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Day Two ended with an interview of Tom Taylor and Rich Morovitz from SIG SAUER. I was supposed to interview Ron Cohen, and I did get to speak with Ron, but it was on the floor and I was unable to record Ron's comments. I definitely still think Tom and Rich had some very good insights into what's happening at SIG, where the company's been, and where it's headed.

I do have some comments with regard to this article that are more "meta," which I will post a bit later so folks can digest what's here (and there's a lot) before hearing my take on it all.

Thanks, and enjoy!




LDD: Thank you Gentlemen. This is Daniel [LDD from SIGFORUM], interviewing: Tom Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer & Executive Vice President, Commercial Sales; and Rich Morovitz, Training Manager, Commercial Sales.

Last year, Ron talked about being a “Systems House:” a manufacturing outfit that did everything that was in the gun, and on the gun, and the gun itself. Is SIG 2016 where you thought it would be in 2015?

Tom Taylor: I guess the way that I would answer the question is that, as of the end of 2015 and rolling into 2016, we are well-positioned to be where we want to be. We’re here in the SHOT Show booth, and I’m sure you’ve seen down on the other end, the total systems solutions for the armed professional, for sport, for hunting, for all the different categories we want to be in. But yeah, the whole strategy was to be about surrounding the gun, the shooter, right into ammunition, putting an air gun that can serve as a trainer in your hand. My history with SIG is about ten months, Rich’s is obviously a lot longer than mine so he’s seen it transpire, so I’ll let him answer as well.

But I think if Ron were here, what you’d hear him tell you is that we really introduced eight new product lines in 2015 and they are now fully up and running in 2016. The 320 pistol, which we think will play a major role in the future of striker fired polymer pistols. The MCX rifle, which is a unique modular AR platform that we think will change both the way people will look at ARs commercially as well as the professionals around the world. The MPX, if you’re into pistol caliber modularity. The Legion series which gives us about a four-year runway to do incredible enhancements across the entire SIG SAUER product line, and form a legion of loyal SIG followers. And then, air guns, silencers, ammo, and optics. So I think the strategy that Ron talked about a year ago is ready to move forward.

Rich Morovitz: I think you’re absolutely correct [Tom]. We’re in a great position, of course, being SIG and Ron being Ron, we’ll be ever-evolving and we’re going to continue improving upon everything that you see today. Two years from now, a year from now, you’re gonna see improvements on those improvements. And that’s going to continue to roll forward because that’s what we do here at SIG. You’re looking at silencers, you’re looking at, right in front of you, the evolution of where we came from.

That potato looking silencer came out first, and then we worked our way up to what you’re seeing today. [For example] a machine gun silencer, this one has twenty thousand rounds through it, when the first iteration blew up at a twelve-thousand. So, we’re always continually improving and we’re going to keep improving. What you see, yeah, we’re happy, we’re in a good spot—it’s launched, we’re on target, but we’re going to continue to improve upon that. I think our goal here is to never be satisfied and continue to improve. Ron always says “If everyone’s on the same page, no one is thinking.”

LDD: 2015 was an ambitious year, SIG launched three new business units including Ammunition (shipped in 2014, but really they launched in 2015), how do you follow that in 2016?

Tom Taylor: We’ve often talked about, because we were ramping up in 2015 with all these new products lines, and now they are for the most part all reaching maturity—and as you said, Ammo launched [in 2014] but 2015 was its first full year and really all these other product lines just started shipping toward the end of 2015. So I think it really is a situation where 2016 is the real coming out party for these products. All the 320 kits are now ready to ship, the modularity for the MPX and MCX, it’s ready to launch. So I think ’16 is the year that we view as, at end of the day, those three gun platforms—this is the year we really start to put those into play and let them work together.

By the end of the year, you’ll see AR platform rifles with optic combos, handguns with reflex optics (the Romeo combos), you’re gonna see promotions in the commercial market where we sell a gun and then we have ammo or optics that come with the package and so it will all begin to roll together in 2016. There’s new products as you’ve seen out there, but the strategy is really about making ’16 the year that we really get a foothold with all these new products.

LDD: Are there any new business units coming [long pause] that you can talk about?

Tom Taylor: There’s none coming that we can talk about, as Rich said—

Rich Morovitz:--Well, I’d like to say something—

Tom Taylor: yeah, go ahead.

Rich Morovitz: There’s one business unit that unfortunately kind of gets pushed to the wayside and that’s the Academy. The SIG Academy, we have over seventy adjunct instructors, we have fifteen full-time instructors, we have one-hundred-and-forty acres in Epping NH. We run more classes in a year than all the other academies in the whole United States, combined. And we have some of the world’s most elite...The Academy, the instruction, the level of instruction that we have out there is really shadowed by all that you see around you, but yet all throughout the booth you see academy instructors, talking like we’re talking right now. And talking very intelligently on all the business units because they are the guys that we go to, to vet them [SIG products], test them, and they run them in shoot houses and live fire situations. And they’re putting these air guns and trainers, and silencers in tier one operators’ hands and responsible citizens’ hands.

