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  • Published Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009, at 12:04 a.m.

A business degree makes sense for a lot of people who know they want to go into business, but a rhetoric degree made sense to Brad Wolansky.

The new CEO of the Golf Warehouse is a New Jersey native who went to college in Maine to "learn how to formulate an argument, both written and oral, to motivate your listener to action."

Wolansky eventually bought his family's luggage company and expanded it to three stores.

But some part-time consulting work with international retailer Orvis Co. led to full-time work there.

Wolansky sold his company and, during two stints with Orvis, was divisional merchandise and catalog manager and director of e-commerce. He left as vice president for global e-commerce.

He held a similar position at Wilson's Leather.

Did you have any regrets about selling your company?

"No, not at all. I was having a lot of fun doing it... but small business is tough and the economies of scale really start to gang up against you in light of the big-box stores and in light of other competition.

"As good as I was... the odds are just against you. It's a very different business paradigm."

You learned a lot about catalog sales while with Orvis. How will you apply some of that to the Golf Warehouse's catalogs?

"For example, if an item's picture is smaller than a third of a the page, you never put it in the gutter, which is the middle section. It is a proven fact that an item won't do as well because it's in the gutter. It's a best practice kind of thing.

"You don't lay out everything in equal space across the spread. Something's got to be a hero.

"Things like that are not really being done now."

What are some of your immediate focuses for the company?

"There's probably two biggest areas.

"One is to do more of what we're doing at a higher velocity. So do more of sales of golf and baseball and utilize every available avenue and every available trick in the book in terms of... direct-to-consumer practices.

"The second thing is to expand what we're doing and expand the competencies that we've developed, which are in buying and in selecting so our own internal buying staff is very good."

One of your first objectives when you came on board was to meet with each employee and ask five questions, right?

"I didn't ask them the same five questions you did, but I asked the same five questions.

"They were: 'What are the top five things to keep about the company? What are the top five things to change about the company? What do you hope most that I do? What are you concerned most that I do? And then, finally, what advice would you have for me?' Everyone always likes to give the boss advice."

What were the responses like?

"The remarkable thing was I literally went (to) 200 meetings, and even by the last one, I still learned something new in every session. It was remarkable to me that giving people a forum.... I learned something about the business or I learned some opportunity or I learned some roadblock.

"I took copious notes, and going out of those meetings has really been my road map of what to tackle first."

— Carrie Rengers

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