Friends, colleagues and community members will gather today (Feb. 24) at Winnebago Industries Inc.’s manufacturing complex in Forest City, Iowa, providing an official sendoff to long-time executive Bob Olson as he closes the door on a 43-year career.
“I started at Winnebago in August of 1969,” Olson, 60, told RVBUSINESS.com. “My 18th birthday was July 17 and I was looking to make a little money before I headed to college. Well, obviously I never left.”
Olson, instead, found his calling installing windows on Winnebago’s assembly line. “My first day, I put in all the windows upside down,” he recalled. “I put in some overtime getting them all right side up. In just six months, though, I was moved to the new facility, which is the company’s current complex. By then, I knew that I wanted to stay at Winnebago.”
After serving in several management capacities, he took the reins from Bruce Hertzke in May of 2008 as Winnebago’s chairman, president and CEO, fulfilling Winnebago’s succession plan. In turn, Randy Potts officially takes over all three top-level positions today.
“I’m going to stay on as a member of the Winnebago board,” said Olson, a long-time resident of Forest City. “I also will continue as a member of the RVIA board and co-chair of the Go RVing Coalition while Randy gets completely acclimated with his responsibilities at Winnebago.”
The informal open house marking his retirement is scheduled for 2:30-5:30 p.m. today. Olson told RVBUSINESS.com that he is viewing his exit with mixed emotions.
“On the one hand, you are looking forward to retirement,” he said. “On the other hand, you’re hoping it never ends. But this is something that my wife, Kathy, and I have been thinking about for a long time. When you leave something like this, you want to have some plans in place to take away the boredom.”
Fittingly, the couple will be launching Olson’s retirement behind the wheel of a Winnebago Journey motorhome. “On Monday, we’ll leave for a Winnebago rally in Orlando, Fla.,” Olson said. “We haven’t had that many opportunities to use the motorhome because of work. But we’re going to be your typical RVers – heading to a warmer climate in the winter and traveling around this great country of ours.”
He also plans to spend more time with family. His son, Shawn, works in quality control for Winnebago while his daughter, Angie, is a teacher in Omaha, Neb. Both are married with two children each.
“It’s been a great run,” Olson said. “But I’m really looking forward to the next chapter.”