August '18

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rv-pro.com August 2018 • RV PRO • 11 Cathy Sutton, Vendor Management, Tom Manning & Associates More than 30 years ago, Cathy Sutton was fresh out of college with plans to pursue advanced degrees in psychology when she was hired for a summer position at Elkhart, Ind.-based Dometic Corp. It wasn't long before Sutton knew she would make her career in the RV industry. "It was a very close-knit industry," she says. "Looking back over the course my career has taken, I always go back to the rela- tionships. There were so many individuals that I believed in and looked up to, and we all had the same end goal – building market share in our industry." Since her time at Dometic, Sutton has held a series of promi- nent roles within the RV industry, including roles in purchasing, accounting, operations, executive administration and vendor rela- tions over her 29 years with NTP Distribution. She then went on to join the product management team at Stag-Parkway (both firms now comprise NTP-STAG). "One accomplishment I'm proud of is the role I played in NTP's growth, taking it from 30 employees in one location to 120 employees in five locations at the time it was acquired," Sutton says. "Through all the highs and lows of the industry, it was a great opportunity to work through some of those issues, side by side with individuals I felt contributed to the vast growth of NTP Distribution." Sutton credits overall success in her career to the impact of individuals like Tom Manning of Tom Manning & Associates, as well as the prior owners of NTP and certain core dealers. "It was a combina- tion of these individuals who allowed me to make and create what was needed to build or gain market share," she says. Sutton's respect for manufacturer rep agencies as an extension of a sales team in wholesale distribu- tion is one thing that ultimately led her to her current role at Tom Manning & Associates, where she says she is gaining a different perspective on the RV industry. "I've learned that it's really a circle of life," Sutton says. "There are critical components that distribution plays; key components that an agency plays and key components that a supplier plays. At the end of the day, my job at Tom Manning is to bring awareness – whether it's product, service or store-front needs – and bring to the market new and innovative products to help dealers grow their businesses as well." At Tom Manning & Associates, Sutton spends her days working directly with the dealer network, creating new educational programs and product launches for suppliers the agency represents. "No other agency has a dedicated staff member to handle that," she says. Looking back on her long career and many accomplishments, Sutton says she thinks that many women have worked hard to earn respect in the RV industry, to the extent that gender hardly matters anymore. "We are in a male-dominated market, but the industry is in many of our hearts, and it's something that's recognizable," she says. "We grew up in this industry, we understand how it ticks, and we under- stand how to help support its growth." Sutton says she gained considerable respect in her industry during her time at NTP, where she was given the opportunity to learn and gain an understanding of the entire operation of distribution. Her distribution experience and broad industry knowledge continues to be a strong asset. While Sutton says it's been challenging at times for her to take off her distribution hat in her new role, she says she continues to grow in her understanding of how to serve her new client-base. Mean- while, the relationships and close-knit environment that first attracted her to the RV industry continue to sustain Sutton in her career. "I'm not sure these relationships and this close-knit environment exist in other markets," she says. "That's the thing that continues to amaze me more than anything else."

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