May '16

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32 • RV PRO • MAY 2016 rv-pro.com highest number of vendors that we've ever had," notes Mike Regan, president of Crestview RV Center in Buda and Georgetown, Texas, and a Priority RV board member. Ruzicka says the annual conference provides a key measure- ment of the group's overall health because it's where vendors make their pitches to dealer members, so it's a gauge of interest from dealers and vendors. In the second day of the three-day conference, vendors are given time to describe their products, offer deals and talk about potential rebates. Ruzicka says there were a number of new vendors in attendance at this year's event, including a human resources firm, a couple of software companies and a market data provider. "There are a lot of new programs out this year," says Brian Wilkins, president of Wilkins RV in New York and a Priority board member. "We've worked hard to put together a good menu of programs." Another key measure of the co-op's health is its number of dealers, Ruzicka notes. The RV dealer co-op currently has 65 dealer groups, which translates into 74 shareholder members, and 110 dealer locations throughout the United States. "In the past five years we had added 31 new dealers with 39 new locations. A lot of that is Corey bringing in additional dealers," Brackett says. Several board members cited Ruzicka, who has been the group's executive director for the past five years, as the force behind the gain in dealer membership and participating vendors. "Corey gets so excited when he talks about us," Regan says. "We have more dealers than we've ever had." Ruzicka attributes the growth to a simple, but effective busi- ness concept. "It's about creating value," he says. "You have to offer the dealer a large array of programs and opportunities for them to make more money." Turning Things Around To get there, Ruzicka had to do a lot of legwork. "I started with about 50 to 60 open markets around the country and I have signed 31 new dealers in the last five years," he says. "I went out and signed those 31 new dealers and I brought on 15 new supplier partners – raising the number from 18 to 33." It's a big change from the rough waters the network hit in 2008, when it wasn't a certainty that the network would remain viable. "At one point, there was an argument that the organization was not going to exist," says Priority board member Mark Bretz, president of Bretz RV & Marine. "There wasn't a lot of participa- tion and there were high expenses." Something had to be done and it had to be done quickly. "I was one of the founding members, so we went in and cut some of our expenses and then started on a really aggressive cam- paign to get more people and get better programs that would then get more people," he says. The biggest hang-up, Bretz says, was the salary at the top of the organization. "We basically got somebody else – that's Corey – who really wants to grow the membership, grow participation," Bretz says. "In this kind of entity, if you have people who are there, but they are not participating, it doesn't do you any good. You have to have members and they have to vote with their checkbook. That's how the win-win occurs." Steve Richardson, owner of Richardson RV Centers and presi- dent of CalRVDA, is one of the newer members of the Priority board. He's been on the board for one year. The change Priority has gone through has been significant, he says. "We changed the whole dynamics of it and now there's not a better organization going, I truly believe that," he says. "It's partly the industry. The RV industry has recovered well. It's also that we have very good leadership." One of the key members of the Priority RV Network leadership Lippert Components' Mark Boessler (left) and Jarod Lippert (second from left) share information on the supplier's many products with dealers at the Priority RV conference. By purchasing goods and services through Priority RV's approved vendors, dealer members can earn rebates on their yearly dues. Members of the Sys2K team talk with attendees about their dealership software offerings. Sys2K offers dealer software for the RV, marine, powersports, bus and automotive markets.

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