July '19

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116 • RV PRO • July 2019 RV PRO: ALL IN THE FAMILY JULY SPECIAL SECTION W hen the Nelson family goes to work every day, the members don't have to worry about not knowing their co-workers. After all, with General Manager Neal Nelson, his brother Service/Paint Manager Dean Nelson, their sister F&I and Rental Manager Dawn Cass, parents owner Arnie and Vice President Joyce Nelson, and their niece Jessica Crawford on staff, there are plenty of family ties to keep most departments up and running. "The biggest advantage is knowing that other people have your back," Neal says. "If you or your kids are sick, they will cover for you. There's also the comfort of knowing who can touch the purse strings." Arnie and Joyce started with Professional Sales RV in Colleyville, Texas, in 1974. Neal came on board in 1984, with Dawn joining in 1985. Dean started in 1992 and Jessica was hired in 2017 and handles rentals/storage/fogged windows. But without a strong family, he says he can see where it also would not be as easy for some. "I think if you don't have a strong relationship, it can be difficult working with family," he says. "We always know at the end of the day that we love and support each other." To try to avoid some of those family conflicts, Professional Sales has an unusual setup for a dealership. "My brother handles service as well as our paint and body shop," Neal says. "My sister handles F&I, rentals and fogged window repair. I handle sales. We've just switched to this format and it seems to be working really well. We treat each part of the business as a separate entity that needs to be profitable on its own." A t 16, Neal Stewart of RV Connections in Panama City, Fla., ran his own landscaping business. It was at that age, in the late 1990s, when his dad approached him with the idea to open up an RV dealership. "I sold my equipment," says Stewart. "Everything. And when we opened up it was just me, mom, and dad. I was the first one on the payroll. To this day, I am employee '001.'" He describes the first years as a "small humble beginning." The difficulty could sometimes be felt at the dinner table. But with strong, familial moral support, RV Connections continued to grow. The first line they picked up was Springdale travel trailers, followed by Cardinal fifth wheels, and then Montana fifth wheels. As business picked up, Stewart departed from college to pursue the dealership. After some time, the Stewarts bought a second location in Dothan, Ala. Last year, between the two dealerships, RV Connections brought in $50 million. Stewart credits a large part of that success to his dad getting them involved in a 20 Group early on. The roundtable of professional dealers broke down their numbers, processes and procedures, and dissected it. "You figure out what you could do better – how to make it more productive and efficient – and then talk about what's hot and what's not, as far as the sales portion of it goes," says Stewart. "I wouldn't take any (college) degree over being able to spend the last 12 years with those guys. That's been a big learning curve for me." PROFESSIONAL SALES RV NEAL NELSON, DEAN NELSON, DAWN CASS, ARNIE NELSON, JOYCE NELSON AND JESSICA CRAWFORD RV CONNECTIONS THE STEWART FAMILY Neal Stewart (right, below) pictured with his parents. Arnie and Joyce Nelson

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