Of course it wasn't really on the "fifth day" -- that's just an organizing tool -- no entry in this blog about the influences from my first year as CEO of Hobby Lobby happened on "day one" or "day ten" specifically -- I just find this an effective way to rank and share experiences that shaped my views.


As the new leader of Hobby Lobby, someone got the idea I was approaching this business with a new angle in mind. It strikes me, even today, that an open mind is not a new angle... however, I do appreciate how new ideas often come from what looks like a strange angle for sure.


In the first few months I met several times with AMA leadership. As relationships developed, I was honored to receive an invitation to join the AMA Membership Marketing Committee. Looking forward to my first meeting at a hotel up in Champaign, Illinois -- my expectations were high. As the new owner of a retail hobby store, I was excited to include a visit to Hobbico and to Horizon, both important suppliers to my business. I was also planning a day trip to the JRŽ Aero Tow event in nearby Monticello at the Piatt County Airport, one of the biggest scale soaring events you can attend.


I thought it possible to make that all happen if we flew my Piper Cherokee to the meeting, until a nasty weather front scratched that idea. Robert Harrington, resident genius at Hobby Lobby, your technical support resource (dedicated to finding any opportunity to fly) volunteered to drive up with me. As Robert hit the JRŽ Aero Tow (with an ear to ear grin) I walked into a meeting ready to explore new ways to bring value to AMA membership. That's when I met Don Anderson and Eric Meyers. AMA board member Mark Smith chairs the committee and together we spent the entire day exploring challenges he and others at the AMA have been wrestling with for years. My role: bring a new perspective.


Don Anderson asked questions about my professional background and took the time to get to know me. Eric Meyers did the same, and after they listened to my story, the two of them patiently walked me through their history of working in the same organizations, working as competitors, working on common goals and challenges...


It helps me describe the memory of that day if I relate it to an experience we all might share: perhaps you've watched the History Channel when the Medal of Honor winners tell their stories and together recount glory won on some distant battle field... victory, sacrifice, innovation, vision, courage.. when you hear war stories told in the words of the heros who were there, how does it feel? I have my own war stories, but these guys are the real deal... and I'm there to soak it all in. Oh, yeah, and to add a new perspective... It was an amazing introduction to the Hobby Industry, from two amazing leaders. Then we got down to the business of looking for solutions to a declining membership, finding a way to engage hobby shop owners and grow the hobby together... it was a productive day!


Senior Vice President of product development at Hobbico, he's the founder and still president of Great Planes Model Manufacturing, the list of Don's accomplishments include co-founding the Radio Control Hobby Trade Association (RCHTA), co-organizing the first Chicago Toy & Hobby Show, he's a founding Member of AMA's Membership Marketing Committee I was participating with; proposed a Park Pilot membership class within AMA and received the Presidents Award for these efforts. Later, when Don was inducted to the AMA Hall of Fame, I felt like a friend was honored when he received our organization's highest honor from president Dave Matthewson.


I never did get to visit Hobbico nor tour Horizon. We did not solve all the problems we touched on that day either, but it was a start and a worthy goal. Then, as we watched from behind floor to ceiling windows in our meeting room, the storm outside boiled up to a near hurricane force wind. It picked up and pitched a portable john across the parking lot, raised havoc in the city and smashed like a linebacker into the window, hitting so hard we reflexively jumped up and beat a retreat to the hallway...


That day seems like a metaphor for what the industry is experiencing today: a perfect storm. This hobby is competing for the leisure time and future hobby interests of the next generation. It's a hockey style face off against 24 hour TV, against year round sports, phenomenal new and engaging social media and sophisticated computer gaming technologies on the web. The overactive youth of today is not apologetic about their shortened attention span and hardly inclined to tackle the classic building experience... Worse, the loyalty of our most experienced modeler is tempted by low priced, unlicensed, unsafe and untested products sold directly from China to the flying fields of America. Despite the effort of the best minds and most committed people, your local Hobby Shop and the job creating, tax paying American industry that supports your hobby, are all challenged and thrown about by these gale force winds of change.


How many modelers have grown in the hobby with Don Anderson? I can count myself as one now. Together, we have much work still to do... and congratulations Don, you certainly deserve the recognition.