September '14

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I n 1977, Mick Ferkey got his start in the RV business washing units at Greeneway RV in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., for $1.80 an hour. At the time, Ferkey didn't think he would make a career out of the RV busi- ness. However, Ferkey's big break came a few years later when a local car dealer rec- ognized his potential as a salesman. "e pivotal moment for me came when a customer came in to look at RVs. He said upfront that he was not planning to buy for a couple years," recalls Ferkey, who was running the parts department and doing occasional RV sales at the time. "But he ended up buying anyway." e customer told Ferkey that he earned his trust and successfully sold him on the RV lifestyle. A week later, a local car dealer friend of the RV customer attempted to lure Ferkey away from Greeneway with a substantial pay increase and the promise of a company car. Ferkey turned down the job, deciding instead to stay at the dealership when he learned the owner of Greeneway RV was set to undergo surgery that would result in him being "laid up for a while." In 1987, Ferkey also walked away from the oppor- tunity to own a local Jayco dealership when the Greeneway RV owner offered him part ownership. In 1989, Ferkey and his wife, Lora, bought the other half of the business, becoming full owners. Identifying the Cream of the Crop Budding talent like Ferkey – who suc- cessfully make the transition from employee to owner – are a rarity, according to Val- erie Riefenstahl, owner of the Fort Worth, Texas-based franchise of e Alternative Board, a business consulting firm. "I think everybody wants to hire within their own organizations, and that's really the goal," she says. "Unfortunately, some- times the people just aren't there." She adds, "Doing and managing are very different tool sets. Some employees make that transition beautifully – and others don't." Riefenstahl says business owners who Experts say dealership employees must hone an entirely new skill set in order to rise through the ranks to senior management or even owner. By Holli Koster Rising Through the Ranks 58 • RV PRO • SEPTEMBER 2014 rv-pro.com Valerie Riefenstahl of the consulting firm The Alternative Board says doing and managing are two very different tool sets. Mick Ferkey started working at Greeneway RV in 1977, where his job was to clean the RVs on the sales lot. Today, he and his wife, Lora, own the dealership. The transition from employee to owner for Ferkey and others like him is often a multi-year process of rising through the ranks.

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