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July '18

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26 • RV PRO • July 2018 RV PRO: Origins J U LY S P E C I A L S E C T I O N ✪ Don Clark, President and CEO, Grand Design RV I n 1983, I was working my way through college at a higher- end audio/visual retail store. A friend of mine's father kept making fun of where I was working and thought I was spinning my wheels. Every time I saw him he would give me a hard time and I told him it wasn't a career, it was just to pay for my education. He said, "Don, I notice you are getting edgy every time I bring this up and I don't want you to stop coming by, so let's do this. Let's make a bet." He said if he won, he wanted me to interview at a company of his choosing. If I win, he would never bring up my job again. It was the only time I bet against Notre Dame in my life and I lost. He wanted me to interview with a company called Coachmen Industries. I went into the director of HR and she had me interview with the directors of each department. I got to the director of purchasing, who was a guy by the name of Felton Cullifer. This was back in the day of three-piece suits. He was smoking a stogie and asked, "Tell me, Donald, why should I hire you as a purchasing agent here at Coachmen?" I told him I don't know, but I've been here interviewing for six-and-a-half hours talking with every director in the company. I don't think I even want to be a purchasing agent. That didn't go well, but I fulfilled the bet. At the end of the day I was offered a job. I politely said, "thank you" and declined. The owner of the electronics store found out I interviewed at Coachmen. He started yelling at me. After over two hours of being the center of his anger, I quit. I called Coachmen back, but the job they offered me was filled. Shirley McKee, in HR, felt so badly that she found me another job in bill of materials. Eventually, they needed an audit in one of the plants and they asked me to do it. When I went out into the plant and I saw how hard people were working and what they were building, it gave me a passion for this industry and the people. After a few weeks, Mr. Cullifer saw me and asked what I was doing. We talked for a bit and the next day he traded a purchasing agent for me, so I became a PA for two years and then I went into sales. After my start in purchasing, I was pro- moted to a sales position and then eventually management. Thirty-five years later, I have even more passion for our industry, our customers, and especially our people. I spent 17 years with Coachmen, working my way up the ranks, then had the opportunity to be a part of a startup with a company called Keystone in 1999. It was a pinnacle point of my career. After Thor bought us, I got the chance to be the head over a struggling company called Dutchmen. That's when I got to onboard my own team. A lot of those folks have continued with me at Grand Design, which we launched at Louisville in 2012: Jerry McCarthy (three companies), Nate Goldenberg (three companies), Ann Spratt (two companies) Cam Boyer (two companies). This industry has meant a lot to me – to see what the products of this industry mean to people, so they can enjoy their lifestyle. I have been blessed to work with outstanding people. I would like to thank all the people who gave me an opportunity to grow in this industry, who were patient with my impatience. The people I have worked for and with have helped impact my life and shaped my character.

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