Interview with the new owner of Swords of Might, Hunter Follett - July 2017
SBG: Hi Hunter, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today.
SoM: My pleasure Paul. Thank you for the valuable reviews and service you provide to the SBG community.
Before we get started, can I tell a joke and eat some crow?
Guy is talking to his bartender and he says:
Guy: You know bartender, if you walk 100 grandmas across the road, people don’t call you the grandma walker. If you save 50 kittens from trees, they don’t call you the kitten rescuer. But you screw one sheep…
This is sort of how we felt when we acquired the business. SoM made some mistakes under the previous owner (and some under our management as well), and customers have long memories about that sort of thing. We sold out of stock and discontinued products on the site, we had some technology issues, we didn’t live up to our own standards.
Well, I am pleased to announce that there is a new sheriff in town. Since March 1 we have been a machine, and we are going to continue to improve. If you have ordered from us since March 1, you know what I am talking about, and if you wrote us off because of a bad past experience, I’d ask you to give us another shot. We aren’t going anywhere near those sheep again.
SBG: It is really good to hear that you have put in the work at the backend to make Swords of Might work like it should. It is, as you are no doubt finding out, a tough industry to profit in. So what was it that made you decide to buy Swords of Might and to get involved in the sword business?
SoM: I’ll admit that my wife and I bought Swords of Might first and foremost because swords are cool. My wife and I love renaissance and re-enactment, in fact we recently had a full blown Game of Thrones birthday for her- costumes, bugler and little people included. We also saw a business with great products at great prices that needed process improvements to better serve the community. We were customers first, so we know what it’s like to buy a sword and check the porch every day for it to arrive. We also know that there are companies out there that don’t deliver on their promises, and we knew that we could do better.
SBG: In the months since you have taken control of the company, you have spearheaded quite a few improvements such as better inventory control, systematization, and your 110% in stock guarantee where you state ‘We guarantee the availability of our products 110%. If you catch us in an error, we’ll give you 110% credit to get any of our other 10k+ products, or we’ll refund you and burn our inventory manager at the stake.’
Can you elaborate on the improvements you have made and the steps you have taken to deal with some of the issues left over from the last couple of years?
SoM: Our first challenge was to make sure that when customers find a product on our Swords of Might, we can 110% guarantee that it is available. We painstakingly inventoried every product we sell and worked with manufacturers to get regular updates of what is in the pipeline and what is out of stock. This took elbow grease and didn’t happen overnight, but we are really proud of our system now and want to make sure our customers know they can order with confidence.
We also want to be transparent about our business model and practices. Roughly 70% of the products we sell online are in stock at our warehouse in Dallas, and we get regular stock updates from dozens of manufacturers, enabling us to offer an extended line of products at essentially wholesale prices. For the customer this means some of our products can be delivered quickly, while others can take up to 10 business days to arrive at our facility and ship back out.
In the near future, we’ll be identifying “Strikingly Fast Delivery” items which will arrive within 5 business days (and usually faster). For products that aren’t Strikingly Fast, we’ve found when that customers are properly informed they are willing to wait a few extra days to get a quality product at a deep discount. We are also really good about moving heaven and earth to meet a deadline- if you have a special, urgent need, just let us know and we’ll do whatever we can to meet it.
Further, we recently added services such as sharpening, blunting and engraving. I gave my cousin an engraved claymore for his graduation, and almost ruined the rest of his graduation presents he thought it was so cool. We have actors, HEMAs, and others who want a blunted blade, and others that want to slice through Tameshigiri mats like butter.
Finally- we really beefed up customer service. We have live chat, email and phones manned by some really great, knowledgeable people in the USA.
SBG: What is it that you feel separates your store from the competition?
SoM: Price, Variety and Respect. Sword and knife buyers generally don’t just buy one blade, so we feel that if we are consistently competitive on price, continue to add the newest and coolest products and treat our customers with honor, we’ll build lifelong customers.
SBG: This is a tough one I know, but if you had to select just one sword (or line of swords) from all the various blades you sell, which is your personal favorite and why?
SoM: Yikes that is tough, I bought the company so I wouldn’t have to choose! If I had to go with a line, I’d go with Paul Chen Hanwei (including Tinker Hanwei). They consistently make great steel at fair prices. Paul understands what makes a good blade, from the steel quality to the geometry and aesthetic. Favorite sword? The Michonne sword- I’m just a big Walking Dead fan.
SBG: What is the most common question people ask you when they visit your store?
SoM: It really ranges across the spectrum. Perhaps my favorite questions are from customers who bought a product from another company and are asking us about it. I think that is reflective of some of the poor customer service in the industry and we are proud to have knowledgeable people on hand to answer questions (though I wish they’d bought it from us!) I will add that I end up sending people to SBG all the time for your great reference guides on sword care, maintenance and use.
SBG: Without giving away any trade secrets, what are your plans for the future and how do you see the sword industry evolving as a whole in the coming years?
SoM: I have 2 lines that I like to tell people: First, I like to claim that I am an international arms dealer (because most of our competitors don’t ship international) and second, that this is an industry that has been around since the 34th century BC, it’s not going anywhere. In fact, swords are becoming more popular with shows like Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Vikings, and King Arthur.
We want to continue to be a big company that treats customers like our friends. We’ll have real people available on livechat, email and over the phone. We’ll continue to roll out new, value-added services like engraving, sharpening and blunting. We’ll continue to add new products every day. And we’ll look for other ways to serve the great people of this community.
SBG: Thanks again for your answers Hunter. Any final comments you wish to make?
SoM: Just that my doors always open. If you want to talk shop, or vent, compliment