May '19

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16 • RV PRO • May 2019 rv-pro.com R V M A N U F A C T U R E R S company had a different way of developing product. They designed a product the retail public was looking for. It was designed from the bottom up. "We were so quick to develop product … it was easier to sell products they were asking for. Many industries don't use that customer input as much – they have design groups that think they know what people want. That's why every one of our (Thor) companies has a product manager who is focused on that product. "Now, Keystone is one of the very top companies in the industry, from quality to production to customer service. It has been amazing to watch all that happen through the years to where sales are now well over a billion dollars." In 2014, Martin was named president and CEO of Thor Industries. "I never dreamed I would become CEO of Thor Industries," he says. "I thought I would retire as president of Keystone. It was a great 'ultimate position.' Not until through necessity, with Ron leaving Thor and the passing of Wade (Thompson) did I consider it." Now 49, Martin finds himself once again a "trainee," but this time learning about the art of acquisitions from Orthwein, who, Martin calculates, has made more than 100 acquisitions for Thor and other companies during his long career. "He is my mentor. He's an acquisitions specialist. I'm doing things now for Thor I never dreamed I would be doing," Martin says. Now, Thor Industries is taking an additional step in pre- paring the next generation of Thor and industry leaders. Thor has designed a business refresher class at nearby Notre Dame tailored for Thor management. Some 30 to 40 people have attended. "We try to promote from within," says Martin, so this course works hand-in-glove with the real-world experience at the Thor companies. Matt Zimmerman: A Student of 'Five Teachers' Matt Zimmerman was working in sales at Worldwide RV in Elkhart when he was first introduced to Keystone man- agement. The two-year-old company was starting two new towable lines, Cabana and Tailgator, and needed a district sales manager. Zimmerman interviewed with the two Fenech brothers, who soon offered him a job. It was a no-brainer for the 23-year-old Zimmerman and he accepted their offer, starting on March 1, 1999. Zimmerman was instantly impressed by the culture at Key- stone and proud to be an employee. The underlying theme was: "do what's fair and reasonable, give people a chance to succeed, do the right things and you can always be proud to wear a Keystone shirt," Zimmerman recalls. "We all want to work for companies like that. It's that quality of people and the culture that we still have to this day." Zimmerman joined a company that had almost instant suc- Bob Martin is pictured with Jayco executives and brothers Wilbur (left) and Derald Bontrager following the July 2016 announcement that Thor was buying Jayco for $576 million. After being promoted to president and CEO of Thor Industries in August 2013, Martin's education has continued under Thor Chairman Peter Orthwein, who is an acquisitions specialist, having made more than 100 acquisitions for Thor and other companies during his long career.

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