Ron Lichtsinn Featured in RV Pro Magazine’s RV Origins Issue

Ron Lichtsinn, Owner and Dealer Principal of Lichtsinn RV was featured in the July issue of RV Pro Magazine. The July special edition featured the “origins” of several professionals in the RV industry. You can see a digital copy of the issue here.

Ron Lichtsinn, Owner and Dealer Principal Lichtsinn RV 

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My father, who at that time owned a GM dealership in Forest City, Iowa, started selling Winnebago conversion vans in 1979 after a conversation and a handshake with John K. Hanson (Winnebago Industries Founder). I grew up in the business. I started by doing odd jobs, including detailing RVs in 1984. I left the business in 1989 when I went to college, then had a career in public accounting and then in financing for Pillsbury Inc. in its previous headquarters in downtown Minneapolis. I then came back to the family business in 2001, moving back to Forest City with my wife and buying the dealership from my father. I looked at the future of the RV industry, looking at demographics, and the number of baby boomers entering retirement. I knew there was a huge opportunity in the RV business. When I came back in 2001, I brought the entire team of Lichtsinn Motor employees together (at that time, a total of 13 including GM and RV employees) and explained I wanted to continue to build upon what my father had already started and become the true force in the RV industry. During the recession in 2008 was a very challenging time. We sell to guests throughout the country, so we saw the struggles of our guests in the places hardest hit, like California. We saw our friends and neighbors lose their jobs at Winnebago Industries. During this time, we evaluated what we needed to do to help insulate dealership family from events like this. We evaluated processes, everything from every touch point in guest interactions to our lender partners, we brought down to the very basic level and focused on improving these processes every step of the way. We focused on parts and service, increasing our staffing and our facility. We focused on training our entire team not only on their specific job skill requirements, but on guest service, focusing on internal and external guests. This groundwork is the foundation for what we continue to do each and every day. With the team of Lichtsinn employees, we have taken Lichtsinn Motors, with a staff of 13 (GM and RV) and average Winnebago Motorhome sales, to a team of 40 at Lichtsinn RV, in a new state-of-the-art RV facility built in 2014. We have been the largest volume Winnebago parts dealer in the country for the past several years and for the past four years we have achieved the Top Winnebago Dealer in North America award.

 

Lichtsinn RV Featured in June Edition of RV Pro Magazine

Lichtsinn RV was featured in the June 2017 Edition of RV Pro Magazine. RV PRO is the leading news and information source for professionals in the RV Industry.

 

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The owners of Lichtsinn RV didn’t have to look far to find the ideal inventory for the dealership’s customers.

Located only 1 mile from the Winnebago plant in Forest City, Iowa, Lichtsinn RV since 2005 has exclusively retailed new Winnebago motorhomes.

It didn’t always used to be that way, however. Between 2002 and 2005, Lichtsinn carried a few different Keystone and Forest River towable brands.

“We were trying to focus more on our local market,” com­pany President Ron Lichtsinn explains. “A lot of the workforce in Forest City can’t align their budget with a motorcoach, but we realized our passion was for the motorized segment of the RV industry.”

Proximity to Winnebago is a benefit, but it wasn’t the only reason the dealership chose to exclusively retail the RV maker’s motorized products, according to Lichtsinn. Brand recognition and an acknowledgement that segments of the motorized market are performing well also played a factor, he says.

“We certainly align ourselves with what we believe to be the highest quality motorized RV manufacturer. Winnebago con­sistently ranks No. 1 in RVDA DSI quality industry indices,” Lichtsinn says. “We learned between 2008 and 2010 – as we slipped in and out of recession – that it’s a brand that follows emerging trends and demographics.”

Today, the dealership carries a full range of motorized prod­ucts, but B vans and fuel-efficient Class C models have come to represent a growing segment of the dealership’s inventory.

“We’re certainly going to stock more of Class B and C’s,” Lichtsinn says. “The stocking pattern of a Class B is a bit more streamlined and attracts a much larger audience.”

Adapting to Changing Times, Conditions

Adapting to changing conditions is not a new thing for Lichtsinn RV. Lichtsinn’s father started the dealership in 1976 as a Chevrolet Oldsmobile dealer, adding Winnebagos to his lot in the early 1980s. The automotive and RV operations were run out of the same facility.

In 2001, when GM discontinued the Oldsmobile line, Lichtsinn and his father switched the dealership to retailing Buicks. The dealership remained a full-line automotive dealer until 2015, when the dealership chose to focus exclusively on retailing RVs.

Transition also has occurred in terms of the dealership’s own­ership. Ron Lichtsinn was raised in the business, but when he graduated from high school in 1989 he wanted to do something else with his life. As he gained some life experience, however, he began to change his mind.

Lichtsinn and his father began plans for succession in 2000, and in 2001 Lichtsinn took over the dealership, which sits on 20 acres and features a 30,000-square-foot sales and service center and a 7,000-square-foot parts and accessories store.

