all of us wish Norm the best of what retirement can and should bring.”
In Langlois’ absence, Nexus Outdoors National Sales Manager, Kevin Strong, has been promoted to VP Sales. Strong has been with Nexus Outdoors for the past three-and-a-half years, but his sales experience in the outdoors industry spans over a decade. Strong spent several of those years as a Retail Specialist and Buyer for Bass Pro Shops.
A graduate of Western Michigan University’s Haworth College of Business, Strong is an avid bowhunter and lifelong outdoorsman who was influenced early in life by his father, Russ. “Dad was always out there bowhunting for as long as I can remember… during those early days when bowhunting was a lot less glamorous and popular that it is today. He loved it, and I’m grateful that he shared those passions with me. He’s the reason I’m working in this industry that I love so much.”
As VP Sales, Strong will lead and direct all functions of the Nexus Outdoors Sales Team, for all of its brands. “We couldn’t be prouder of Kevin’s contributions to our team, or happier to be able to promote him to this key position from within,” says Ambur. “In addition to having all the skills and experience necessary for success, Kevin’s one of the nicest and most-genuine people you could hope to meet, and that’s an attribute that has compounded his personal and professional success.”
Allie Leads Marketing Team
After helping with critical aspects of the team’s digital marketing strategy as an independent contractor, Steve Allie officially joined Nexus Outdoors as Senior Marketing Manager in June of last year. In addition to his passion for hunting and the outdoors, Allie brings 14 years of creative design, strategic multimedia management, branding, and marketing experience to the Nexus team.
“It isn’t enough to make a superior product,” Allie says. “Ultimately, consumers – especially enthusiastic ones like hunters – want to understand the specific ways a particular product can help them achieve their goals and aspirations. That’s why everything we call marketing communications – from catalogs to web pages to packaging, advertising, social media messaging, and other forms of direct consumer communication are critically important,” continues Allie, who appreciates working for a true category leader with trusted brands like ScentLok and Blocker Outdoors. “We don’t spend time trying to polish these brands with messaging that attempts to make them appear any better than they already are. Our challenge is explaining the science that goes into these products to produce the specific advantages and benefits they provide. Because we work with these technologies every day, it could be easy to go down a rabbit hole, but all our brands are based on smart applications of science and technology. It’s who we are, so that has to be communicated clearly and concisely.”
Wahl Tapped for New Digital Marketing Position
In our digital age, social and other forms of electronic media have become invaluable tools for direct communication with consumers. Careful, consistent and continuous messaging is important, which is why Nexus Outdoors created an all-new Senior Digital Marketing Manager position, then filled it with digital media pro, Brian Wahl, last June. Wahl has 18 years of digital marketing experience, including over 14 years earned at Cabela’s, where he worked in a variety of internet and digital marketing and merchandising positions.
“Winning products are actually made twice,” says Wahl. “They’re first made through extensive research, design and manufacturing. After that, they must be made to win in the marketplace, which can often be just as difficult – especially in a relatively crowded market like hunting apparel. Our job is to continue the successful efforts of our product team, ultimately making sure consumers understand the myriad ways our individual products increase performance and elevate experiences by solving common problems. It takes a coordinated and sustained effort to deliver those messages effectively and consistently, but it’s also a lot of fun, because there’s so much direct interaction with our hunters. Everything we do is for them, so we appreciate and rely on their ideas and feedback.”
COVID-19 has created challenges within every industry. While not exempt from manufacturing shutdowns, related supply-chain interruptions and other impacts, the outdoors industry has seen some bright spots. “Listen to what the National Shooting Sports Foundation, American Sportfishing Association and what most of our state agencies are reporting after this past hunting season and it’s clear that this horrible pandemic has also created millions of new hunting, shooting sports, fishing and outdoors enthusiasts,” says Ambur. “As an industry, we need to be celebrating and talking about this, and more importantly, we need to be serving these new customers with great products that help them maximize their satisfaction in the outdoors. If we can do that – and even supplement some of our marketing with helpful and honest educational content – our industry is going to emerge from all of this much stronger and a lot better equipped for future success.
“Our company is growing, but we’re still relatively small and work every day to stay nimble and customer-focused,” Ambur continues. “Making good hiring decisions is really important. Norm (Langlois) has been able to grow our business and stay in touch with our customers’ needs over the past 20 years, not only because he possesses knowledge, experience and a great work ethic, but also because he’s authentic to our brand and treats people well. Our customers recognize and respect that. Kevin (Strong), Steve (Allie) and Brian (Wahl) are cut from that same cloth… they come to work every day knowing what the mission is with respect to delivering products our customers can rely on to improve success and help make the most of their precious time outdoors. I couldn’t be prouder of our team or more excited about our future.”