In the first few weeks after we announced Hobby Lobby had a new owner, I got several calls and lots of advice from people honestly interested in our success. Today, we can see the seeds from that feedback which contributed to our experience this year.


My biggest concern at the time was this lingering notion that the RC hobby is aging fast. Industry research, surveys and a snap shot of our own customer base confirmed my fear.


What is the path to a healthy future for this modeler's hobby?


I have no magic answer, but I know that we get back only a measure of what we put into any challenge. Perhaps we should set a goal to be more proactive and involved with the AMA, but that idea was quickly pushed off the flight line by every day business issues.


Then I got a call from Mark Smith, a retired Sprint executive, dedicated modeler and a volunteer AMA board member. Because he reached out to me, he made it easier for us to get involved and that's why we credit this lesson to Mark.


From his home in Kansas City, Mark drove to Nashville to walk me through industry research, introduce me to the work of the AMA Marketing Committee and invite me to participate. This was special, like a visit from a neighbor bearing gifts when you first move into a new home; you're too busy unpacking to be as gracious as you want to be... Still, when you are the new guy on the block, it's that experience helping you appreciate how important it is to be welcoming to others.


The path to a healthy hobby is simple: be welcoming. "Welcome to the industry" -- my first experience with the AMA. "Welcome to Hobby Lobby" -- our first words every time someone enters our new retail store. "Welcome to our flying field" -- the all important greeting from a club member who sees an unfamiliar face and helps them wrestle that park flyer out of the box.


The best ambassadors for this hobby and most important customers for any hobby store are the 150,000 AMA members.


How and with whom you spend your time and money is the future playing itself out -- one purchase at a time.


Because hobby store employees struggle to find time to mind the store and train customers too, that's your opportunity to be proactive, to organize and volunteer time providing skills training that makes a difference and new friends too.


As I welcome more customers to Hobby Lobby, it gets easer to see that path to a bright future: It's you.