RV PRO

May '19

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12 • RV PRO • May 2019 rv-pro.com R V M A N U F A C T U R E R S ufacturing-driven companies where demand for production efficiency outweighed product innovation and customer desires." As a result, he says, "This led to a lack of innovation where changes had to wait for the annual model change. (There was) zero responsiveness to dealers' demands for corrections of model year design mistakes and lack of flexibility in responding to competitors' product innovations." Dealer-Driven Model Succeeds With the backing of a group of investors, Davis launched Keystone RV on May 26, 1996. From the beginning, Davis says he put into practice the concept that "the dealer should drive the product development process. Manufacturing and engineering needed to respond to dealer-driven product inno- vation – and not be roadblocks. Sales is the communication conduit between the dealer and manufacturing/engineering." One of Davis's core beliefs was that "sales personnel spoke for the dealer and our company needed to apply all its resources to provide the products the dealer wanted. The same with changes. When a product needed correction, we responded immediately – not waiting for the annual model change." His four core beliefs that became part of the Keystone culture were: • We work for the dealer. • Sales is the dealers' spokesman. • Manufacturing/ engineering is to be responsive to these product demands. • Corporate ensures the necessary resources are available and applied. This culture still exists at Keystone and spread throughout Thor Industries by Keystone RV disciples and copied by many startups, according to Davis. Keystone Attracts Next-Gen Leaders Soon after Keystone's founding, Davis reached out to friend and former Coachmen colleague Bill Fenech to join him at the new venture. Fenech left a good job at Coachmen to take over sales at Keystone and became a one-man sales department. "He's one of those guys dealers love," Davis recalls. "He works his butt off. He knows the product inside-out, the deal- er's needs, and works all the shows and trains the salespeople. I begged him to come over. He was giving up a good job for a big uncertain." Fenech's arrival was crucial because he was followed a year later by his brother, Ron, who "brought almost all his sales people with him. That's how we got Bob Martin," Davis recalls. Coachmen veteran Don Clark joined a few months later. "We just attracted a lot of good people. Everyone wanted to work at Keystone," Davis says, adding that he believes the RV maker continues to attract top talent to this day. "We could pick and choose. On the sales side, it was based on your rela- tionship with your dealers. It's not hard to figure out who's a hard worker and relates to dealers and tells the truth. That's who we collected. It emanates from the top. A Ron Fenech will hire people like a Ron Fenech. "We gave our division managers all the room in the world," Davis says. "As a division manager, you could do whatever you wanted. You want to build pink units? You built pink units – Don Clark (center) and brothers Ron (left) and Bill Fenech all spent their formative years at Coachmen before going on to even greater success at Keystone RV. After resigning their positions with Keystone RV parent company Thor Industries, the three men went on in 2012 to found towables manufacturer Grand Design RV. They are pictured here at the National RV Trade Show, where they promoted the launch of the then-new company to RV dealers. The three men credit their success in part to lessons learned at Keystone.

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