EDITOR’S NOTE: Jason Lippert, CEO of Lippert Components Inc., an employer of 6,000 based in the northern Indiana RV-building center of Elkhart, Ind., thinks that the RV industry would greatly benefit from companies involving more key employees in first-hand RV experiences by making available loaner units. And he underscores that assertion in remarks here for RVBUSINESS.com – comments he says are inspired in part by those of Tom Faludy, the former Scott Fetzer Co. exec and first chairman of the industry’s Go RVing Coalition, who wrote about his own enriching RV experiences a few years back.
As an industry, we all need to encourage our key employees to use the products that they so diligently manufacture at a wide variety of factories all over the country.
While the reality is that not everyone in our industry has access to the recreational vehicles themselves, it’s impossible to sell RVs, supply the best components and ultimately build superior RV products if our employees don’t use them to some extent and learn more about how they’re supposed to function and perform in the real world.
Think how many more viable ideas employees who have engineered and built RVs and related componentry might generate, given a chance to experience those products from the front seat while traveling to their favorite destinations – in other words, from a consumer’s point of view?
With all this in mind, Lippert Components Inc. five years ago purchased an RV for key employee use. Since then, our people have logged more than 200-plus employee trips and Lippert has now traded in its first for another one because of mileage and fatigue. Lippert is going to put a second unit in its fleet because of its growing manager base. We supply the RV free of charge. All the employee is responsible for is fuel and cleaning it when finished. There are different approaches, though, that other companies interested in a program like this might consider. For instance, an RV company could charge a nominal fee and at least cover the cost of maintenance.
This is a good thing for LCI for at least two reasons; Not only does it give our best managers a new perk for themselves and their families. Employees often come back with a new appreciation for the lifestyle and the business. They even come back with new product ideas or enhancements. In any event, they’d spread the word to their families and friends about how great the RV lifestyle is and encourage their friends to do the same.
Obviously, it’s an entirely different context for those involved in the industry building RVs or components to actually spend vacation time in one with their families. These are two totally unrelated concepts — building an RV and vacationing in one. Think about it: How else can we expect the RV lifestyle “experience” to be thoroughly conveyed by key employees who spend their work days involved in the assembly, final finish and sales of RVs.
So, imagine, as an industry if we all made it more possible for our employees to spend leisure time in them? We could bring thousands closer to the lifestyle, and if they gain additional respect and admiration for the end result of their daily labor, there’s a good chance that they’ll tell their friends and associates and could possibly provide a considerable boost for the industry in the process.
Why, then, wouldn’t we take every measure possible to maximize understanding of the lifestyle and, in the process, advertise the lifestyle to more people?
Of course, it’s not realistic to expect industry people to all run out and buy RVs. But we can as companies in the industry buy RVs and lend them as perks to selected managers and get them closer to the RV lifestyle. There are tens of thousands of industry employees — and their extended families — that we could in some way touch if we all participated in a way that some of us already do.
So, here’s my RV Industry Challenge: Let’s all commit as an industry to further elevate the lifestyle by bringing this new buying group into play, and at the same time, most importantly, generate more and more awareness and participation as an industry in this “RV lifestyle” that’s beyond the day-to-day reach of so many of the people whose lives are spent building, selling and supporting this idealistic, over-the-road RV lifestyle.
I know there are a few RV companies that build RVs that let their employees use company products, but I don’t think that all manufacturers do and I really don’t think there are many suppliers out there that are doing what we’re suggesting, and right there is a lot of opportunity!
So maybe we ought to go to work and use this perk as an opportunity for our people to experience the lifestyle for which we all work day in and day out. What a way to help recognize our great employees who help make our companies and industry so great! In so doing, we will create an atmosphere in which it’s more of a DUTY to provide the experience by creating opportunities for employees to utilize a variety of recreational vehicles. I’m just sayin’ …