Editor’s Note: The following is an interview conducted by Elkhart Truth reporter Jeff Parrott with Forest River Inc.’s Doug Gaeddert, who recently completed his term as chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). For the full interview click here.
It’s been a big year in the recreational vehicle industry’s recovery from the Great Recession, and even more sales growth is forecast for 2015.
As he dug back into work this week at his Goshen, Ind., office after returning from theNational Rv Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., Gaeddert took a few minutes to reflect on the year past and look ahead.
Question: Earlier this year you finished two years chairing the RVIA board. How was that experience?
Answer: It was a great experience. You’re exposed to the commitment level of a lot of people in this industry. It’s amazing how many volunteers there are on those committees and how many folks can leave the company logo at the door when they work on one of those committees or when they’re involved on the board of directors. It’s like any other not-for-profit, it takes some time, and the quality of the result has everything to do with the amount of effort that the folks who are involved put into it. It was a very fulfilling, positive experience and I learned a lot.
Q: Do you think it helped you or took away from your leadership here?
A: If anything, it helped. It helped me grow some more. Those are experiences that are different than your everyday experiences managing different parts of our company. Chairing a board is an experience. Being involved with multiple committees is an experience. Developing the relationships with so many of the participants, whether it be suppliers or campgrounds, whether it be, obviously, competitors, I developed a lot of friendships, which really are lifelong friendships at this point now.
Q: How was 2014 for Forest River?
A: 2014 was the best year in the company’s history. I do want to say one thing, too. The CEO of the company, that’s Pete Liegl. I’m general manager for 16 of the divisions, which is a portion of the company, all of them on the RV side, all of them towables. Forest River had the best year in the history of the company this year, to my knowledge.
Q: How did Louisville go this year for Forest River?
A: Louisville was good, but Louisville has changed as a result of two things – primarily the expos (RV Open House Week in Elkhart), which Pete started, just after the 2009 credit bubble burst, which has grown in effectiveness, grown in magnitude, grown in value to the dealers and really become the main ordering event for the industry. So Louisville is a different set of objectives to, quote, have a successful Louisville. There are three things that make Louisville a success for the operations I’m involved in: A. Is new floor plans that we did not have done at the time or adjusted after the expo based on dealer feedback, and the timing’s perfect for that. Every year we modify floor plans based on that input, or we develop new floor plans based on that input, new models, that we’ll exhibit at Louisville. So priority one is to get those new models integrated into your existing dealer network.
For the full interview click here.