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Profile: Crosman leader keeps sight on growth

New CEO rises through ranks at air gun company

Bob Beckwith

Bob Beckwith

Bob Beckwith may be the CEO of Crosman Corp., but he’s really an average Joe.

What began as Crosman Seed Co. Inc. has evolved into Crosman Corp., the world’s leading provider of air powered guns.ob Beckwith may be the CEO of Crosman Corp., but he’s really an average Joe.

Located in Bloomfield, Ontario County, Crosman “makes and distributes products to serve the outdoor recreational markets and shooting enthusiast market, excluding firearms,” says Beckwith. Crosman also has a warehouse in Farmington, which functions as a distribution center.

For 90 years, Crosman has been growing into the empire it is today. The company produces and sells air guns, crossbows, optics and recently joined the laser market. All of Crosman’s guns are air powered; they are not in the business of firearms.

Crosman began in Fairport, and, when it was purchased by The Coleman Co. Inc. in 1971, moved to Bloomfield. Since the 1990s, Crosman has had myriad private owners and was most recently acquired by Connecticut-based Compass Diversified Holdings LLC in June.

That same month, Beckwith was promoted from CFO to CEO after 18 years with the company.

Crosman recently expanded its business ventures, joining the laser market through the acquisition of LaserMax Inc., a locally based company that manufactures lasers for pistols. Including LaserMax, the company employs about 260.

“We’re quietly one of the larger employers in the area,” says Beckwith. “We’re unique in the sense that we still manufacture quite a bit of our products. Not just assemble it, we actually have a machine shop and tool rooms where we go through and manufacture more than 50 percent of what we sell, which is unusual for consumer products.”

Overseeing close to 300 employees is a hefty task, but Beckwith has been a leader in the Crosman community for years, so his transition into this new role was smooth. With the executive team, Beckwith is positive that the company will continue to grow and thrive in an evolving market.

“The people who work under us all have the same attitude,” says Beckwith. “It’s really all about teamwork and winning in the marketplace, in front of the customer and gaining market share.”

The Crosman brand

Raking in $130 million in revenue last year, Crosman has proven itself as a competitor that really does “whatever it takes to get the job done.”

Beckwith is focused on maintaining Crosman as a leader in the industry. To remain the frontrunner, Beckwith is working to make sure the company continues to grow and deliver shareholder value. But managing a fast-growing company, especially with the acquisition of LaserMax, can be tough and requires thoughtful, measured decisions.

“If you’re not careful, you can outgrow your skills and your talents,” says Beckwith. “I think the most interesting thing I’ve watched happen is seeing the people and the company grow and develop.

“We’ve had some people that have been with us for a very long time and have done a great job, and we’ve also been able to supplement with people who work in the outside world,” he says. “That combination together and managing that the right way when you’re growing is critical because you don’t want to lose what got you here, but you also want to make sure you’re prepared for the growth that’s coming in the next 10 or 15 years.”

Transparency remains a top priority for Beckwith and the executive team. Crosman may be a large company, but its 260 employees are not kept in the dark about important business matters.

“I would say Crosman is a close group with very little or no egos,” says Steve Upham, senior vice president of sales. “The employees know exactly what’s going on; it’s always been that way.”

Beckwith considers himself fortunate to have a remarkable team that works together like a well-oiled machine through all of the changes happening in the industry. Retail is shifting into a more online-driven market with more customers turning to their computers to make purchases rather than going to the store.

“You’re always trying to work in close partnerships with retailers to solve problems for them and make them healthy in the category,” says Upham. “There’s been a change in the way consumers view retail brick-and-mortar stores versus online. Making sure your core brickand-mortar business is strong has been a focus of ours.”

Furthermore, Crosman remains a leader in the industry because of its commitment to staying on top of the trends and embracing the latest styles. Trends are what Crosman relies on most heavily because it’s a relatively newer market. Unlike heritage markets, “it’s a little more subject to the kids or the people who are playing with it and how much they want to do it, so there’s a little bit of fluctuation with it,” says Beckwith.

“We’ve been a company that has been able to evolve with the way business is being done today, and we’ve always been out in front of where the market is going,” says Upham. “We’re not set in our ways and unwilling to change. We’ve always been very open to change.”

Beckwith at the helm

Before joining Crosman in 1999, Beckwith was not part of the air gun and outdoor recreation business. He did, however, have an interest in outdoor recreation from a young age.

“The reason you see the lower gun on the wall is because that’s the anniversary edition of the first air gun I was ever given from my parents,” he says, pointing at a wall in his office. “I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors.”

Professionally, Beckwith started out as certified public accountant.

After graduating from Clarkson University in 1989, he went to work at what was Coopers and Lybrand—today’s PricewaterhouseCoopers. During his four-year stint there, Beckwith earned his CPA license.

He then went on to work full time at Xerox while simultaneously earning his master’s in business administration from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1997. From there he worked as a division controller at American Packaging for a year, then made his way to Crosman, where he has stayed for nearly two decades.

Beckwith started out as a corporate controller at Crosman, and he has steadily climbed the corporate ladder ever since. He notes that “it’s neat being somewhere for 18 years after jumping around every five.” Certainly Beckwith has settled in and found his niche.

