January 2021 Soapbox – End of an Era

The new year marks one of the most significant transitions in the history of NAA: the departure of Ken Friel as de facto president and COO, and the arrival of Mike Griffin, who will formally assume those roles.  Whew, talk about the end of an age.  To put it into perspective, this November will mark the 29th year since I purchased this business.  Ken began his career at NAA 12 years before I arrived.  41 years of service.  Take a moment to let that sink in.

More than anyone else, Ken has been responsible for what NAA has become.  It began as a 2-model firearms industry “titan” operating in the back bowels of a large, high-precision electro-mechanical engineering and manufacturing firm (think bomb racks, missile rails and the like).  NAA has a very impressive pedigree, designed, engineered and manufactured by the storied team of Dick Casull, the designer of the eponymous .454 cartridge and Wayne Baker, founder of Freedom Arms.  Notwithstanding, it suffered an early history of failed fits and starts before it fell into the hands of the capable but disinterested Frank Talley.  Nurtured largely by the grit and determination of Ken and his business “partner”, the recently-departed Carl Prokop, NAA has since become an industry stalwart, dominating the niche for ultra-small personal protection weapons and enjoying an enviable reputation for product quality and customer service.  NAA looks like what Ken made it, a legacy of which he can be particularly proud.  Fortunately, Ken’s departure is neither abrupt nor complete.  While we have budgeted for a 3-month transition, Ken will still remain in the ‘hood and he has a vested interest in the continuing success of the business.
Ken is being followed by Mike Griffin, most recently VP of Operations or Ft. Knox Security Products.  While only peripheral to the firearms industry, Mike brings with him a skill set that I believe will be of great value to us, which is his manufacturing experience, as well as a new perspective and some fresh energy.  While we’ve been successful in delivering a family of “Convenient, Reliable, Effective” small handguns to a very diverse customer base, admittedly we have done so while leaving an expensive trail of scrap and rework.  Our methods have not been very sophisticated and our “fixes” have not always been long-lasting nor permanent.  I believe that we can do things right – the first time – which will improve our productivity and our output, will help us address/satisfy a backlog which we’ve enjoyed for most of the past 10 years and will enable us to better control our costs and the pressure on our pricing so that our products will remain desirable and competitive.  That’s the plan.

This transition will not be without bumps and bruises but I believe that Ken has left Mike a strong foundation upon which to build and that our future remains bright.  You can send regards to either/both of them at Ken@NorthAmericanArms.com and Mike@NorthAmericanArms.com.

Happy New Year to all.  I wish you and your families peace, comfort and safety.

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February 2021 Soapbox