July '19

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RV PRO: ALL IN THE FAMILY July 2019 • RV PRO • 23 J ayco has had three generations work in the family business. From founders Lloyd and Bertha Bontrager starting the company on their chicken farm in 1968, to their sons Derald and Wilbur taking over in the early '90s, to Derald's daughter Ashley Lehman (who currently serves as the director of corpo- rate marketing) joining in 2011. In an interview, Derald shares some of the wisdom he gained from his father, Lloyd. "The few years I had with him in busi- ness, I saw his personal values, that he lived at home and lived on the weekends, reflected in the business. I'd hear conver- sations around the dinner table and had an appreciation for those values. "Having the right people around you, surrounded by the right people in the company, he and my mother both have a deep caring for people in the family." Derald also recognizes that this wasn't a typical job or business where they punched a timecard. "The other thing I really learned from watching them was the amount of caring and passion and their work ethic. It wasn't an 8 to 5 thing for them; it was 24/7; it was a passion. I think that's part of what differentiated us for many years as a privately-owned family business. It was almost like it was a calling. Now, I don't know if that's the right word, but that's the word that comes to mind. It was in your DNA, your blood and when you grow up – you own it." At Jayco dealer meetings, dealers recognize that faith, family and community are integral parts of Jayco's business. Having firsthand experience Derald describes, "It became such an integral part of the community you really do get wrapped up in it. Making sure that your employees that you work with every day and see at the grocery store here and see at the restaurants over there are well taken care of. It really impacts how you view business and how you treat people." Though a 24/7 passion, Derald realizes the importance to separate family time from business time. "We would make a conscious effort, particularly at larger family get-togethers to not talk business at all. It was almost an unspoken thing. And just with my wife and our three children, of which Ashley's the oldest, we rarely talked about business at home. Derald's oldest daughter, Ashley, agrees. "I think that the mantra our family has always made about work is work and family time are separate. We tried hard and did a pretty good job over the years." Though growing up around the family business, Ashley didn't immediately jump into Jayco post college. She says, "I lived out in Washington, D.C., and then I moved back, but I worked for an RV supplier first and so I didn't come to Jayco until about two years after I graduated college. Ashley explains those two years as, "I was more driven from my personal desires to get out from the area, and experience something outside of the RV industry, which is how I ended up in D.C. I 100 percent appreciate those experiences that I gained. It was invaluable to my career and me as a person. I think my father appreciated that as well. I took some time to figure out what I really wanted out of my career and explored some different options. But I think deep down I always knew that I wanted to end up at Jayco. There is that family tie, that pride and passion." Derald recognizes the change he saw in Ashley after she was away for a few years. Something he wouldn't have necessarily seen on the home front. "I think the biggest thing I observed from her when she came back, that I didn't know she had, was what I call 'fire in the belly' – the passion for the business. She was passionate about a lot of the same things I was – about making sure that the business succeeds and feeling almost an obligation to carry on the legacy, traditions and culture – making sure people are treated right." Of his daughter and himself, "I saw Ashley develop that same passion at a much younger age than I did," he says. Ashley remembers when she did come back that she felt she was home. "Working for Jayco as a family member has been a great expe- rience because regardless if you have relatives here, it truly does feel like family. I think I realized that even more once I came back to work after I stayed at home for a little bit with my two young boys. The first day back, I felt like I'm back among my family, which was such a great feeling and something I had greatly missed. "I've known many of them almost my whole life and they watched me grow up in some cases. It brings a unique and special relationship and makes work fun." DERALD BONTRAGER AND ASHLEY LEHMAN JAYCO

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