RV PRO

July '18

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46 • RV PRO • July 2018 RV PRO: Origins J U LY S P E C I A L S E C T I O N ✪ Brian Wilkins, Owner, Wilkins RV M y first memories of working at my parents' deal- ership was in the fourth grade where I would walk the half-mile from school to the store where I would take the parts ordered from Coast Distribution and stock them. Back then we sold everything: boats, motorcycles and all-terrain four-wheelers. Being at the dealership instilled in me a work-ethic. Seeing how hard my parents worked, I was exposed to it and it rubbed off. As I got a bit older, I helped process warranty claims. Between my junior and senior year in high school I started working in sales. I continued through summers during college. My father would track the commissions I would have made from sales and compare them with college expenses. It was fun to track. Soon, I started getting into higher level jobs at the dealership. Through the years, there weren't too many parts of the business that I didn't get a chance to see. After I graduated college, I left the business for a couple years to work on becoming a CPA but would still work at the dealership on weekends. At that point, I didn't know if I would pursue a career in accounting or return to the dealership. The great part about being at the dealership is that every day is a different challenge. In public accounting, my first day, I spent eight hours at a copy machine making copies for the senior auditors. I learned quickly that public accounting probably wasn't going to be my thing. In 1995, I joined the dealership full-time, and in the late '90s took on more of a general manager role. One of my primary focal points, as I took more of a leadership role, was to help develop processes within the business. We became computerized in 1995, which obviously was a great help in doing this. I remember, at one point, our group not knowing how to keep track of all the parts that were coming and how to find them. I credit a Spader workshop for helping with that. I learned the process, brought it back and we implemented it. My goals were to develop myself, the business and provide the customer with a great experience. In 2004, I bought the dealership from my dad. A favorite show was the old South Bend show. It was a good spot to see product, visit the factories, and even pick up new product from the manufacturers. It was a lot like today's Open House. Some of my proudest memories would be how we negotiated our way through the '08-'09 downturn. My father often reminded me that I never had to run the dealership through tough times, and when I did, it would open my eyes. He was right – a downturn helps you mature in a hurry. I'm also proud of the time I spent as RVDA chairman and the opportunity it gave me to give back to our industry and that as a dealership, we've been recognized as a Top 50 Dealer the past four years. One thing I have learned as we have expanded is that you can only grow your busi- ness as fast as you grow your people. My advice for any second-, third- or fourth-gen- eration RV legacy dealer who is starting to take over: Make sure to learn what the previous generation has gone through and take advantage of their experience. Brian Wilkins, right

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