Employee Development, Red Beard’s Style

I never really know what to expect when I go into my shift at Red Beard’s. My days range from choosing which eno hammock to display in the window to cooking my lunch on an MSR stove.

Along with my ever-changing workday, my coworkers are constantly surprising me. I thought I was lucky when Bill brought lunch for the crew, but when he mentioned the new Employee Development Program, I decided I could no longer call my job “work.”

Normally, the idea of an employee development program entails spending all day in a cold, corporate meeting room, trapped under fluorescent lights on a sunny Saturday, but that’s not Red Beard’s style.

Red Beard’s idea of an Employee Development Program means heading outside and getting your hands dirty, or in our case, wet. Following a bit of research, a coworker found an all-day whitewater kayaking course led by the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Not so corporate anymore.


Our team of three drove through the night to be ready to paddle in Atlanta by 8 am. Starting in Powers Island, just off 85, our instructor Mike taught us how to escape from a capsized kayak, stroke in a current that refuses to flow directly, and that cold water to the face in the morning is better than a cup of coffee.

A short lunch break later and we were ready to hit the rapids. Starting off slow, we weaved in and out of bridge pillars until it was time to surf and pumble through class three rapids, interspersing our ride with the occasional eddy- a pool of still water behind a rock or fallen branch.

Before the trip, all three of us considered ourselves decent paddlers. Once Mike took us on the rapids, we saw ourselves for what we really are: rec paddlers. The course certainly gave us quality hands-on practice, but more importantly, it gave us more insight to what we don’t know, more insight to how unpredictable the great outdoors can be.

Red Beard’s Employee Development Program aims to create a well-rounded and knowledgeable staff, and, yes, we know our products well because we love what we do and we want to share our experience. But of all the lasting bits of wisdom Mike left me with, this one sticks the most: the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.

That being said, I am still willing to keep learning and developing. Just like my regular Tuesday shift, I never know what to expect.