Matthew Fehmel shares how his military experience prepared him for a leadership role in a firearms company, working in cross functional teams, the value of networking for referrals, how how Smith & Wesson gives back to veterans, and why the M&P9 Metal M2.0 is his current sidearm.
How did your military experience prepare you for a leadership role in the firearms industry, and in sales?
Leadership is leadership. Our training in the military suited us well for a sales position: We are exceptionally prepared to lead highly motivated teams towards a well-defined goal, however, “commander’s intent” allows the subordinate sales professional to make tactical decisions needed to close a sale without having to ask permission around every corner. It also prepares us to work in cross functional teams where we might not have direct authority but, instead, need to rely on consensus and compromise to advance the needs of the sales team. Examples of this can be fighting for production time, vying for engineering resources needed for the development of a new product or requesting additional funds in your budget.
How important do you believe networking is for military veterans transitioning to civilian careers, and what advice would you give to veterans who are looking to build their professional networks and career in the firearms industry?
The firearms industry is a small place, much like the military. Often times people with similar roles are only 2 or 3 degrees of separation away from each other. Most people in this industry that have been around for a while have worked in 2 or 3 different companies. For example, I interviewed a veteran for a position at my company, but ultimately did not offer him a position. Soon thereafter, when discussing business with a former colleague in another company, that person asked if I had a recommendation for an open sales role; I recommended the veteran in question who ultimately was offered and accepted that position; a true-to-life realization of the old adage that when one door closes another opens. Use the tools available to you; LinkedIn is a universal tool for global networking, but there are other, similar tools. Veteran’s groups such as Meritorious for example, are much more targeted and industry specific. Use any and all of them.
What advice would you give to someone who is pursuing a small business in the firearms industry?
Make sure you allot time and money to build your brand. You will need to attend lots of trade shows. Walk around at SHOT Show and ask to speak with sales people, new product development folks and engineers. Attend local law enforcement shows such as tactical officer associations, SWAT challenges, etc… Give samples away for your product/service and latch on heavy to your first customers to leverage as testimonials. None of this is easy and is going to take time and patience. If you have a good product/service and are confident in it, then it will sell.
How does your company support military veterans, both through providing career opportunities within the company and supporting the broader military community?
Veterans typically do well in the firearms industry, particularly in the companies that are primarily defense contractors or, for those that are not, in international, military and law enforcement sales departments, and operations / production divisions. Smith & Wesson proudly supports the military community through one of the best discount programs at retail in the industry. Please visit our website at www.smith-wesson.com and search for the American Guardian Program for details.
What is your favorite firearm that Smith & Wesson has produced, and why (feel free to dive into specs)?
Well, that’s a tough one as it varies from year to year. This year it happens to be the M&P9 Metal M2.0 (SKU 13808). This model has all of the ergonomic attributes of the wildly popular M&P M2.0 pistol line, only, instead of a polymer frame, it uses an all-aluminum frame hard coat anodized black. It also features an optics ready slide, optics height tritium night sights, a flat-faced trigger and scalloped forward slide serrations. Please see our website at https://www.smith-wesson.com/defense and search for M&P Metal. And yes, in case you were wondering, this is one of the products available through our American Guardians Program at a fantastic discount!