Editor’s Note: Mossy Oak has a very simple job description for the people who come to work there - “Do what needs to be done.” As the Mossy Oak tree of businesses grew, Toxey Haas and Bill Sugg recognized not only the need to work with more manufacturers to produce the clothes, but they needed more people to help manage the company and sell the camouflage.
As Mossy Oak extended its roots to include more people, our motto was, “Do whatever needs to be done.” The second person who came on board after I was hired was Cindy Cliett as our bookkeeper. When Cindy was hired, she asked to see Toxey’s books, so she could set-up an accounting program for us. Toxey handed her a yellow legal pad, which was the extent of the books we kept. We listed the date we received the order, the date we shipped the order and the date we got paid. Cindy took Toxey’s legal pad and developed the first bookkeeping system for Mossy Oak. Today Cindy is the head of our Human Resources Department. About that same time, we hired Carsie Young, a local fellow whose family was in the distributing business with Coca-Cola and other beverages. Earlier Carsie had moved from Mississippi to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to work in in one of the distribution facilities his family owned there. He just had moved back home to West Point. He and Toxey were about the same age. Toxey met with Carsie because he knew Carsie had a great knowledge of how to distribute product. Carsie became head of Mossy Oak Warehousing and Distribution. In those early years, we were producing all the Mossy Oak clothing that was being sold and had several buildings in downtown West Point where we stored the clothing. When Carsie came on board, he hired high school kids to work in the warehouse, as well as students from Mississippi State to help with the warehouse work. Some of those young people who started off in our warehouse took other jobs with our company, and some of them are still here today.
When Toxey decided to leave his good paying job at Bryan Foods and start this company, he made a huge leap of faith! He invested the money he had saved up to try and develop the product he believed in, and there was no turning back. He had to make a go of Mossy Oak. That’s the kind of courage it often required for an entrepreneur to have the incentive to not give up and to work hard enough to make a success out of his dream.
About the middle of 1987, Toxey received a call from Will Primos of Primos Game Calls in Jackson, Miss., who told Toxey, “I’ve got a friend who sells sporting goods in Alabama, and I told him if he ever needs a job to call me. His name is Bob Dixon.” I knew Bob because I’d called on him when he was working at Fish Hunters, a sporting-goods store in Birmingham, Alabama. Will asked Bob Dixon to come and meet with Toxey and me. We sat down and talked to Bob and knew he was a natural fit for our company. When you met Bob Dixon, you felt like he was your friend within 5 minutes of meeting him. Bob became our first National Sales Manager.
Bob and I were on the road selling Mossy Oak, and Toxey was the head of Production and Scheduling to move the company forward and to keep cloth being printed, clothes being made and put in the warehouse, shipping clothes out to our customers and running advertising. Within the first few years after Bob came on board, I became the head of Production. Carsie kept adding staff in the warehouse, as we continued to produce more Mossy Oak clothing.
I had known Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland for a couple of years because he’d worked in a couple of sporting-goods stores in Natchez, Miss., and also was an outdoor writer. In January of 1987, we were at the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show) Show in New Orleans, when a lady named Pam Strickland came into our booth and asked a few questions. Then she said “I’m going to go get my husband because he’ll like this camo.” A few years later he came onboard as a salesman for Mossy Oak, and his wife Pam, who later worked in our licensing business for well over 20 years, today is in charge of Mossy Oak’s home-décor business. We realized that Cuz’s talents were in public relations and videography; and in the mid-1990s Cuz led us into the television business. Toxey called Cuz in one day and said, “Cuz, Mossy Oak needs to know outdoor writers and learn to do PR. I think you’re the right man for the job.” And Cuz’s response was, “I’m in – but what’s PR?” That’s one of our favorite stories.
The philosophy of the Mossy Oak Company was and is today, that we’re not big on titles. Whatever needs doing, we just need folks to jump in and just start doing it. All of us who were hired early in the growth and development of Mossy Oak have worked in distribution, sold Mossy Oak camo, driven trucks to pick up product, helped out in the warehouse and done whatever any department needed. Everybody would pitch in to help that department. And that’s the way we are today. All the people at Mossy Oak pitch in and help do whatever needs to be done. We had a team meeting just the other day, and one of the fellows in that meeting said, “In my other life before I came to Mossy Oak, I was trained to do a particular job. I think I can help out in that department.” So that same type of initiative to, “Do whatever needs to be done,” still exists today at Mossy Oak.
Tomorrow: Serve Others to Serve Ourselves