July '19

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42 • RV PRO • July 2019 RV PRO: ALL IN THE FAMILY JULY SPECIAL SECTION B eing the next-in-line leadership at one of the fastest-growing dealerships in the country may seem like a glamorous, fast- lane course that any family member would be anxious to follow. But neither Ben nor Aaron Hirsch had given much thought to going into the family business when they headed off to college. In fact, Aaron, Campers Inn owner Jeff Hirsch's son, was pretty excited to escape to college. "As a kid every summer I can remember I would wash campers during the summer," he says with a laugh. "You'll never understand how miserable that is. My senior year of high school I got two things when I graduated – a diploma and the knowledge that I would never look at a camper again in my life." All of that changed at Plymouth State University, when Aaron went from studying to become a PE teacher to taking business classes. He's now an internal auditor at Campers Inn. For Ben, Jeff's nephew, a career in the military was in line as he headed off to West Point. Then, not to say he had a Jedi-type experience, but Ben says the RV industry in a way called to him. "When I was in the military I realized how much of it I actually loved and Jeff and I stayed really close," he says. "Obviously, I talked to my dad a bunch, but Jeff and I stayed very close and I talked to him. And for me, I just realized that I loved it and that I wanted to see the legacy continue and that was really important to me, and then the time came for me to say goodbye to the Army and I made that choice. But I would say right out of high school I had no aspirations of joining the family business." He is now COO of what has grown to 25 dealerships up and down the Eastern seaboard. Jeff says he is proud that both men came back to the family business, but he stresses that it can be a life of sacrifice to carry on that family business' legacy and values. "Success comes with a price," he says. "It gives me a sense of pride and a sense of responsibility to try to take the business to a new level." As the second-generation ownership, Jeff says he didn't want to turn his parents' dream into a nightmare. "It's an awesome amount of responsibility," he says. "It takes tremendous dedication, time and effort." Jeff's business ideals are already rubbing off on Ben and Aaron. Both of them independently mentioned that family members at the business are not treated differently than employees, but are expected to perform. The good news is, Campers Inn's philosophy is "employees first, customers second." "(Jeff said) it a number of times and that I had not heard that, before him and the whole concept was around if you take care of your employees and you're a good employer you provide a good culture with good values and they will take care of your customers as well," Ben says. "And that's our legacy of having a really people-driven organization." Aaron says that watching proceedings during Campers Inn's 50th anniversary not only drove home that point about taking care of employees, but it changed his mind about his future career. "I listened to my dad and Ben and a lot of people – long-term employees and campers – talk about what it means to be a Campers Inn as an employee and what it means to be a part of it," he says. "So, that's really when I fell in love with that and just realized that something so much bigger than selling RV is it really is you know anyone can sit here and tell you that Campers Inn is the most special thing in the world because we're employees, but it really is it's something a lot bigger." Ben says one of the hardest parts about being in a family-re- lated business is knowing that if there are problems or disagree- ments, they have to be addressed immediately. "It's not like that with other employees, right?" he says. "They can leave their home life at home and their workplace at work. And it doesn't work for same for family members, so it creates another dynamic that can complicate things." Aaron says coming out of college and jumping in with the family name on his resume wasn't easy. "So, you know, being a 24-year-old kid coming out of college I kind of feel like I have baby feet walking around in clown shoes," he says. "My first day I got thrown in the position where I had to introduce myself and talk about Campers Inn. Right away it was like, 'Hey this is this is real; there's no games to be played anymore.'" Though there are good and bad components to any job, Ben and Aaron say they wouldn't trade their positions. "It's like 10 times the amount of positive side of the negative," Ben says. "There are things on the negative side that you just have to be mindful of." Other Hirsch family members are involved with Campers Inn, as well, which Jeff says makes the situation more precious to him. He says he didn't pressure either Ben or Aaron to get into the business because he wanted them to make their own choices, rather than just live up to expectations. "Campers Inn is proud of its culture and the reputation we fight for every day," he says. "It has to do with a higher level of commitment from family members. That culture is such an important part of its existence that we have to be very careful what we do and say." CAMPERS INN JEFF, BEN AND AARON HIRSCH From left to right: Aaron, Jeff and Ben Hirsch

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