Today, Lichtsinn credits being adaptable to change – com­bined with the strategy of focusing on motorized sales and a strong emphasis on employee retention and education – with allowing the business to prosper over the years.

The Right Hires

Despite the fact that Iowa’s unemployment rate is nearly 2 percent lower than the national average, Lichtsinn says he has very little employee turnover at the dealership.

“It’s one of our strengths. We have great retention,” he says.

“We take an individual who has good problem-solving and interpersonal skills and bring them through professional develop­ment, teaching them to provide outstanding customer service.”

Longtime employee Heidi Thompson, vice president and general manager of Lichtsinn RV, began working at the deal­ership in 1994 for Lichtsinn’s father. After finishing college she remained at the dealership and worked in a variety of roles.

“We attribute our low turnover rates to hiring correctly in the first place. We are looking for an employee and team member who has the soft skills that are hard to train, such as work ethic, guest service and communication,” Thompson says. “For us, we spend a lot of time on the front side making sure we’re partnering up with the right person to ensure retention. We then provide continual training and professional develop­ment opportunities that help them grow in their career and create engagement.”

Having engaged and trained employees helps with sales and service. Each employee is developed to help a guest regardless of what coach they are interested in. Any consultant can help any guest with any kind of product.

Employee Training is Key

At Lichtsinn RV, employee education is paramount.

“Education is what we hang our hat on,” Thompson says. “We want to help RVers achieve the type of RVing and traveling they dream of. It’s important to us within the purchase process to have educated consultants help customers achieve the right RV and their goals.”

At Lichtsinn RV, a sales consultant is assigned to help educate a guest throughout the entire purchasing process.

Having begun as an automotive dealership, Thompson says dealership leaders know the time frame for an RV purchase – especially a motorhome – can take much longer than an auto­motive purchase.

“We know the buying cycle takes longer within the RV industry. We have a first contact and try to do a lot of work through the selec­tion cycle of a guest because we don’t want them to come back to us and say, ‘We bought the wrong floorplan,’” she says. “We put a lot of emphasis on that. We want to help them see how they are going to use the RV. We can work with a guest anywhere from a couple of months or a couple of years. It’s unique in that you build rela­tionships with people and get to know their story and background.”

Overcoming Fear with Education

Lichtsinn says sales consultants have a dedicated approach to support growth and help customers overcome any fears they may have about purchasing a motorcoach.

“We’ve found there are a few main fears of customers: Pur­chasing the wrong product, paying too much, education, and a fear of what happens next,” he says.

Lichtsinn RV has developed its Internet and in-person consumer education to such a level that the only time sales consultants are not able to help a guest in terms of the motorized segment is when a product is not in the customer’s budget range or it’s a product Winnebago doesn’t offer.

Being so near the Winnebago factory comes with its advantages and disadvantages Lichtsinn says. While inventory experiences very little wear and tear making the 1-mile trip from the factory to the dealership lot, Lichtsinn says it can be a disadvantage when attempting to reach the business’s far-flung customer base.

With the bulk of the dealership’s customer base coming from out of state, Lichtsinn and Thompson say the dealership must make sure value exceeds cost to get guests to leave their hometown and travel to Forest City for their purchase.

“What is validated in our reviews is the experience a guest will have leading up to their purchase,” Lichtsinn says. “While here, they will receive an educational orientation with certi­fied RVDA technicians and we follow up remotely. We offer a product that is nomadic and we have to express that long reach of service and education outside of break-in procedure.”

A Strong Focus on Service

On the service side, Lichtsinn RV has eight service bays and six full time RVDA-certified technicians. The dealership’s proximity to Winnebago helps it procure parts more quickly and the dealership also can outsource its paintwork to a Win­nebago paint plant resource in town.

Looking at the dealership’s service schedule on any given day, there will be guests from all over the country.

“It’s not abnormal for our guests to take advantage of our service experience,” Lichtsinn says. “We absolutely welcome guests who didn’t purchase from us. We don’t discriminate based on where someone purchased their coach; we service them regardless. It’s an opportunity to display our professional level of service and provides a chance for us to win them over as a guest.

“The advantage from a service perspective is our expertise,” he adds. “We help remotely by trouble shooting and expediting parts. In some cases, service advisors become a technician hotline for those who need help. We have people perceive us to be the factory based on our expertise.”

When it comes down to it, Lichtsinn and Thompson are in the business not simply to sell RVs – but to help promote the RV lifestyle.

“One of the most fun things about this job is that the purchase of an RV is tied to some sense of freedom. Whether a customer is retiring or they are close they have the freedom to travel where they want,” Thompson says. “Likely we have worked with them a long time, crossing from planning and dreaming to moving into reality. It’s exciting to be a part of that.

Article Credit: Darian Armor, RV Pro Magazine

To see the full article click on this link:    RV Pro June 2017 Edition