So I think that a little more emphasis on the Academy this year, you’re gonna see that training aspect, that business unit that’s been around for over twenty years—that just doesn’t get a lot of play. You’re going to see a lot more Academy personnel popping us as personalities if you will, in the commercial market

Tom Taylor: That’s a great point. We’ve begun to talk about the Academy as the sixth business unit. And it’s probably one of the best kept secrets in the world. The amount of training that’s done, you hear of other high-profile training facilities around the country. When you start doing the math? There’s some pretty staggering numbers, about the numbers of people and the level of people from civilians all the way up to the very highest special forces units from the US and around the world who train at SIG academy.

So the one thing that Ron would always say about the SIG Academy is, in terms of what Rich said about testing and that sort of thing: he’s basically put them on notice that “I don’t ever want anything sugar-coated.” And so he said “If you can break it, if something doesn’t work the way you want it to work, if you need something different, I always want you to be honest.” So think he’s created a culture where, often times, engineers whether it’s from our company or outside resources, they may serve something up and say “Here’s the finished product, it’s ready to go.” Ron says “it’s not finished till I send it to the Academy” and they put it through the ringer—

Rich Morovitz:--I remember with ammunition, I remember being at the Academy and being handed a bucked of ammunition and said “shoot it and let me know what you think, and oh by the way, don’t clean your 320.” And I did, I think I shot 5000 rounds in a day and a half. 320 didn’t hiccup and the ammo was great. That’s the level—that was just me. [There are] guys who are doing this all the time.

Just to talk about what Ron was saying: we put 36,000 rounds through one 320 with SIG ammo and other things, just to make sure he was comfortable before we launched 320. It was one of the first prototype 320s and this guy’s running it with frangible, duty ammo, hollow point, defensive—running it in courses, putting lights on it, mounting it with different mounting options on there and also making sure it works in and out of the holster and never rocking out of battery, etc, etc. Making sure it got put through the ringer by multiple people. I know one guy, personally we were talking about his round count, 36,000 rounds without even changing the spring—just some lube on it, cycle the slide, and go back to work.

I bring up Delta, and the Academy is kind of like that. They’re ghosts that are the real deal. We teach everyone from the academy from never-touched-a-gun-in-my-life-and-want-learn-how-to-shot to, we had Black Hawk helicopters doing insertions into a lake, and everything in between.

Even as far as 2016, some developments that you’ll see, even from our ammunition line. Jason Imhoff, we get the best of the best. Jason Imhoff—he’s gonna make one of the first true, commercially available, expanding subsonic bullets. That’s a big deal in .300 BLK. We’re running 6.75” bbls with our titanium silencers that you see before you with an expanding bullet—for states that have [suppressor] hunting legal—that’s impressive. You saw the bullets out there, the 125 grain—the expansion on those—

LDD:—Dan Powers showed me—

Rich Morovitz:--That same kind of expansion that we’re gonna get on a subsonic bullet--we’re working very diligently on, with numerous companies to make sure we can get that accomplished. That’s just been some of the kind of things we’re working on, that have been hard to tame, if you will.

We have a camera that shoots one million frames per second. That thing is a five-figure camera. We’ve had some of the ones that claimed to be be-all-end-all and you see them expanding as they exit the muzzle with no silencer; as they exit the silencer they’re almost, nine-times-out-of-ten they expand. They’ve got to pass these rigorous standards for us, the high-speed videos etc, etc. This happens in our R&D facility.

A lot of people don’t know this, but all of our frames, our silencers, etc, etc everything that’s marked “Exeter NH:” we moved from Exeter to our new facility, as you’re aware—so Exeter is now primarily research and development. They have their own range, they have their own machines. It’s a team full of engineers, silencer production and web fulfillment. The amount of R&D that we put in, that whole building used to be SIG SAUER. Everything done in that building is now purely research and development.

