Growth and Guidance: The Evolution of the ATA Board of Directors

The ATA Board of Directors has undergone significant changes in the past 15 years. How has it evolved?
Photo Credit: Shannon Rikard

Author: Cassie Scott

As a business owner, you might be wondering who’s representing your interests when major decisions are made at the Archery Trade Association.

20 people, to be exact. But it wasn’t always like that.

The ATA Board of Directors provides oversight, strategic direction, and decisions on finances and major issues to advance the organization’s goals and mission. Board members also work as teammates to steer the industry toward profit and success.

The Board represents companies big and small from all sectors of the archery and bowhunting industry. Board members represent three pro shops, two buying groups, two multichannel retailers, one sales-representative group, and 12 archery and bowhunting manufacturers and distributors. All members strive to put their individual company biases aside when discussing issues that impact the industry, including participation challenges, federal-excise-tax rates and contributions, and major issues affecting the ATA Trade Show.

Jay McAninch, ATA’s past president/CEO, believes the organization benefits from the Board’s diverse composition.

“The ATA Board is well-configured to face challenges in the industry so the ATA can remain competitive as a group, and do justice in growing archery and bowhunting,” McAninch said. “There’s a diverse mix of all the industry’s sectors. By having so many perspectives, it’s easier for the ATA to take on issues, discuss them, and try to resolve or advance them. The organization is also well-positioned as members of the overall outdoor recreation and conservation communities.”

The Board Before McAninch

Before the ATA was renamed and reorganized in 2002, it was called the Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Organization. The trade group convened under different leadership until McAninch took the reins in August 2000. Photo Credit Greg Nielsen.

The Board wasn’t always configured so comprehensively. When McAninch was hired as the organization’s immediate past president and CEO in August 2000, it was called the Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Organization, or AMO. After studying the AMO’s makeup and long-term goals, McAninch and the Board reorganized it in 2002 to better define and execute its mission.

What was the Board like before McAninch? Picture 12 men gathered around a large rectangular table, with each man focused on the needs of the manufacturing company he represented. Each volunteered his time, but often hesitated to listen to others and consider the overall industry.

Jay ScholesOuttech’s president, recalled what it was like when he first served on the AMO Board nearly 20 years ago. “The Board was a group of like-minded people without a lot of direction and guidance,” he said. “We all wanted to do the right thing, but we didn’t know how.”

They often found themselves disagreeing, pointing fingers, and giving priority to their own agendas.

“When Jay came in, he was like a top football coach,” Scholes said. “He organized us, rallied us and moved us forward. We might have been all-star players, but we just ran around on the field and never got anywhere. We needed someone to call a play, and provide guidance and direction. Jay did that. Jay found a common theme among everyone – our passion for archery – and moved us together toward a common goal.”

Randy Walk, president of Hoyt Inc., also served on the AMO Board and saw similar changes after McAninch took over. “Meetings (before McAninch) reminded me of a club atmosphere,” he said. “We got together, talked about issues and business, and then went on about our business. Jay had key objectives. He had capability and talent. He helped us develop and execute a strategy to be successful, starting with owning and running our own trade show.”

Many credit the ATA’s long-term success to that move. By owning the ATA Trade Show, the ATA generated money and increased the value of all ATA memberships.

The ATA Board’s early years still included struggles, but the Board slowly evolved and changed.

A Growing, Evolving Board

Thanks to McAninch and a supportive Board, the ATA was one of the first industry trade associations to add Board seats that represented companies other than manufacturers. Photo Credit: Pat Durkin.

Jeff Adee, president and co-owner of Headhunter Bow Strings Inc. and a current Board member, respects how the ATA Board pursued inclusiveness.

“The ATA’s biggest challenge has always been that its members are an incredibly diverse set of very different companies,” he said. “As diverse as these companies are, so are the problems and challenges they face. The ATA strives to represent all companies while providing value and helping them to grow and succeed. Diversifying the Board was a great way to represent each sector of the industry and hear all the issues.”

According to McAninch, the ATA was one of the first trade associations to add Board seats that represent companies besides manufacturers. Traditionally, trade-organization boards consisted mostly of manufacturers because they’re directly focused on the industry’s productivity and success. McAninch and the Board believed retailers also needed seats at the table, and went to work.

After the organization changed its name in 2002, the 12-member Board made another big change to help the industry and influence other trade groups: It voted to expand the ATA Board to 15 seats by including three retail representatives. Jeff Poet of Jay’s Sporting Goods in Michigan, Peter Gussie of Cimmarron Archery in Illinois, and Tim Whiteford of Viking Archery in Texas stepped in to represent the retail community.

According to Randy Phillips, owner of Archery Headquarters Inc., those moves helped balance the Board.

“The ATA Board was predominantly manufacturers for years,” Phillips said. “That’s not the best representation of the industry. Dealers are the backbone of the industry, and the ATA gave them a vocal cord when it added retail seats to the Board. The more membership types represented on the Board, the stronger the industry.”

The ATA usually has about 2,500 members, of which roughly 600 are manufacturers and 1,300 are retailers. The rest includes smaller groups like media, nonprofits and sales representatives. The ATA Board strives to fairly represent all sectors of the industry, which is why it added seats for multichannel retailers, retail buying groups, and manufacturer-representative sales groups in subsequent years.

The ATA Board also works to ensure it represents smaller manufacturers. Dave White is president of Hot Shot Manufacturing, the smallest manufacturer ever represented on the Board. White said smaller companies must get involved because their concerns often differ from those of larger companies.

“The archery industry is a cottage industry,” White said. “It’s an industry dominated by small manufacturers and small employers. Small companies have cash-flow challenges, issues with distribution and supply chains, or other challenges that larger companies might not have. It’s important they’re represented on the Board, because the Board is instrumental to the direction and overall health of the archery industry.”

Other smaller manufacturers elected to the Board in recent years include Nelson’s Arrows, Gateway Feathers, Apple Archery Products and Arizona Archery Enterprises.

White was also on the Board when it voted in 2013 to add seats for the multichannel retailers.

“They were the future of our industry,” White said. “It made sense to make them part of the decision-making process and growth of our industry, rather than have them on the outside looking in. Mom-and-pop retailers might not like multichannel retailers because that’s their competitor, but as an industry, we can’t grow the sport of archery if we leave out entire segments of our distribution, and treat them as an adversary. It made the ATA a stronger organization.”

Jeff Adee, president and co-owner of Headhunter Bow Strings Inc. and current Board member stated, “As diverse as these companies are, so are the problems and challenges they face. The ATA strives to represent all companies, provides value and helps them to grow and be successful. Diversifying the Board was a great way to represent each sector of the industry and hear all the issues.” Photo Credit: Shannon Rikard.

Adee joined the Board in 2014 as the first manufacturer-supplier, further diversifying the Board.

The most recent additions occurred at the June Board meeting, when its members voted unanimously to add two retailer seats for buying groups.

Walk said all these additions have dramatically changed the ATA Board. “Twenty years ago the Board was made up of a handful of significantly larger manufacturing companies,” he said. “We didn’t have the retail component or the smaller manufacturer component. Now we have balance. We’ve been able to grow the scope of who is represented, what the expectations of the organization are, and what we’re capable of doing.”

With more diverse companies and professionals in place, the Board kept working together to change and strengthen the archery and bowhunting industry. As you’ll read in Part 2 of this series, this stronger, more unified Board is helping the industry grow.

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