With age and experience comes wisdom. When Dennis Brune started ALPS Brands 25 years ago, he planned for and expected success but it was what he couldn't plan for that led him to the incredible brand that ALPS is today. Our brand commitment is to exceed your expectations, fair enough to say that Dennis feels the same way about the unimaginable, but welcomed success that we have 25 years later. From a small farm boy in Missouri to a major outdoor brand owner and CEO, Dennis Brune shares his reflections with us about the past quarter century at the helm of ALPS Brands.
1) Introduce yourself and a little bit about your background?
I’m an outdoor guy who grew up on a very small family farm in east central Missouri in the 60’s. While I loved the farm life and spending time with my 4-H projects, I knew pretty soon that a career in farming was not realistic. My first dream job came up when I had a chance to design camping products for a company in our local town of New Haven. After 16 years of learning and growing in the outdoor industry, progressing through product development, sales & marketing, and management of a great outdoor brand (Kelty), I knew it was time to start ALPS, which I did in 1993. That was the beginning of my real dream job.
2) When you are talking to your friends about ALPS Brands, what’s the first thing you tell them?
Because of how family oriented we are, with all 3 of my children working for the business, I normally start with that fact. Then I usually tell them I steal a line from a major cell phone company … "Friends & Family" … and let them know that it’s our focus on friends and family that make us successful. Finding people that share in our vision of working together as a real team is one key item that has made us prosper.
3) What areas has ALPS focused on progressing in the last 25 years?
From day one, a key goal was “making more gear for more people”. After 25 years, still trying to explain how we can make high quality, consumer-oriented, innovative products, at prices our customers love is still a challenge. Several years ago we decided to develop a marketing slogan, “Exceed Your Expectations”, and I think this really sums up what we do. If you’re new to ALPS Brands, we need to exceed your expectations on your very first purchase, because if we’re successful on the first product a consumer uses, we’ll probably have a friend for life. We also know every product we produce is not going to be perfect forever, so if and when issues develop, we also need to excel at taking care of the problem. We often talk about our 4-legged stool of awesome products, affordable prices, excellent service, and on-time delivery, with the point being we’re not just about “great products”.
4) What’s next for ALPS OutdoorZ?
We have a joke around ALPS regarding, “what is in Dennis’ crystal ball today!?” I’ve never had a goal to reach a certain sales number, or to get to that volume in X number of years. Because our business has doubled in the last 5 years, since our 20th Anniversary, we’ve clearly been blessed with amazing sales success. What I consistently tell our product development team is that we should continue to evaluate product lines and categories that are extensions of what we currently market, and if we can find factories that can help us fulfill our quality/value equation, then we’ll consider it. From a sales and marketing perspective, the challenges will continue as we navigate our way through the new digital age of reaching our customers and how to most effectively sell to them.
5) If you could give advice to the Dennis from 25 years ago, what would you tell him?
The old saying, “Hind sight is 20/20” is so very true. While I never doubted that we would “make it” and would be around 25 years later, I have to admit I would have never guessed we would have grown into the company we are today. So the advice I would have to give is don’t only plan for what you think is going to happen, but also plan for the possibility of something significantly more than you feel could happen.
6) What’s your most memorable hunting memory?
Picking a most memorable hunt is like picking your favorite child … you can’t do it! Hunting rabbits on my dad’s farm with my teenage cousins, taking turns bouncing on the brush piles (because we didn’t have a dog!), was a good early memory. I also have great early memories chasing quail around our neighborhood with my uncle’s Brittany bird dog on cool fall Sunday afternoons. More recently, getting to hunt with special industry friends and expanding my species to elk and waterfowl has been amazing. And lastly, finally finding time to hunt with my family … from upland in Iowa where a bunch of us can hunt as a group, to waterfowl in Illinois with the boys, to individual deer hunts with Adam and turkey hunts with Sarah Kristin … are providing memories that will stick with me forever.
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