February '20

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26 • RV PRO • February 2020 rv-pro.com employees, which he acknowledges is a luxury not every deal- ership enjoys. "Finding the right techs is definitely among the most challenging parts of the business," says Lemke. "The thing that works for us – and also seems to work for the applicant – is getting them in the shop for a week-long tryout. In the RV business, you've got to truly know the ins and outs. A couple of our leads were basically handymen. They had a little 110-volt experience, a little 12-volt, a little automotive. It's hard to quantify that on a piece of paper. "A lot of times, a tech will come in with a certain certificate, but maybe they haven't really used it and haven't retained that knowledge," he adds. "A tryout gives the company a better sense of what they can do and it gives the tech a sense of what it's like to work here." So far, that approach to finding and retaining talent is working. "We've been extremely fortunate," Lemke says. "While other dealerships will get a tech for six months and have them leave, we just don't have that constant turnover. Some of our techs have been here for 15 years. That contributes to our success." Smart Growth on the Horizon With a broad base of services, rentals and units for sale – and a staff of eight techs and 17 other employees – Affordable RV Rentals is poised for continued growth in coming years. Currently, the dealership operates on about 2 acres, with three buildings spread over two levels, making it necessary to regularly shift units around the lot to accommodate workflow, says Lemke. "The current lot wasn't designed for RVs, so we do a lot shuf- fling and it's really inefficient," he says, noting that one building fits eight 40-foot units while another features two 55-foot-deep bays and a full paint booth for paint and body work, which comes in very handy for the company's rental business. "In the rental business, the reality is that people are always crashing," he says, with a laugh. "We stopped renting the biggest diesel pushers, but I bet we're still having one in 15 that do some sort of damage. It's kind of comical." To address the inefficiencies of its current space, Lemke says a new facility is in the works about 10 minutes away, in Auburn, Calif. The new facility will be purpose built and include four more service buildings on an additional 3 acres. "The buildings should be going up soon," Lemke says. "And we're hoping to have construction complete by mid-2020. The layout has been designed to give each tech their own bay, off the pavement and out of the heat. That will allow them to pull a job in and work it from A to Z without having to move it around. "We don't want to outgrow ourselves," he adds. "But we know we can serve our customers better and do it in a manner that we don't sacrifice any quality or reliability in the process." That extra, purpose-built space, should support growth in not only the service business, but also in sales. Of the dealership's total 75 units of average annual sales, about 70 percent are new units. The remainder are units that are aging out of their rental fleet, usually after about two seasons. "One thing we do, I think, better than almost anyone is a very thorough assessment of our rental fleet," Lemke says. "We'll only sell used units that are in great condition. Everything else goes through auctions." Regarding growth in the dealership's service business, while the new space will add capacity, the constraint remains the sheer Technician Eric Swars works to repair a truck camper damaged by dry rot.

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