Capping off a year that saw Winnebago Industries Inc. surpass the $1 billion mark in revenue, the Forest City, Iowa-based builder was recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the “Best Managed Companies in America.”
Forbes cited two factors that helped the company increase net income by 42% to $71 million for fiscal 2004: the direction and management of Winnebago President and CEO Bruce Hertzke, and a decision in the late 1990s to “shed ancillary businesses” and concentrate on “building big honkin’ motorhomes.”
Forbes stated: “It might be dangerous to pin a company’s hopes on a decidedly nonessential product. Except for one thing: There’s a demographic wind blowing stiffly at its back. Of Winnebago’s customers, 80% are over 50, and 350,000 Americans turn 50 every month. They have money, and they like to drive RVs.”
Forbes also credited the company’s corporate culture and strong reputation within the industry and among consumers, which has generated “great name recognition and great quality.”
According to Forbes, “The word Winnebago means ‘big RV’ to most Americans. And the company’s sprawling northern Iowa factories do everything from extrude aluminum for body parts to mold plastics for water and holding tanks and dashboards.
“This kind of vertical integration at the factory is anachronistic and expensive, but it makes for the best quality among RV makers. The Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association started giving a quality award in 1996. Winnebago has won every year.”