Duck Tales


CarolinaFireJournal - By Ken Farmer
By Ken Farmer
10/22/2013 -

After four seasons on television, the A&E channel show Duck Dynasty, has quite an interesting story. First, the show has risen to the top of all cable based shows. During the 2012 premier the show garnered 8.9 million views. In 2013, they captured 11.8 million viewers or a 32 percent growth of new viewers in a year. They also captured the prize for the most views of a nonfiction cable show ever! This is pretty amazing for a bunch of crazy rednecks from Louisiana, right?

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The business was founded in 1972 in West Monroe in northern Louisiana by Phil Robertson. He started making duck calls in a small workshop behind his house. He brought in $8,000 the first year. It has grown into a multi-million dollar business specializing in the manufacture of a variety of popular hunting related products such as duck decoys, duck calls, cooking DVDs and apparel and about anything they can get their logo on! The show actually started on the Outdoor Channel as Buck Commander about deer hunting. A&E channel picked them up as a reality show as the Duck Dynasty in 2012. The television show has now grown from one million viewers per episode to over 11 million!

What may have started as a small company for hand-made duck calls grew into an empire later on. Recently due to their massive success on reality TV, Duck Commander has launched a huge variety of products like: t-shirts, hunting equipment, key chains, DVDs and CDs, calendars, books, cooking sauces, coolers, gift cards, specially designed hunting caps, air fresheners and so much more. The fast growing popularity of the company is believed to bring the Robertson’s an estimated $2.2 million a year. Just go into any WalMart, Cracker Barrel, sports and hunting store and you will see their smiling bearded faces!

I admit that the show seemed to have little appeal to me in the first seasons. Being from the South, I struggled to see what great things could be learned from a bunch of fuzzy good ole boys! I ended up watching the reruns first and the more I watched, the more I got hooked.

The show is full of some characters to say the least. The cast members have their own separate personalities. Phil serves as the wise father figure; Willie as the CEO who must constantly keep everyone working; the slightly off center Jase who always has a comment about life at the shop and my favorite is Uncle Silas better known as Si. He is a total character who always has a long and convoluted tale that may or may not have a point but is always funny! Each one has their own personality. The show includes several other family members and the wives of the guys as well as their children and friends.

They have become popular as speakers at various functions; attending conventions and they sign autographs as celebrities and have made a few dollars along the way. It is estimated that the family may be worth close to $30 million due to sales, appearances, endorsements and speeches. Tickets for a recent fundraiser for a hospital in West Virginia were $250 but most of the ticket costs went to the hospital charity. They continue to sell duck calls and sold over 600,000 last year with an average price of $25! According to their web site they have 30 different speaking events just between August and December! They must be doing something right. For more look at http://duckcommander.com.

Each cast member has a colorful story to tell. The father, Phil Robertson, played football at Louisiana Tech and was the starting quarterback. His understudy was the now colorful Terry Bradshaw of NFL fame. Phil walked away from a NFL contract with the Washington Redskins to make duck calls and do more hunting. He was a school teacher and has a Master’s degree in Education. At one point he even ran a local bar. He built the current business the old fashioned way a year at a time. He went from outdoor suppliers to sell his early duck calls and eventually got a contract with WalMart. Suffice it to say that his life was full of some rough times in the past but his commitment and beliefs have paid off. He has even written a book about his life called “Happy, Happy, Happy” that is a great read!

Most of the family is involved in the cast and all the shows are entertaining and funny to me. In my research for this column I have read a lot about the family including two books. The business and the family are clearly not an overnight success. The family was dirt poor and they appreciate their wealth and fame in many ways. Clearly their lives have changed and improved and with that fame, there comes the many challenges of being famous.

So what makes them famous? Believe it or not, they are not some overnight success nor are they a bunch of good ole boys. The company has been in existence for of 30 years. Most of the family members are well educated with master degrees in business or education. In addition, they have not forgotten what it was like to struggle to start the business. Willie, one of four sons, came back to the business after being a youth pastor. He saw a larger potential of sales of hunting videos, new products and worked hard to make the right contacts with the right people to get things moving ahead. Each move to the next level came when they were about to settle for the success they had. The books both tell of amazing stories of luck, believing in themselves and simply hard work. They operated as a family, lived as a family and most surely loved as a family. The books are inspiring and worth a read. They open up their hearts and talk honestly about mistakes that they made and how hard work and passion overcame all hardships. They also have strong personal religious beliefs that help them. In his book Willie tells about how the right connection with the right producer brought the Duck Dynasty show to life over a hunting trip.

There are many lessons for life from the books, the show and their history for me.

  1. Put your family first: Work, life, hobbies are all part of life. Sometimes your family must take a second place, of course. Just never forget who is at home supporting you.
  2. Humor and love do go together: The show is full of funny situations and people. They have learned to laugh together and at each other but the difference is they always know they love and care about each other. This does not mean they don’t get angry! It just means they get over it quick.
  3. All families have a cast of characters!: No matter what “family” we are talking about such as at the station, in your house, your business or even your place of worship or fellow golfers; every one plays a role to entertain; provide some sanity and balance or maybe just comic relief!
  4. Life ALWAYS is a challenge: We have all been challenged. Sometimes by money; sometimes by children; sometimes by other people. If life was not a challenge, we would not be able to rise up, dust off our hands and rise above. You must accept the challenge and not run away from it.
  5. You determine your quality of life, but others make it enjoyable: It’s up to you to accept your life and work hard to make it better. Don’t ever forget that what really makes it enjoyable is your time with others — family members, friends and your coworkers — people that you really care about. Enjoy them each day!

Be safe!

Ken Farmer is Section Chief, Leadership and Fire Risk Reduction at the National Fire Academy, United States Fire Administration in Maryland. Email him at [email protected].
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