Vortex Optics is synonymous with the outdoors. Founded in 2002 – it is still a relatively young company making big waves in the industry. It is more than just a brand, it is a Vortex Nation. They have a wide range of products ranging from binoculars to riflescopes. We caught up with their Social Media Director, Jimmy Hamilton for a quick chat about all things Vortex Optics!
Can you give me a brief overview of Vortex Optics?
Vortex optics is family and veteran-owned and operated in Barneveld, WI and has been a brand since 2002, though the family has been in the industry since the late ’80s. We make a wide variety of sporting optics for a large customer base from tactical optics for private citizens, military and law enforcement, or optics for hunting and recreational use. There is only one Vortex Optics location and everything flows through our location to our dealers and end consumers across the nation and across the world. Nearly 300 Southwestern Wisconsin natives are employed here doing everything from customer service, sales, manufacturing, engineering, testing, repairs and warranty work, marketing, etc.
What sets you apart from other brands?
While we take great pride in the products we make for such a huge variety of customers, we know we’re not the only optics manufacturer in history to make great products, so we feel the most important thing is simply to treat our customers like gold. Not just because it’s good business sense, but because it’s the right thing to do. Our VIP Lifetime warranty will stop at nothing to ensure that every customer with a Vortex product, whether they’re the original owner, whether they have the receipt or not, or whether or not it was even their fault if they ever experience an issue or have a question, gets the service and treatment they deserve which is top-notch.
We have a deep team of real tech support people that work here in Barneveld who are hunters and shooters themselves and love nothing more than answering phones and e-mails all day every day to talk about their favorite hobby with customers and answer their questions. If service or warranty work is needed, we make the process speedy and with as minimal hassle as possible (No warranty cards, no endless phone trees, no surprise fees) and is at no expense to the customer ever, even if it means we can’t repair their product and they are going to get a brand new one in the mail. Optics are our expertise, people are our passion.
Could you tell us more about how Vortex was founded and if applicable; whether the founder still influences the company to this day (craftmanship, new ideas/products, work ethics, etc.)?
After years selling optics to end consumers and being a business owner in a retail setting, Dan and Margie Hamilton decided they wanted to have more control over the customer experience on both the dealer and end-user part of the equation and the best way to do that would be to create their own brand. To this day, they and their four sons who were also with them from the beginning (two jumping in right out of college from the very beginning, one after a career in the Air Force and the youngest more recently out of college), are all in the business and all highly focused on the “Three P’s” of Vortex which is “People, Products, Promises”.
The idea is that with great people working here placing top priority on doing every job around the business to better serve our customers, tireless devotion to making better products for our consumers and never forgetting our promise behind every single product or experience with the Vortex name on it, the rest will all fall into place. Currently, one of the sons oversees the product development department, another oversees and is heavily involved in the engineering projects of a group within Vortex dedicated to special research projects, another is the chief of sales and marketing and the youngest plays the role of chief media ambassador in the marketing department
Are there any unique traditions that your company holds dear, and if so, do you mind to share an example and also have any of them changed throughout time?
At one point in time, we used to have a birthday party for every individual birthday that happened within our employee base. Since we’ve grown to nearly 300, that isn’t exactly possible anymore, but we still have one monthly birthday party at lunch for everyone who’s birthday was within a given month. Tacos are still the crowd favorite for those meals!
What are the most effective methods that motivate the workforce?
People are given the freedom to do whatever they feel is best for the customer. In many cases, we see new employees join the team and feel nervous to go out of their way to help someone. They feel it is something they want to do, but sometimes in past jobs, they’ve gotten a smack on the wrist for perhaps taking too much time or resources to provide a service to someone and were made to feel as though customers were a number and not actual human beings. Here, we encourage people to create rare experiences for our customers. Whether that’s designing the most kick-ass product box, a unique product feature, away above and beyond customer service experience, or even just deciding to send someone they spoke with on the phone for a long time a hat because the person seemed like they could use a pick-me-up.
Will Vortex ever broaden its niche, by way of introducing new gear items?
We’re always coming up with new things – our product development team has a whiteboard the entire length of their room (Which is probably about 60 feet long) completely full of ideas. Some crazy, some awesome, some crazy awesome – only time will tell!
Does Vortex appeal to men more than women, and why in your opinion?
Perhaps Vortex appeals a bit more to men than women – that’s a difficult one to answer. I can say that we certainly sell more products to men than women just because we are in a male-dominated industry. That said, the demographic of women hunters and shooters is rapidly rising and we’re more excited than ever to see their numbers increasing.
What is the best-selling/most popular item in the company’s line up of products?
The products that go on Ar-15’s have long been quite popular and within those, the more entry-level products certainly move the greatest amount in terms of quantities. It’s been a cool trend to watch as we can assume that many of those numbers are newer shooters with their first or second AR looking to improve their shooting experience with an optic on top. New shooters, especially in today’s day and age, are always a good thing.
Finally, are there any teasers about new product initiatives you would like to share with us that we could expect in the near future?
Optics take a lot longer than people think to develop to a final product that will actually hit store shelves. We’re always open to hearing customer feedback and have been listening over the last few years to as much of it as we can get. All that feedback has led to serious growth within our product development team and an absolute beehive of activity down there. The next few years for customers in darn near every category of optics that we deal in, and maybe even a few that we haven’t been a part of yet, will be very exciting and packed full of some very cool and innovative products. That’s all I can say!