“Our mission is to empower every human to live like an athlete”
Cookeville – As American as an 8-year-old lining a baseball down the line on a Saturday afternoon, Wilson Sporting Goods (WSG) originally opened its doors in 1913 in Chicago. WSG is not only an American staple, but it has been a staple in the Cookeville, Sparta and Upper Cumberland community since the factory opened here in 1946.
Smiling faces scatter across the production floor. In Sparta alone, there are 135 employees. Throughout the mid-state, WSG employs approximately 350 and they employ 1200 nationally.
Jobs are created, but it is the employees that make the wheels turn.
“The people in the workforce in the Upper Cumberland help make Wilson successful,” Lisa Braddom, Director of Finance and Operations told the Upper Cumberland Business Journal (UCBJ). “Their work ethic, commitment to quality, loyalty and the pride with which they do their work are the driving forces behind the longevity of Wilson in this area. Wilson is a huge company, but when you walk through the doors of the factory in Sparta, you don’t get that sterile corporate feel. It’s very much a team environment. We celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and we uplift each other in crisis. This atmosphere extends to the headquarter level. The President, Joe Dudy, can walk into this facility and call many of us by name.”
Braddom understands the importance of an employee first environment. Comfort, atmosphere and fun separate WSG from the pack.
“Nothing makes us (managers and supervisors) happier than hearing our folks tell others what a great place this is to work. We use our atmosphere and work environment to attract candidates,” said Braddom.
WSG knows how to attract and keep employees. That is rare in the current business climate where quiet quitting and turnover rates are rising.
“The desire Wilson has to make this an inclusive and fun environment shows in our retention rate,” continued Braddom. “Do we work hard during the winter and spring? Yes! But there is still excitement as we do so. It’s like playing a sport on our production floor. We are faster, stronger and better than our competitors. Let’s get this product in the player’s hand so they can be as excited about the season’s opening game as we were building his/her order.”
The Pandemic forced many businesses to adjust. According to Braddom, WSG has adjusted beautifully.
“We’ve experienced healthy growth since the introduction of our Team Shop website in Fall 2018,” she noted. “While 2020 was flat to 2019 due to COVID, we experienced strong increases in sales in 2019, 2021 and 2022.”
Braddom said WSG is expecting even stronger growth in 2023. A 30% increase is forecasted within the company. What’s the special sauce for success?
Braddom says it is simple.
“Our employees,” she said. “That’s it.”
The national economy is struggling. A recession is forecasted by many. Those struggles led to supply chain issues everywhere, but WSG anticipated such challenges.
“Our Company has done an excellent job in anticipating supply chain disruptions and allowing us to order accordingly,” said Braddom. “We were focused on keeping the momentum going in our sales growth and Wilson Headquarters agreed with that logic.”
Delays were inevitable, but Braddom noted forward thinking led WSG to fewer product delays on a local level.
“We saw delays on very few products, but good planning allowed us to operate in a growth mode with no negative impact,” she said.
Much of what WSG delivers is custom product.
“We control the production of that product and anticipated delays early on. We aggressively ordered raw materials and were not affected by supply chain disruptions on that end,” continued Braddom. “We did experience some slower shipping times from our shipping partner, but that seems to have cleared on their end. While a predicted recession looms on the horizon, we are still predicting growth next season.”
Braddom said a huge announcement is on the horizon. WSG will be partnering with “an innovative group”. Throughout the country’s history, no matter the tragedy, no matter the political and economic climate, sports never stopped. The games were played, and the athletes competed. WSG has been there no matter the struggles.
“When the country basically shut down for COVID, sport didn’t stop,” said Braddom. “We plan to continue to service the athletes who are driven to compete no matter what.”
Braddom said she is proud to be part of WSG and the legacy it has had throughout the world of sports. WSG is not only the official football of the NFL, but the official basketball of the NBA, and Lousiville Slugger Baseball bats are icons in the industry. WSG is leader of the pack in Tennis and on every golf course you will see the red and white of a WSG golf bag.
WSG is a leader in the business of sport.
“Sport touches almost everyone at some point in their life,” said Braddom. “Whether you played tee ball or competed at a collegiate or professional level, odds are one of our products was in your game play. This company has been there for every major athletic event since 1913. How could you not be proud to be part of creating those moments?”
So what is WSG’s mission? Braddom says it is a team effort.
“Our mission is to empower every human to live like an athlete,” said Braddom. “For me, that means encouraging those I interact with daily to show up every day, to take risks, be a team player, believe in themselves and others and to stand up for what they believe in.”
The Upper Cumberland community is built on a foundation of hard work and an environment of high quality jobs and moral growth. According to Braddom, WSG has established itself as a part of the community, not only with the jobs created and their longevity, but with love for the region and its people.
“The people in the workforce in the Upper Cumberland help make Wilson successful,” said Braddom. “Their work ethic, commitment to quality, loyalty and the pride with which they do their work are the driving forces behind the longevity of Wilson in this area. Wilson is a huge company, but when you walk through the doors of the factory in Sparta you don’t get that sterile corporate feel. It’s very much an extended family environment. We celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and we uplift each other in crisis. This atmosphere extends to the headquarter level. The President, Joe Dudy, can walk into this facility and call many of us by name.”
As American as sport, WSG has stood the test of time, and the the Upper Cumberland is better for it.