Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Finding the Right Talent Proves Challenging Across Industries

Filson CEO Steven Bock compares the process of sourcing talent for upstart watchmaker Shinola and long-standing outfitter Filson.

Steven Bock has handled multiple roles within Bedrock Manufacturing Co., currently as CEO of outdoor clothing and accessories manufacturer C.C. Filson Co. and formerly as CEO of watchmaker Shinola, so he has first-hand knowledge of how challenging it can be to find the right manufacturing talent—even for different brands within the same company.

“Making a watch is complicated, but we import the core of the watch—the movement—and that can be anywhere from 50 to 100 different pieces. [Watch manufacturing] is like paint-by-numbers. It’s tiny, tiny work and it takes very specific hand-eye coordination to get it right, but it’s not the art of sewing,” Bock says.

Filson was established in 1897, while Shinola just started up three years ago. Both brands present unique challenges from a manufacturing standpoint, as there are some big differences in the types of work being done and the talent required across the two companies, according to Bock.

Shinola decided to build its state-of-the art watchmaking factory in Detroit—a once-thriving manufacturing hub that has fallen on harder times in recent decades. The brand prides itself on providing new opportunities for the 200 skilled American workers who assemble the watches and movements inside the factory, as reflected in its “Made in Detroit” and “Where American is made” taglines.


Shinola brought in partner Ronda AG from Switzerland to handle the heavy lifting of procuring manufacturing equipment and overseeing training in its new, state-of-the-art Detroit facility.

“That was a 9- to 12-month process of getting everyone trained and up to speed. We then spent a good six to nine months practicing on 40,000 to 50,000 movements before we sold anything,” Bock says.

That’s a quick turnaround when compared to sourcing talent for Filson’s three Seattle factories, where there is a much steeper learning curve due to the nature of the work.

“Getting people sold on Seattle and up to speed can literally take up to two to three years. We have to find sewers who have experience almost at an industrial level. And as you would imagine, in a town like Seattle—or even the west coast—that is pretty difficult to find today,” Bock says.

It takes two to three years to get workers up to a minimum efficiency of 75% to 80%, Bock says.

For example, the challenge in finding the right kind of sewing specialists is so great that last year Filson brought in contracted workers to Seattle from Puerto Rico in the hope that they would stay long-term. Most headed back home once their contract was fulfilled.

Bock says Filson has begun focusing more on the in-house manufacturing capabilities that it has handled well traditionally, while looking outside of the organization to fill more experimental roles.

Steve Bock will share insights on manufacturing talent at Chief Executive’s Smart Manufacturing Summit on May 16 in Seattle. For more information and to register, visit To learn more about Filson, click here. To learn more about Shinola’s story, click here.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.