July '19

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JULY SPECIAL SECTION 52 • RV PRO • July 2019 RV PRO: ALL IN THE FAMILY S inger/ songwriter Paul Simon once said, "Every generation throws a hero on the pop charts." That phrase seems appropriate for the Cooley family, which has been creating stars in the RV industry for four generations – and shows no signs of stopping. Andrew Cooley, vice president o f b u s i n e s s d e ve l o p m e n t fo r Birmingham, Ala.-based Class B manufacturer Story teller Over- land, is bringing his kids up to be the fifth generation to expand his family's influence in the industry. According to Andrew, his great grandparents traveled the South- east in a caravan group selling RVs. His paternal grandparents were Hi-Lo dealers and ran a campground. "My grandfather had a tremendous way of putting things into perspective," says Andrew. "He had been around so long that he knew the sun would always come up tomorrow." Andrew's parents, Jim "Dandy" and Tammie Cooley, "pushed me to be the best version of myself that I could be," he says, noting that his father assigned him a book on business and one on body language each week, and quizzed him at week's end. "Iron sharpens iron, and just being around high-quality and knowledgeable folks really rubs off on you." Jim was the owner of Dandy RV and served as president of the RVDA for the state of Alabama in the early 1990s. Andrew recalls once thinking they were heading for a family vacation – "we always went camping once a month" – and learning when they arrived that they were there for an RVDA event. Everyone had a wonderful time at Disney anyway. Dandy RV began in the Cooley's front yard and grew to become a prominent player in the Alabama market. Ultimately, the dealership was acquired by Camping World. After that, Andrew opened his own dealership. "It's funny," he says. "When you're the assistant coach, you think you know all the right plays to run. But when you become the head coach, you look around and say, 'I need a great assistant'." At Andrew's dealership, his wife, Shannon, was in charge of finances (today she runs their 50-site campground), "so, in a sense, she had a supervisory role over me." But this was not new. "My whole life growing up, the dynamic at my parents' dealer- ship was the same. My father would concentrate on motivating and sales, my mother would concentrate on titles, and my uncle was our CFO," he says. His past "culminated into the role I play now," Andrew says. When he was approached to become a partner in what became Storyteller Overland, he decided to close his dealership to go all in to be able to "influence an industry." According to Andrew, having been "the scrub" and worked his STORYTELLER OVERLAND & JIM DANDY RV ANDREW AND JIM COOLEY way through every aspect of the dealership business has given him an advantage in business. "We know what dealers need and want on a day-to-day basis to make their lives more enjoyable. It's why we are so innovative in our dealer-facing programs and customer care/ warranty processing." One upside of being part of a multi-generational business is being around "folks that have been there for 20 years and have seen you grow up from a small child. Earning and keeping those folks' respect is a balancing act. Once the younger generation figures that out, things run much more smoothly." The best thing about having multiple family members in the industry (several of Andrew's relatives own dealerships) is "no matter what you go through on a day-to-day basis, you always have a support group to guide you to a better day," says Andrew, who adds he can't think of any downsides to having family in the RV industry. Jim "Dandy" Cooley and son, Andrew, are pictured next to the family RV in an old family photo. Andrew Cooley is pictured below at the March RVX show.

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