August '18

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rv-pro.com August 2018 • RV PRO • 23 Natalie Conway, Executive Director, Ontario (Canada) RV Dealers Association Natalie Conway had a background in marketing and financial services when she was hired as the executive assistant for the Ontario RV Dealers Association executive director. But when it came to any knowledge of the RV industry, Conway jokes she was: "Ms. Check me into the Hilton. It was one of those things where you walk in and don't have a lot of knowledge about what the RV industry is." That was five years ago, and Conway is still here. The previous executive director retired one year after Conway was hired with a succession plan for Conway to eventually assume the position. She went from association manager to executive director, where she oversees the daily operations of the Association. "We're here to serve our members as a nonprofit. Everything we do we have to keep our members best interest in mind while delivering on our mandate in terms of member programs and services," Conway says. "We operate five RV shows throughout the province, lobby government, and join with the national organization. We advocate on behalf of industry stakeholders, technical safety, and standards authority for propane issues. In my role as director, it's really important I have a good pulse on the industry and Ontario and any potential impact." Her five-year journey to becoming the executive director hasn't always been easy, especially coming in with almost no RV experience. "It was very daunting," Conway says. "The job is pretty multi-dimensional and has diverse responsibilities. It was a constant learning process. The best way to do that was to just do the job and engage with people who have been in the industry a long time, such as provincial counterparts and leadership." Mentors along the way have included Eleonore Hamm, pres- ident of RVDA of Canada, who Conway says is a great example of a strong woman in business and yet very approachable. "I want to be a good representative for the Association," Conway says. She says she does so by being as forward-facing as she pos- sibly can, attending industry events and talking with people who have a stake in the industry. Hamm and other mentors have helped Conway to grasp the industry and identify her organization's purpose. "One of the things in our five-year strategic plan is really trying to evolve and define who we are as an organization. It's important to continue evolving and examining our current busi- ness plan," she says. "We continue to focus on member needs, identify potential threats, and advocate on their behalf. We would like to be known as an industry leader and resource for members." Conway is optimistic about the future of her organization and the RV industry as a whole. She says the important thing is to keep a finger on the pulse of customers' habits and react accordingly. "Things are starting to change, like where people buy their products. A lot of it is moving online. We're monitoring and seeing where we can engage the new and upcoming customer," she says. "We're very pleased with the results and I'm sure we'll continue to change over the next 10 years as an organization." Conway says she has developed camaraderie with others in the industry through peer-networking and events. "Everyone is generally good-natured and very family-ori- ented. That's their culture and that's something that I really love about it," she says. "I would say it's the best thing about the industry." While she may not have known much about the industry coming in to her first position with ORVDA, Conway says the organization and industry as a whole have been the most enjoyable in terms of her own personal and professional growth. "This has definitely been an amazing opportunity for me. I would love to continue to serve members and remain in my current role," she says. "The RV industry is one of the most exciting industries. I just love it. It's so much fun, from the dealers I get to work with to all of the industry events and functions. It's a pleasure to work in the industry."

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