July '18

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RV PRO: Origins July 2018 • RV PRO • 11 Bob Brammer, President, Stromberg Carlson Products "D o you like peanut butter and jelly?" That was the question my dad asked me when he hired me after I graduated from Michigan State University in 1983. Unlike many family businesses, my dad and I never planned to work together. It was never talked about. I went to school to be an attorney (everyone did back then). But after discovering I am terrible at arguing positions I didn't believe in, I added advertising/ marketing as a second major. Why that? I already had enough pre-requisites to graduate on time. The first time my dad and I ever had a cocktail together was at Mode's Bum Steer during Thanksgiving of 1983. Heck, after two or three drinks even I thought I sounded pretty smart. So, my dad contacted me the next week at the Michigan Department of Com- merce, where I worked during college, and I thought he was offering me a job. After talking to his best friend years later on, I discovered my dad thought I called him asking to be hired. In short, I was invited to attend my first Louisville Show in 1983 and my perspective of the RV industry as a wide-eyed 22-year-old was, "I want to work here." When I attended and worked the Manufactured Housing Show in Louisville in January 1984 by myself, I had never even set up one of our steps yet. But armed with samples and brochures, I felt pro- ductive on the road. Then, at the end of January my dad and I traveled to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. We were talking with Sault Savings Bank about financing. We came to terms with our new lender, except one last detail needed to be worked out. Two company officers had to sign the paperwork with the bank. I was officially hired Dec. 13, 1983, and promoted to vice president on Jan. 26, 1984 – because we needed another officer to sign the bank's notes. We stopped in Charlevoix on the way home and went to the Gray Gables for dinner. The last time I had been there for dinner with my dad I ordered a "John Wayne" – nonalcoholic child's drink – it was before the divorce in my family and I was probably 6 years old on a family sailing trip. This time we had a drink or two together and lobster tails. We should have ordered the peanut butter and jelly. My dad had tried many different industries to expand into before we settled our sights on the RV industry. Stromberg had a lot of debt and times were tight. In college, as you chase your dreams, eating peanut butter and jelly is a rite of passage like ramen noodles, or Golden Graham cereal. What my dad had really been asking when I graduated is, "Can you bear down a while longer to see if this can work between you and me?" Some 35 years later I can attest we made the right decision.

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