July '18

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88 • RV PRO • July 2018 rv-pro.com A F T E R M A R K E T upgrades are one of the biggest recent trends in the RV industry. "It is fun to be a part of this industry as technology advancements from com- panies we represent along with other companies have helped make the RVing and camping experience more enjoyable," he says. SM Osgood was originally started in 1960 by founder Bud Osgood as a sales rep organization for the marine industry. It focused on selling marine products to boat manufacturers. Most of the companies it represented were start-up firms, some of which it still represents today. The company expanded into the RV industry in 1970s, when some of its marine market clients like Norcold and Heart Interface (later acquired by Xantrex) asked if the company would be interested in selling to the RV OEM and aftermarket industry throughout the central U.S. "One account that helped solidify our company calling on the RV market was an account in Forest City, Iowa, called Win- nebago Industries," he says. "The working relationship with the team members of Winnebago through the years helped our company significantly grow our presence in the RV market." Around 1980, Luehmann says, SM Osgood acquired a Michigan-based manufacturer's rep firm, which increased its marine market coverage and allowed it to call on RV OEM and aftermarket accounts in the surrounding states. Since then, the company's coverage of the RV OEM market has expanded across the U.S. through the clients it serves in its market. T h e c o m p a n y c u r re n t l y h a s 1 7 employees with office/warehouse locations in Elkhart, Ind., and Bloomington, Minn. Shepherd Sales Ken Shepherd says his company has found success by providing its clients with the best hands-on customer service possible. This includes ensuring that the products work as promised and helping with warranties, installation and trouble- shooting issues that may arise. "Whatever we can do to help them keep confidence in that product line," Shepherd says. "The other thing that helps is that we do store sets, too." He says he and other company reps work with distributor reps to get as much sales space possible for a product within dealerships and will then go in and set up the shelving, do the end caps and hang the flat wall to help promote products. "When we're done with that, we'll walk the dealer employees through that section to make sure they're well- versed on whatever the product is and that they're comfortable selling and sup- porting it," he says. "And it's obviously the repeats – going back to the dealer every week or month, or however often you need to do for that particular dealer. It's a lot of windshield time." Shepherd says members of his sev- en-employee firm also attend as many RV trade shows as possible. This is important, he says, to provide visibility for its ware- house distributor clients. "It's important for brand recognition," he says. "We've got to support our lines that have supported us. We've got to show our value to our suppliers and show our value to our dealers." The firm's territory reps also arrange training sessions for the dealers. Shepherd Sales' roots in the industry run deep. The company was founded in 1949 by Shepherd's grandfather, Ken, as an automotive manufacturer's rep firm called Kenneth L. Shepherd Co. & Associates. In the mid-1980s, Shepherd's father, Jerry, took over the company and changed the company name to The Shepherd Co. And in 2010, Ken Shepherd joined the family business and purchased it four years later from his parents. He changed the name to Shepherd Sales. During the early years, the company handled parts like intake manifolds, pis- tons, crankshafts and motors. "It was kind of geared toward the garage and backyard mechanic," he recalls. However, as the auto industry changed and the company's target customers began to decline, the family made the decision to expand into the RV market. Today, the company's business is split 50-50 between the two industries. Manufacturers' Agents National Association President and CEO Charles Cohon says rep firms are particularly valuable for small- and medium-size businesses, providing them with a greater sales market presence. Shepherd Sales owner Ken Shepherd is the third generation to run the Colorado- based, family-owned manufacturer rep firm primarily serving the Rocky Mountain states.

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