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Brian WilkinsEditor’s Note: The following column by Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) Chairman Brian Wilkins touts the benefits, and the importance, of the upcoming Convention/Expo

If you’ve never attended the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, or haven’t attended recently, you’re missing out on a great industry event and educational opportunity.

Past convention committee chairman John McCluskey and current chairman Ron Shephard, along with RVDA staff and the other dedicated individuals who participate on the convention committee, have done a great job over the past five years of raising the event to a new level.The recruitment of better speakers, the choosing of essential topics, and the addition of the Vendor Training +Plus sessions have all helped boost the convention to new heights. These folks are driven by the desire to make RVDA’ convention the “Premier Dealer Event of the Year,” and they’re doing a great job.

In my opinion, our convention took a major step forward in 2014 when it moved its dates from late September to early November. The new time frame moved the event out of what’s still a very busy season for many of us into a slower time of year, allowing us to bring more employees to the convention. And that’s been one of the main focuses of the Convention Committee – to create an event that appeals to not just principals, but also department managers, service writers, parts personnel, and others.

Here are some of this year’s highlights:

“¢ Educational tracks for all departments provide a great opportunity to develop management level employees and beyond.

“¢ With the support of Gulf Stream Coach Inc., there will be a half-day leadership workshop conducted by a Dale Carnegie trainer.

“¢ The Vendor Training +Plus sessions conducted by vendor partners offer in-depth discussions of the latest products and services. Some are parts and service related, while others deal with social media, F&I products, and more. IDS also does an annual update on new features to its DMS.

“¢ The F&I and social media/marketing education tracks offer so much to our dealerships, F&I due to the important role it plays within our stores and the compliance burdens it faces, and social media/marketing due to the increasing complexity that it presents to operating a business.

“¢ The networking opportunities at the convention are priceless, not only for us principals, but also for our staff.

Our annual convention’s focus is all about training and helping us develop the professionalism of our people. Professional employees provide customers with a better experience. In today’s competitive world, that’s vital.

As I was writing this column, I took a few moments to ask managers whom we’ve taken to the convention what they like about it. One person said that it “re-energizes, refreshes, and refocuses me after a long selling season that can wear you down.” A first-year manager whom we took last year said, “Being a younger person in the industry, it was great to be exposed to other dealers and different training that I was able to bring back to the dealership. Working with industry leaders who helped spark new ideas for us to use at our dealership was great.”

Another manager even said that they “credited the convention for getting me to stay in this industry and getting me to where I am today.”

Those are strong words. As principals, I think we forget what it’s like to be new managers, trying to grow our leadership capabilities. I think we tend to take the value of educational workshops for granted because we’ve heard their messages before. But for others – those we’re trying to develop – the messages are new and fresh, and the workshops do help them grow.

In addition to the educational experience, the convention offers the fun factor of being in Las Vegas. After a long year, sending valued employees to the convention can serve as a nice reward for their hard work. Employees appreciate this, and it helps build employee loyalty. So, when the season begins to wind down and you start planning your off-season training, I urge you to consider sending another employee or two to this year’s convention. It’s a great employee development experience, it’s a great reward for hard work, and it’s a great way for all of us to support our association.