Crosman’s 49-year-old CEO has come a long way from his first job as a busboy. But humble beginnings provide essential life lessons, and it was busing tables that gave Beckwith his first taste of what it’s like to work with others.

“(Being a busboy) taught me how to work with people and that what makes one person happy might not make another person happy, and that you have to work with people you don’t necessarily like, but you better figure out how to get along with them,” he says.

Having been with Crosman for 18 years, Beckwith is at an advantage in his transition to CEO because the employees already know his leadership style and his personality. Beckwith enjoys collaborating with his team and helping those who need it.

“My role here is to get hands-on where I need to, but we’ve got great, talented people,” he says. “The last thing I want to do is tell them how to do their job. I’m a very data-driven person, so my style is ‘let’s get as much information as we can.’”

Upham concurs, noting that Beckwith has a big sports mind, so he treats the business competitively and plays to win.

“Honestly, if I was to describe how he was 17 years ago to how he is now is that Bob probably was a typical finance guy all those years ago,” says Upham. “But over the last decade, he has seen how important it is for sales and marketing to be driving the decision-making in the company. Bob has embraced that rather than fought against that, and that’s not typical for finance people.

“Bob has been very open-minded toward the ideas that sales and marketing must be making the decisions about products, because we know what consumers want,” he says. “That’s the biggest thing about Bob’s style (of leadership); as good of a finance person as he is and as detailed and professional as he is, he has a sales and marketing mind behind that, which is critical in his position since we’re a consumer products company.”

Ted Smith, vice president of M&T Bank, adds that Beckwith has a clear understanding of how all of the different business parts—from sales to operations—work together and form a well-oiled machine. Smith was the banker for Crosman from 2001 to 2015, so he and Beckwith worked together closely for almost 15 years.

“(Bob is) very energetic,” says Smith. “He was the kind of CFO that had great reporting and great systems that allowed Crosman to make quick decisions based on data. I think that made him the ideal candidate to be CEO of the company.”

As a data-driven person, Beckwith says he does not rely on gut feelings to make decisions. He uses the information he is provided and collaborates with his team to make decisions that will benefit Crosman. He avoids being autocratic, he says, but when it comes time to make a decision, he feels confident that he’s making a decision on behalf of the organization.

When it came time to interview candidates for Beckwith’s replacement, Dan Maier, the whole team participated.

“I don’t like to be treated like my opinion doesn’t count, and I think other people don’t like that too, whether it’s a person on the floor or the VP of sales,” says Beckwith. “Everyone wants to know that their opinion matters and that it’s heard.”

Maier was previously the vice president of finance at LaserMax. Through the acquisition, Beckwith has remained true to his word when he said “we’re going to look to take the best of the best (at LaserMax) and let them advance and do other things” at Crosman.

Having 260 employees under his wing is a big responsibility, one that Beckwith refuses to take lightly.

“When we make a decision or we screw up and get beaten by a competitor and it’s going to result in lost sales, I take that real personally—I always have,” he says. “That’s probably one of the most stressful” aspects of the job—“that these people are relying on this company to take care of their families and we owe it to them to care about them.”

Fitness and family

Not just a competitor from 9 to 5, Beckwith enjoys healthy competition outside of work. Since 2014, he has completed multiple triathlons, including two half Ironman’s as well as a bunch of sprints. Even though it has been taxing balancing work and home life since taking on his new role, fitness remains a priority for Beckwith. To stay in shape he enjoys CrossFit training.

Beckwith also finds quality time to spend with his family. He and his wife, Colleen, have two kids, Brad and Leah. On weekends, they like to visit their house on Conesus Lake.

An avid sports fan, Beckwith met his wife on a Buffalo Bills bus trip in September 1991. He believes everything happens for a reason, just like the spur-of-the-moment trip that led him to Colleen. Beckwith cherishes many memories with his family, including trips to Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Bob Thomson, CEO of Keepsake Photography and Beckwith’s close friend and neighbor both in Fairport and at the lake, says he is just a regular guy leading a modest lifestyle.

“I get to photograph quite a few people because we have corporate accounts for other big companies where I photograph CFOs and CEOs, and I’ve met the regular profile CEO guy, you know, mildly intimidating and a tiny bit on the arrogant side,” he says. “But Bob is not any of those things at all. I can’t think of one bad thing to say about Bob.”

Thomson describes Beckwith as an “Energizer bunny. He has the highest level of motivation; it’s unparalleled.”

This motivation reaches every facet of Beckwith’s life, and he will continue to use this motivation to push Crosman toward growth and prosperity.

“Whenever I end up leaving this job and Crosman, I want to leave it bigger, better and stronger than when I got here,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of people that worked here for 40-something years and retire. I want to allow that to continue to happen with more growth opportunities, so people can look back on their careers at Crosman and say, ‘Man, what a great place.’”

nsheldon@bridgetowermedia.com / (585) 363-7031

Title: CEO of Crosman Corp.

Age: 49

Education: B.S., accounting, Clarkson University, 1989; M.A., business administration, Rochester Institute of Technology, 1997

Family: Wife, Colleen; son, Brad, 19; and daughter, Leah, 17

Residence: Fairport

Hobbies: Golf, spending time with family, triathlons, CrossFit training

Quote: “Whatever it takes to get the job done.”

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email madams@bridgetowermedia.com.

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