Potts: Winnebago More Responsive to Market
Winnebago Industries Inc. CEO Randy Potts flipped the pages of a recreational vehicle magazine until he got to the page with a new Winnebago advertisement.
The ad promises a new Mercedes Benz with a purchase of a Winnebago motorhome. The ad shows photos of the front end grills of several Winnebago and Itasca models, which have the Mercedes Benz logos. Winnebago uses Mercedes Benz’ chassis in many of its products and motorhomes carry the Mercedes Benz logo.
Potts said the ad is edgier than what Winnebago would have written and designed in the past, but it’s part of the culture he is fostering as he enters his second year as CEO, president and chairman of the board, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported.
“There is an excitement around here and I think everyone can share that with you,” Potts said.
Advertising, sales and marketing are just one example of how he wants employees and companies to be bolder and “more responsive to the market.”
Potts hired Scott Degnan as vice president of sales and product development within the past year. Degnan had worked for other recreational vehicle manufacturers before coming to Winnebago.
“My perception coming in was that Winnebago had built a reputation of very high quality products but that it was somewhat resistant to change as in ‘we’ve done it this way for years,’” Degnan said.
When he met Potts and visited the company, Degnan realized the company was ready for changes.
“Randy is a change agent,” Degnan said.
Potts said while the company needs to lead on trends and changes or be on the edge of those, it cannot sacrifice quality or the foundation that’s been built on that quality.
Still, “you have to be bold enough to take risks,” Potts said.
For Winnebago, advertisements such as the one that uses Mercedes Benz and others, are examples of taking risks and “empowering people to do it,” Potts said.
“There is more freedom,” said Kelli Harms, a public relations and marketing specialist with Winnebago. “I hate to use the cliched ‘think outside the box’ but that’s what it is.”
Degnan said Harms, her department director Chad Reece and other employees, “felt handcuffed.”
When Degnan said the department had more freedom, Reece responded with, ‘I’ve got such a great team we will blow your mind.’”
Advertising is just one example, Potts said.
The company released two new models with a price of $69,999 for 2013 to hit a price point it was missing before.
Potts said employees completely reconfigured existing motorhomes to get to the new models. They didn’t just remove or add pieces from prior models, Potts said.
He’s formed product development teams that will be responsible for specific products within the company.
Employees will be challenged and they will be encouraged to be creative, Potts said.
“It’s everything, from ads to product development to the way we conduct meetings,” Potts said. “It’s time to change what’s been done here but what won’t change is the quality of the product. That is non-negotiable.”