Jeff Hanemaayer talks to Michelle Rivera about how his company is leading the race toward innovation.
Roadtrek is gaining plenty of sales momentum this year, and that’s in large part due to the company’s commitment to innovation. In fact, according to company chairman Jeff Hanemaayer, industry-leading design is the Roadtrek’s reason for success.
“We’ve been the number-one seller of class-B motorhomes in the recreational market since 1990,” said the chairman of the Ontario-based company. “The main reason we maintained this position is because we continuously improve our product.” Between the fall of 2001 and the end of 2004, the $80 million company redesigned its entire product line. “The products we were building in the summer of 2001 were completely different than what we offer now,” Hanemaayer said.
“We made significant improvements to our existing models, and we’ve got more changes that we’re working feverishly on. For instance, we completely redesigned our two largest models in 2004. We added significant interior changes in 2005, and we are doing more in 2006. It’s the only way we can stay ahead of our competition.”
Open to innovation
The RV industry tends to have an older clientele: the average Roadtrek buyer is 63 years old, and 90% are older than 50. Hanemaayer said the demographics are playing in favor of the entire RV industry. “We’re benefiting from the leading edge of the baby boom now. The outlook for the next 30 years should be great,” he said.
But for the chairman, it’s important to continuously push the envelope. Roadtrek carefully considers all feedback from customers, dealers, salespeople, and its internal engineering department. “Everyone offers important ideas on how to make our products better,” Hanemaayer said.
Currently, the company has more than 200 engineering change requests (ECRs) from that department. ECRs can be as simple as an engineer suggesting the company should improve how it fastens a particular item to someone proposing the company should build an entirely new model.
“They come in faster than we can process them,” Hanemaayer said. “On the one hand, it’s good because we don’t run out of ideas on how to improve our product. On the other hand, some good suggestions could be sitting on the backburner for two years before we’re able to process them. It’s a challenge to prioritize our efforts,” he said.
For the people
Hanemaayer said the company’s employees are its most valuable asset because without them, the continuous effort on innovation would not be possible. To keep them with the company for as long as possible, the company has developed many unique programs. Aside from the usual competitive salary and benefit packages, the company has four RVs in place for personal use by the employees. “Everyone can use them,” Hanemaayer said. “They have a chance at using them once a year, and if no one else is using it, they can use the vehicle a second or third time.”
Roadtrek has a profit-sharing plan for all employees, which has paid as high as 16% of the employees’ annual pay. After a minimum profit level is obtained, the employees get 25% of the profits, which is an extremely high sharing rate, according to the chairman. Some company plans only have a share ratio of 10% or 15%,” he said.
“Unlike many other profit-sharing plans, the minimum profit sharing is formula based,” he continued. “Most companies raise the minimum as soon as employees exceed it by a healthy amount; we don’t do that. If our company does extremely well, I do not change the minimum calculations. I say if the company does well, so does everyone else.”
Employees who want to quit smoking have the opportunity to join the Kick Ash program, in which the company provides nicotine patches for the first six weeks. “It’s difficult for someone trying to quit to get moral support, but when you’re with 40 others at work who are also trying to quit, it’s easier to stay on the wagon,” Hanemaayer said. “If they do fall off the wagon within the six-week period, they need to pay for the nicotine patches,” he joked.
The company also has a Fat Cat club for employees who want to lose weight. They weigh in each week and receive two dollars for every pound lost. The program has been extremely successful, and some employees have lost up to 30 pounds. “People often let themselves down, but they are less likely to do that when it’s a group effort. We have a joke around here that after employees complete the Kick Ash program, they gain weight, so then they join the Fat Cat club, and they lose it,” Hanemaayer said.
Roadtrek achieved something rare this past July—1 million hours without a loss-time injury. “This took us a little over three years to accomplish,” Hanemaayer said. “When we hit the 1 million mark, we gave every employee a tasteful leather jacket and a catered barbecue dinner to thank them for their efforts. We wanted to show them the benefits of making the workplace safer,” he said.
Source: http://www.redcoatpublishing.com/spotli ... adtrek.asp