Industry InSites – December 2015

I Can’t Help Myself

You know sometimes you run into a person whose name simply personifies who they are? I used to have a pool company that serviced our pool – Mike Pohl’s Pool Service. That kind of thing.

Well, as the RV Dealers recently wrapped up its annual national meeting, it was announced that the new President of the RV Dealers Association is none other than Sam Parks. What a great name. Too bad he isn’t a campground owner with a chain of campgrounds – all of the Sam Parks!

And if I were writing an April Fools column, I would no doubt announce that Paul Bambei has accepted a new position as CEO of the Children’s Book Association or the Deer Hunters of America.

ARVC in General and the OHCE in Particular

It’s now been about 14 years since I left as ARVC’s president. In fact, my campground industry career is now split equally between my years with ARVC and the since then. So I thought I would take a few paragraphs and share some of my observations about the association and the recent national convention in Daytona Beach.

There is no doubt that ARVC is a competently run association providing members with some good values and accomplishments. The music licensing program, the Government Affairs work on the park model from about a year ago, the addition of the western school of RV Park & Campground Management are among the signature accomplishments of the association in the last couple of years.

On the other hand, the membership numbers do not reflect growth. For some reason, ARVC is unable to attract more than about 30% of the commercial parks in the market. Why?

The annual convention is a professionally and smoothly run gathering and Daytona Beach seems to have been a good choice of venue. However, I for one, found the convention simply an ok event. There was no spark, no excitement, nothing that was a “knock me over” event or a “wow” that park owners try to provide for their guests. Given its location within about a day’s drive to a large percentage of ARVC members, the turnout was good but not great.

Next year – Fort Worth, TX. In the heart of a large state that is not an ARVC affiliated state association and is a God-awful drive from outside Texas and a rather unpleasant airline flight to get there – and expensive. And then come Raleigh to be followed by Oklahoma City. I hope that someone comes up with an exciting event that makes coming to these places something to look forward to.

It is interesting to note that the KOA annual system meeting was being held in Daytona about 2 weeks after ARVC and the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park system meetings were the week right after ARVC in Cincinnati. Nothing new about these meetings as they traditionally been held at this time of the year. But now that ARVC has moved its meeting to early November, the obvious conflicts with these two other meets – and with the NY Campground Owners Association meeting – certainly impacts on the ARVC attendance.

A word on the “title sponsor” of the convention – Good Sam. The company and its affiliate Camping World are powerhouses in the industry. And it’s great they offer such strong support to ARVC. They buy the title sponsor position each year offering ARVC a large chunk of cash in return. The company is led by probably one of the most recognizable business names in America today – Marcus Lemonis or as he’s better known now, the Profit. His astounding business success with Good Sam and Camping World indicates that he probably has some words of wisdom that would be of value to the park industry. I would suggest that as a quid pro quo for Good Sam’s title sponsorship of the ARVC convention next year, that Marcus Lemonis should be the convention’s keynote speaker and should spend a day or two with the association members. No Marcus, no title sponsorship. If nothing else, Marcus might engender a bit of excitement into the convention.

(Kind of curious that he’s never partnered with a campground business on his tv show The Profit. I suppose he likes diversification in his investments).

How come board member’s who’ve served their 6 year terms are being recycled back on to the board? I’m not questioning their dedication to the job but in my experience, in an association the size of ARVC, new leadership is important for the growth and direction of the association. If I’m not mistaken, this year, 3 former board members where brought back onto the board.

What’s the story with the Business Forum? This group of power companies and executives is just about unknown to the membership and what they are doing seems to be a secret. They are supposed to be the big companies in the industry and they must have lots to share about their success. How about bringing them out into the open and sharing their expertise with the membership?

And the Awards Program. I suggest that the board consider regionalizing the major park awards so more parks can participate and benefit from being a park of the year. The park of the year awards require far too much in the way of preparation for the submission, but once it’s done, it’s easy to tweak it every year or two and resubmit it. Why not have several parks of the year – North, South, East and West might work, or something like that.

One final thought. In my humble view, the association lacks soul. Warmth. Humor. A touchy feely experience. Not easy to accomplish but it could start with some small group social events at the convention. The convention seems cold and impersonal and it needs to be warmed up a bit. Oglebay and the national school has been somewhat successful in building that soul and warmth. And the 20 Groups I think have had similar success. It can be done. How do you take 600 people in Daytona for 3 days and turn them into a family?

There’s lots of young leadership moving up the ranks. I hope they can figure out how to make the association have a deeper meaning for its members. Strong associations build strong relationships. That’s honestly one of the secrets of success of the state associations. Can ARVC do the same?

Time for ARVC to figure out how to personalize the association, give it heart and soul and not just music licenses and washing machine discounts.

Ok, I’m done. Hope there might be a few useful thoughts in all of this.

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