Fathom that for a minute. We went from R&D, warehousing, shipping, QC, everything under that one little roof. We expanded to our new big roof. We still kept that little roof but we wanted to expand and make sure we’re putting out a quality product. That by having a team of R&D and by giving them the tools that they need, we’ve given them their own high speed range, giving them their own high speed test equipment and limiting the access and limiting touch time from other people and outside folks to make sure products like silencers get the attention that they need--to make sure that we can put them in the hands of USSOCOM, and we sold them on it. They bought into it, MCX as a total package solution with gun and silencer. We’re the first company to ever do that, our gun and our can

Tom Taylor: And to bounce back to your original question of anything we can talk about today: anyone who knows Ron Cohen says he’s always asking, thinking, looking. Right now we have the capability and capacity to do a lot of things whether it’s firearms, whether it’s other categories and as we’ve talked about a few time previously, ’16 is really going to be about making sure these product categories we’ve launched now are solid, rolling. We’ll spend 2016 evaluating where we want to go next. And one thing we know is we want to continue to surround the gun and surround the shooter. A lot of companies may look into lifestyle, making clothes and things that help them enhance the brand; we want to enhance the brand by making quality products that touch the gun.

LDD: What were the lessons learned from 2015?

Tom Taylor: I think that one of the lessons learned, and I’ll let Rich think about it for a minute as well, but for me, I’m a little bit new: ten months here. So, I think a flaw or a failure of this industry is that we’re almost ready to launch a new product. We want to start talking about it, we talk to magazines, you get a big cover, you go out to customers and you write orders. One year ago, this time of year, we had our distributor shows, all of our selling season, we wrote millions of dollars of business on ammunition, optics, silencers, and here we are a year later, and we’re just now shipping.

So, I think one of the lessons learned: SIG wants to be really, much better, at not talking about something till it’s ready to ship. The Legion series is a great example. So, if you follow the Legion series as you probably did, we announced it. I think Sigforum new about it, certainly knew of Legion, but it wasn’t specifically talked about really until we launched it. And we had over 2,000 guns on the shelf, we shipped it the next day and it was in customer’s hands within, really 48-72 hours after the day we officially launched the product. Going forward Ron Cohen has pretty much put a policy in place that we don’t want to launch a product, we don’t want to get item numbers on the street, spend a lot of money on advertising, only to have it delayed three months, six months, a year later, and we’ve wasted all that money. We have to go back and re-launched that product. We want to make sure we have it on the shelf, ready to go.

So that’s probably the greatest lesson learned is, it’s a great sin of our industry: can’t wait to talk about a new product. At SIG we want to talk about products when they’re ready to ship.

Rich Morovitz: That’s exactly was I was thinking. Changing the way that we go to market is huge. I’ve been around for nine years. And in sales, I remember taking orders for stuff that we don’t know when it’s going to be available. I love the fact that we’re not even allowing orders for 210s being taken right now—when it’s sitting out there on the SHOT Show floor. If you came to SHOT show five years ago and you wanted to put 150 on order, we would take that order. When’s it gonna deliver? Not really sure. Well, until we’re really sure, we know that’s coming this year in about May-June timeframe, but that lesson learned from MPX especially.
And I know you guys, and I know your followers on sigforum know, we launched MPX and it took almost two years before we hit market. Tom hit the nail on the head, and I’m so glad we changed our train of thought.
Legion was a good one. 225A was another excellent example, we didn’t even breath a word of 225[a]. We were building 225[a]s for months and there was a complete radio silence on it until it was ready to go. I really think that going forward is going to be the mantra for SIG, for commercial sales, and I’m a big fan of that. ‘Cuz like he said, it is a flaw of the industry before it’s ready to go, ready to ship. But there’s something like at SHOT Show that we know are coming that we still won’t take orders on until we have shelf position like the RX series, the 210, the K models for MPX, etc. That is, I think, one of the biggest lessons learned from 2015 was fixing how we go to market and our market strategy.

LDD: What is your proudest product? If you could take one gun, one optic, or one suppressor—

Rich Morovitz”::--Can’t do that. That’s like saying ”what’s your favorite kid.” To me at least, Tom might be able say things a little different, but—that’s a tough one. Ok, if I had to go with a category--

LDD:—Well, if someone says “Show me what SIG can do” What would you take out?

Rich Morovitz” “Show me what SIG can do”--I would bring out a 6.75” .300 BLK MCX, suppressed, with a Romeo optic on top and I would take a 226 Legion SAO with a silencer on it as well and an optic on it, bring them both to the range with SIG ammo and run the gauntlet and see if you can kill it, because I can’t. And I do this for a living

Tom Taylor: Rich brings a great perspective, he’s been here nine years and he’s seen it all.

For me as a new guy at SIG. I’ve shot a lot of polymer striker fired pistols, and being involved in the ideation and development of the Smith and Wesson M&P pistol and seeing it all the way to market. For me to put the 320 in my hand and understand how incredible that gun is, how easy it is to shoot, the natural point of aim of that gun, the modularity of the gun, it to me, is the next generation of the polymer striker fired pistol. To me, that’s the benchmark for that time that I’ve been here. I’ve had a different perspective seeing it, and the company’s understanding of what the 320 can do. It’s so proud, when you think about winning well over a hundred police agencies in year one with a polymer striker fired pistol, and some of the credibility of the agencies that it’s won, the size of the agencies it’s won in year one—that’s very unusual to win those police contracts at that level.

