The blueprint behind Explore USA’s rapid rise in the Texas RV retail landscape, as characterized by President Brian Booker, doesn’t seem to be predicated on any novel, out-of-the-box business approach.
“It’s all about taking care of the customer,” stated Booker, a veteran of the manufactured housing industry prior to his foray into the RV sector.
But the Type-A driven management style of Booker and CEO Scott Chaney takes that basic business tenet to a more evolved level.
“We truly understand that the customer is our lifeblood,” Booker said. “Scott and I are personally involved in every customer issue, and we act quickly to become part of the solution. If the situation warrants, we will go visit a customer at an RV park to get it resolved. In addition, we have always had a ‘talk to the owners’ button on our website. And we respond to every entry.”
Booker stressed that the commitment extends beyond the dealership’s upper management.
“That type of passion is required of our entire team, from the time people walk into the sales center to the service provided after the sale,” Booker said, noting Explore USA’s workforce had grown to around 270 employees.
Explore USA has combined that customer-first credo with an aggressive, systematic expansion strategy that has allowed the company to flourish in the highly-competitive Texas marketplace.
“When I launched the company in 2000, my goal was to become the largest dealer in Texas in 10 years,” Booker said, noting that Explore USA had grown to eight stores. “There were 370 dealers in Texas when we opened. We had to slowly chip away and catch those other dealers by offering the type of environment that customers wanted to do business with for the long-term.”
Booker said it was decided early on to grow its operations solely through “organic growth,” finding the right location, then building a signature-style store that would properly represent their brand. “The reason a lot of dealers shy away from building new stores is personnel,” he said. “You have to start from scratch. Scott and I are really good at attracting and keeping good people, so that hasn’t been a problem. But the main reason we chose to build versus acquire was that we were very particular about the location of our stores.”
With a framework in place, Explore USA made an immediate impact in the market. But as the dealer added its first several locations, Chaney and Booker tweaked the formula, adopting a new business model regarding store size. “Scott figured out that it was to our advantage to construct larger stores,” Booker said. “We decided to build a bigger footprint, and the result has been that we have tripled in size without having to add locations. Our stores are typically 10 to 15 times larger than our original outlet.”
That footprint will again be growing as Booker reported to RVBusiness.com that plans are in place for the ninth store in the Houston area that will represent the company’s largest facility to date. “We have already purchased 23 acres in the Houston marketplace – our first in that area – and we are looking to build a 50,000-square-foot sales and service facility,” Booker said. “We should be able to open in late November.”
He added, “Over the next five years we are expecting to increase revenue by 75% to 100% from where we are today.”
In line with the company’s streamlined business style, Explore USA strictly sells and services towable RVs while opting not to stock parts and accessories.
“One of the cornerstones in our model is to keep product moving,” Booker said. “We have developed proprietary methods of turning product and not letting it get aged. That’s one of the reasons we have built such strong relationships with our OEM partners. We are able to stock their latest models, which translates into quicker turns.”
Explore USA further strengthened its relationship with its OEM base after the recession took hold.
“We actually sold more in the years during the recession than we did prior to the downturn,” said Booker. “A lot of dealers went away because they didn’t have strong partnerships. That’s key to our success, and the key to our growth – the support of our partners, and the support of our customers.”