July '18

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John Hawkins, Aftermarket Sales Manager, BAL RV Products I n 1990, Winnebago Industries bought a facility in my hometown in Texas and converted it into a satellite service center. It was front page news on the local paper and my father told me, "You need to get a job there. With the Baby Boomers coming of age, the RV industry will be booming itself." I was taking college courses in the morning and worked back counter parts in the afternoons. Little did I know that it would become my career. At 18 years old, I wasn't thinking about life goals. My goal was primarily to get a job that helped pay for school and gas. As time went on, I realized what a fun, friendly industry it was and knew that it was a career path I would enjoy. A couple of years later as a dealer parts manager, my first trade show was the Coast Distribution show at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. It was quite an experience and a little overwhelming. At 20, being in Vegas with the ability to purchase thousands of dollars of inventory was flattering but at the same time, scary. I was fortunate to have a handful of opportunities in my career that took me on the right path to propel me to where I am now. All were with family-owned companies that taught me the value of building relationships and taking care of our customers and business partners the way you would like to be treated yourself. Having worked for an OEM, dealer, distributor, and now a supplier has provided me the ability to see the industry from all angles. All of those positions allowed me the ability to create relationships that have matured into lifelong friendships. I have been fortunate to have learned from some of the most creative and knowledgeable people in the RV industry. Working in an industry that I also consider a hobby is a luxury I do not take for granted. Bobby Dotson, Direct of OEM Sales, BAL RV Products I n 1983, I was working in another industry that was experiencing a downturn and my brother suggested I try the RV industry. I joined him at Fleming Sales working in the warehouse and eventually advanced to a sales position calling on van OEMs in the Elkhart area. I was just looking for a job in an industry that was stable and would offer me steady employment. I was fortunate that the van industry was booming at the time and I was able to grow as a salesman and transition into the RV industry. My first, true experience at an industry trade show was RVIA in Louisville. It was amazing the size and breadth of the show. Coming from the van side of the industry, it opened my eyes as to how large and extensive the RV industry was. My career really changed while I worked for my brother, Rich. He was head of sales and as an older sibling, he gave me no slack. As I worked directly for him, he was much stricter on me than the other sales guys. He wanted to see me succeed and kept the bar high for me to aim for. I can attribute my sales growth and success to his tough love. I feel fortunate in making it through the five or six downturns over the past 30 plus years. I've been blessed to work with some awesome people and great companies that have provided for me and my family and guided me in the right direction. RV PRO: Origins July 2018 • RV PRO • 115

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