Rich Morovitz: And to speak on that the 227, the 227 double stack .45, the only other double stack that could compare was the Mark 23 from HK, and we won the largest police agency in the United States with Pennsylvania State Police all carrying 227. And more and more agencies are carrying 227s.

I was thinking about it now, trying to rethink my thoughts about what my favorite kid would be. When I started at SIG I had stainless elites: black and two-tone. With or without night sights. That was it. I go out there now, I talk with one of our senior academy instructors, our director of training. We used to have three basic SKUs; look where we are today and it’s been an amazing ride. I’m so proud to be a part of this company. No one in the firearms industry is doing what we’re doing under one house.

Tom Taylor: I heard Ron tell a story yesterday to a customer, that when he got here eleven years ago the SIG catalog was one piece of paper, on one side.

Rich Morovitz: Yeah.

Tom Taylor: And he still has the piece of paper.

[laughter]

LDD: Do either of you gentlemen have anything to say to the members of Sigforum? Freestyle time.

Tom Taylor: I’ll tell you, being new to SIG and understanding one of the first things that struck me was having a base of people that care enough to invest this amount of time and energy in understanding the company. To me, being new, learning the company, we had Jeff Creamer who’s engaged with Sigforum, Ron has engaged with Sigforum. For me personally, it’s something I want to engage in, to understand and listen and learn.
Because, to me, SIG is a very good listening company, our president, he loves feedback, and he loves to learn—so for me, to have such a loyal base of followers—that’s the message that I would have is that as we’ve got a lot of new people joining SIG. I can tell you that my phone rings almost daily with people saying “Hey, you have any opportunities over there?” We’re able to [have] really talented people around our industry join our team, so a lot of us are new, but the people who’ve followed SIG throughout the years—to have that kind of loyal base of customers who can give us feedback, to me that’s what I love about Sigforum and [it can] help us understand how we can be better.

Rich Morovitz: What I would say is, “Thank you for your loyalty.” As Tom said, and I told you [LDD] on the floor, SIG is all about their customers: we want to hear the feedback. If I could say one thing to the community at Sigforum: I’m here for you, if you have questions, I have answers and if I don’t have the answers personally, I’ll get that answer for you. We want to have the answer and be on the forefront for our customers and be the best at everything we can be as far as customer service and customer engagement. We appreciate your loyalty, we thank you, we appreciate the passion. We love your passion for SIG SAUER.

I’m a fan of course, I’ve been on the forum since I got my first SIG. When I got out of the Marine Corp, before I even worked at SIG my first handgun out of the Corp was a 220. I’m a fan, and we’re here for you, I’m here for you.

LDD: Thank you, gentlemen!

Tom Taylor: Thank you.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: LDD,
 
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Thank you LDD.




 
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Two initial thoughts from my perspective after reading this interview:

I don't believe in perfection... but I do believe in striving for perfection... a la continuous improvement. Dovetailed into this sentiment is the realistic understanding that no human or human run endeavor is perfect, so I am as impressed, and perhaps more so, by how a company works to reduce mistakes and handle the ones that do occur. Learning from previous mistakes is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

Talk is cheap and good whiskey costs money. Some of the comments seem strangely familiar.

Beyond that I'm going to withhold further comment as I'm interested in your impressions LDD.

I would like to thank both Tom and Rich, and to Ron, for the time and candor they have shared in these interviews. Getting an inside look at the products and visions at SIG, as well as the challenges they face is of interest to those of us who appreciate their products.
 
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Thanks LDD!

quote:
Originally posted by LDD:

...That’s a big deal in .300 BLK. We’re running 6.75” bbls with our titanium silencers that you see before you with an expanding bullet—for states that have [suppressor] hunting legal—that’s impressive. You saw the bullets out there, the 125 grain—the expansion on those—

...

I would bring out a 6.75” .300 BLK MCX, suppressed, with a Romeo optic on top...


Where are these MCXs with 6.75" bbls?
 
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Great interview, LDD. One of the big peeves I've had with SIG Sauer has been promising us products, and then taking a year or two to deliver them. I'm glad to hear they are taking steps to address this problem. When you announce a great new gun, customers want to buy them now.


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Thanks LDD! Great interview.



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Thanks for taking the time to put this together LDD. Very insightful and well done.
 
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Excellent interview and read. It looks like they are striving to improve.


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I have really been wanting a P320 in my hand.. I was wondering if it could live up to the reliability of the classics.. I guess I would not be able to afford enough ammo to find out how long they hold up. Smile


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