Lessons Learned the Hard Way

We asked three archery retailers: “What are one or two of the more important lessons you learned the hard way during your business career?” Here’s what they said.

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Photo by John Hafner

Justin Gaiche

Chase Outdoors

Rothschild, Wisconsin

I’m a people-pleaser by trait. It has played a big role in our archery shop’s success because our customers know that we genuinely want the best for them, but it was at the expense of burnout. I absolutely torched myself and my employees too many times to count in the last 10 years by trying to be everything for everyone. Because of this, I even lost some good employees along the way.

Eventually, I learned I don’t have to fit every mold. I just have to be myself. If I give up so much of myself that nothing is left, I’m no longer who I truly am, and my desire for success and my passion for what I do fade away. Then, I’m not an enjoyable employer to work for, plus I’m less valuable to the customer. Everyone loses. 

To protect my employees and myself from burnout, I’ve designed some safeguards and boundaries. For example, we’re closed on Sundays, and that’s non-negotiable. My staff members work four 10-hour days, which gives them 3 days off each week. They don’t work on Sundays, and they work only one out of three Saturdays. That structure keeps everyone fresher, revitalized and rejuvenated. The result is higher performance and more loyalty and dedication. 

On the same front of trying to please everyone, I used to think I had to stock every single brand that customers asked for. Giving in to that pressure really complicated our inventory. I learned I don’t have to offer everything. I just have to focus on being the best dealer I can be for the core brands I’ve always believed in.

Tom Goldsmith

Plum Creek Archery

Dyersville, Iowa

The first thing that comes to mind is giving in to sales pressure. Sales reps tend to push high-volume orders with discounted pricing. It looks good at first glance, but during our first few years in business, we ended up with too much inventory. Not all order programs are designed for small and medium shops. So, the takeaways for us were we need to pay closer attention to pricing structures, discuss our concerns with the reps, and try to negotiate quantities and pricing that will work for our shop so we’re not bogged down with too much inventory.    

Once we understood all of that, we started buying inventory more conservatively, and our aim was to turn our inventory around several times a year. Of course, that brought on another challenge when Covid hit. We were caught off guard and couldn’t get enough supplies. So, to avoid having that happen again, we now aim to turn our inventory around twice annually so we have more on hand at any given time. 

Those two lessons have helped us manage our inventory more effectively. We’re fairly conservative compared to our early years, but we also understand we have to have enough products here in order to sell them. A tool that has helped us manage our inventory is utilizing the LinkEdge point-of-sale system, which inadvertently taught us another lesson — we realized how often we used to forget to charge for things. The point-of-sale system makes it so much easier to make sure we capture everything.


Josh Hawkins

On Target Archery

Mayslick, Kentucky

We bought the shop right during the height of Covid in 2021, so the sales numbers we based our ordering decisions on were unbelievably good. Sales tapered off a good amount in 2023, and we didn’t account for that in our ordering; we didn’t see it coming. That being said, inventory and ordering are the biggest hurdles I’ve encountered so far in my career.

The sales falloff definitely blindsided us. We started 2024 with more inventory than intended. In talking with other similar-sized dealers, they, too, were taken a little by surprise. Obviously, sales were very strong for a few years straight. 2023’s numbers weren’t bad, but they were more normal numbers rather than inflated Covid numbers. This year, we’re prepared with a better idea of what we can expect going forward. Hopefully, we can work our way back into inflated numbers on our own without inadvertent circumstances such as Covid. 

Our aim is to keep building our business and manage our inventory better. We’ve put a new point-of-sale system in place. It tracks everything a lot more accurately. We can keep a really close eye on items that are selling really well and also what isn’t. 

Another thing I’m doing is keeping in contact with the bigger shops. Knowing what they’re selling and following their lead helps for sure. I’ve reached out to a few different shops across the country — down in Texas and up in the Northwest. They’ve all been incredibly helpful. I don’t call nearby shops because I’m not interested in copying my nearby competitors. Of course, the input that the larger dealers have given me must be scaled to the size of my business. For example, if they’re selling a thousand bows every year, I know I’ll be at around one-third of that or so.


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