Editor’s Note: The following is a Q&A conducted by Industry Week with Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp. President and CEO Jack Cole discussing the company’s strong sales and subsequent expansion.

Business is booming for recreational vehicle manufacturer Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp., so much so that the Lancaster, Calif.-based maker of truck campers, travel trailers and toy haulers is in the midst of an expansion to increase production capacity.

President and CEO Jack Cole can remember much less robust times, however. The 1973 oil crisis, for example, struck just as Cole became a partner in the business. “Within a month we started dealing with the aftereffects of the oil embargo, long gas lines and rapid inflation,” recalls Cole, now owner of Lance Camper. “It really put the company’s future in jeopardy.”

More recently, the RV industry was no less immune to the ravages of the Great Recession than any other segment. Shipments plunged from well over 300,000 in 2007 to just 165,000 in 2009, before starting to claw their way back. 2016 was a banner year with more than 430,000 shipments, and hopes are high for 2017. “There are companies expanding all over the country, including Lance, to try to keep up with the demand,” Cole says.

Indeed, Lance Camper is readying to begin production in a recently purchased 60,000-square-foot building that will increase production capacity for the company by 25% to 30%, the president estimates. More than 100 new hires before the end of the year also are part of the plan.  

On his start at Lance Camper:

“I was 17 years old and going to high school. It was a part-time job. I started in at the lowest level of the company. Basically sweeping floors and pulling weeds. And I also learned the manufacturing part of the business from the very bottom up.

“I had no idea I was going to ever get involved in the day-to-day business decisions and operations. It’s just been an amazing learning opportunity and experience. You learn something every day. You know, don’t ever think you know it all because that’s when you get hit in the side of the head with something.”

On his leadership style:

“I try to lead by example. I always have. I found out very early on I don’t know everything.

I like to hear from all of our management people and right out to the guys on the assembly line, how things are going and how we’re doing. We’re not the kind of company where all of a sudden an edict comes down. We talk. We have a great group of very seasoned people here. One of the greatest things that I’ve experienced as a leader here at the company is seeing people achieve things and do things that they never thought they could do. I experienced that in my life and I enjoy seeing it from other people.

“We have employees who have been here 25 years, 35 years, 45 years. [They] have made this a career. And I take that very seriously.”

For the full story click here.