Mission accomplished: Veterans boost local businesses

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Cabela’s general manager Randy Longnecker, right, said retired U.S. Army staff sergeant David Sanftner, left, has been a quick learner at Cabela’s. Sanftner became an outfitter in the gun library at Cabela’s in Post Falls this fall. JUDD WILSON/BJNI

What do versatility, reliability, and dedication to mission accomplishment have in common? They’re traits you’ll find in military veterans, say Robert Shoeman and Roderick Buck with the Idaho Department of Labor. That combination of character qualities is hard for employers to find today, they explained.

Cabela’s general manager Randy Longnecker agreed. He said 30 to 40 percent of his staff of more than 200 employees served in the military. He doesn’t take just anybody on his team, he said. Each employee at Longnecker’s massive, beautiful store must be enthusiastic and customer-friendly.

The fact that so many veterans meet those requirements makes sense when you meet people like David Sanftner. Sanftner spent 10 years in the Navy and retired after another 10 years in the Army. Sanftner works in Cabela’s gun library and is mainly responsible for what’s inside. However, he’s taken a lot of initiative to assist customers with products outside of his area of operations as well. He’s sold more than 30 gun safes during his first month at Cabela’s, which is a big number for someone not even assigned to sell safes, explained Longnecker. He also got 10 people to sign up for a Cabela’s Club Card.

“He sees an opportunity to help a customer and he takes it,” Longnecker said.

But cross-training in gun safes, or archery, or other parts of the store isn’t unusual for a veteran.

As a staff sergeant at Ft. Drum, N.Y., Sanftner served in positions usually reserved for persons of much higher rank. To succeed in those situations, Sanftner said he dug in to learn all that he could to accomplish the unit mission.

He still does that at Cabela’s.

He has earned certifications from companies including Vortex, Browning, Beretta, and North Face to better assist customers. Veterans like Sanftner are tech-savvy and aren’t afraid to constantly improve their skills as Cabela’s outfitters via computer-based training, said Longnecker. Neither are they shy about learning from mentors on the store floor.

“Veterans take direction very well,” Longnecker said.

Abilities like that are ingrained into everyone in the military, said Buck.

“They just don’t go away when you get out,” he noted.

Sanftner praised Cabela’s and is grateful to be able to learn every day with a great team.

“It’s the best place I’ve ever worked. Upper management is awesome,” he said. “Management in each department is good. Everyone is happy and friendly. People get along.”

Sanftner, a grandfather, got emotional talking about a 10-year-old he helped last week. Sanftner was proud to help the young man get his first rifle. He added in a used scope for free, which made the kid’s gift that much sweeter.

“To do it for someone else and see his face light up was awesome,” Sanftner said.

Days later, the boy eagerly showed off pictures of the 2-by-2 he shot, and gave Sanftner a big hug, said the outfitter.

Sanftner also spent a lot of time recently helping another young man find the perfect scope for his new rifle. Sanftner didn’t mind spending all that time to find the scope.

“The customer always comes first,” he said.

The comment is reminiscent of the military concept that the mission always comes first. It fits in the business world, where customer satisfaction is the mission.

Three days later, the customer came back with pictures of the biggest buck he’d ever got. It was even better because he got it while out hunting with his relatives, said Sanftner.

Stories like Sanftner’s are proof of what veterans bring to local businesses, Longnecker said.

“Whether in a leadership position or not, veterans can perform their job functions and lead by example,” he said.

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