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2024 Leadership Conference Inspires Industry’s Forward Momentum

The second annual Leadership Conference hosted by the RV Industry Association (RVIA) kicked off with record attendance of more than 190 gathering from across the industry – including numerous campground representatives.

Following a slate of board meetings, Tuesday evening’s welcome reception brought leaders together at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort in Bonita Springs, Florida.

The crowd got an early start Wednesday, with groups headed to kayak the Estero River or volunteer at KOA Naples/Marco Island to support cleanup from the effects of Hurricane Ian.

Wednesday’s agenda included a panel on “Understanding the RV Industry’s Self-Regulation” before a keynote speech from Mike Veeck – owner of several successful minor-league baseball clubs and subject of the 2023 Netflix documentary, “The Saint of Second Chances.” Not taking yourself too seriously is Veeck’s specialty. With a motto like “Fun is Good,” he touched on humor and joy as a means of attaining viral success and pursuing outlandish ideas to avoid one-dimensional ways of thinking – such as hosting a mass food fight or a one-minute, one-block parade.

Park Perspectives is a new addition to RVIA’s event. Taking place both days, leaders shared their journeys and ideas to better the industry. Wednesday’s lineup spotlighted Brandon Mantz, national sales manager for Xantrex, who spoke on “Designing for the Adaptive Community” and the importance of accessibility. One in 4 people currently have a disability, with 1 in 7 experiencing a physical disability similar to Mantz’s.

“Is accessibility an after-thought in your business? How do we remove barriers to provide equal experiences for everyone?” he asked the crowd. Having accessible RVs readily available at dealerships and RV shows, rather than having to custom order, was one suggestion Mantz proposed, along with addressing different types of terrain and having more accessible sites at campgrounds.

Ashley Bontrager-Lehman – founder, president and CEO of Ember RVs – also shared her perspectives on shifting from the day-to-day to managing a board and elevating leadership. Expanding your frame of reference through different experiences, learning by not being the smartest person in the room and being future-focused were a few of her leadership practice suggestions.

In addition to the event’s speakers, RVIA’s Emerging Leaders Coalition recognized the graduating class of 2024 and launched an application process to grow the group.

RVIA Emerging Leaders Coalition 2024 class

Wednesday’s agenda concluded with a group workshop on “Unreasonable Hospitality” and a dinner reception.

The conference runs through Thursday, with morning activities including volunteer work at the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. The CEO Leadership Panel moderated by RVIA’s Craig Kirby will spotlight Don Clark, president and CEO of Grand Design RV; John Ferrando, president and CEO of Blue Compass RV; and Mary Pouliot, executive vice president of Thetford/Norcold.

Thursday’s Park Perspectives lineup includes “Leading Above the Line” by Alissa Reyes, Thetford’s senior vice president of HR and administration, along with “Starting Your Sustainability Journey – A Roadmap” by Lippert’s Kartik Mekala and Sandy Rynalski, ESG vice president for THOR Industries. The agenda also includes a keynote speech from Drew Tarvin, an IT project manager at Procter & Gamble who led multi-million-dollar projects for a $350 million brand.

RVIA’s annual event will conclude with a Leadership Workshop led by Matt Dunsmoor and a final dinner reception at the resort’s Corkscrew restaurant.

Jordan Benschop

Jordan Benschop is the managing editor of RV PRO magazine.

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