Editor’s Note: The following is a profile on Derald Bontrager, president and CEO of Jayco Inc. and Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Chairman, appearing in the Huffington Post. The piece focuses on the Bontrager family’s legacy and Jayco’s approach to business.
Building a business is hard work. It is an enormous investment of blood, sweat, tears, and financial resources. What’s even harder than building a business? Carrying out a legacy. Imagine what it would be like if someone special to you came up with an idea… a dream so big and so audacious that it takes on a life of its own. Could you carry out that dream? What if the person who created it were no longer here to help you carry out the mission? This is the story of Derald Bontrager. Derald and his family own Jayco, the largest family-owned and operated RV manufacturer in the world.
To give you some context, 22 million Americans will RV this summer. RVing is a $37 billion industry. You can check out just how big the industry is at GoRVing.com where consumers compare and shop for RVs and then find places to go and things to do with them after they have been purchased.
Derald’s dad, Lloyd Bontrager founded the company in 1968. He developed his own prototype camping trailer and unique lifter system for fold down campers, the basic design of which is patented and still in use today. By the end of 1968, Lloyd’s fledgling company with 15 employees had sold 132 fold down camping trailers. Today, Jayco’s family of employees has grown to more than 2000 people (with another 1000 employees in three other affiliated companies owned by the family), with more than 40,000 units being sold each year.
What is amazing about Derald Bontrager (President and CEO), his brother, Wilbur (Chairman of the Board), and his mom, Bertha (an active Jayco board member), is that they carried out Lloyd’s dream turning the business into a massive RVing empire over the past 40 years. You see, the original founder, Derald’s dad, Lloyd, died in 1985 in a lite plane accident. Up until then, Lloyd was the heart and soul behind the business and so the family knew that somehow they must come together, not just to build a business, but to carry out the legacy of their dad, a man with vision, big dreams, and even bigger shoes to fill.
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