This month’s member spotlight features Kim Gregory of Coach- Net as she shares her passion for the RV industry, the impact of the RV lifestyle, and her journey in a male-dominated industry. Check out this Q&A with Kim as she shares her story in her own words:
HOW DID YOU BEGIN YOUR CAREER IN THE RV INDUSTRY?
Well, like many people in the RV industry, I originally had completely different plans for myself. After playing volleyball and softball for Barry University in Florida, I graduated with the intent to be a teacher and coach. I loved sports and that seemed like the natural progression for me. So, I returned home to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., and began teaching, but before long, I left teaching for the world of real estate and quickly discovered my love for sales. I found something I was passionate about and apparently that was evident in my work, because it was a customer of mine who brought me to Coach-Net which happened to be headquartered in Lake Havasu City. I first joined Coach-Net as an executive assistant over 11 years ago and am now the vice president of sales.
ARE YOU AN RVer YOURSELF?
Surprisingly, not until just recently. Growing up in Lake Havasu City I was obviously very familiar with boating and spent tons of time on the lake, but I had never really RVed until this last Christmas. For winter break my husband and I took on the daunting challenge of renting an RV and traveling across the southwest from Texas to California with our five children, including our 2-year-old triplets. We had an absolute amazing time visiting awe-inspiring places like the Grand Canyon, exploring caverns in New Mexico, and camping on the beach in California. At first we were slightly intimated, and if I’m being totally honest – a little scared, for our family to spend two whole weeks on the road in an RV, but now we can’t wait to do it again. We had an incredible experience enjoying the outdoors, spending quality time together as a family and truly living in the moment. The whole family loved the trip and we now plan to make it an annual tradition.
THE INDUSTRY HAS CHANGED GREATLY DURING YOUR CAREER. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR REFLECTIONS ON THAT?
Over the past decade RVing has seen dramatic changes, largely driven by the change in the market. Traditionally, RVers would take short weekend trips and the occasional weeklong excursion. Now, we are seeing a much younger demographic dominating the consumer market. These young RVers want new and unique experiences seeking adventures far off the beaten path. We are also seeing more and more families elect to totally embrace the outdoor lifestyle by living and traveling full time while working in their RVs. They’re educating their children on the road and giving them experiences they would never get in a traditional classroom. It’s become an entire revolution transforming the pastime of RVing into an all-encompassing lifestyle. The changes in the consumer market have been incredible to witness and learning to adapt our benefits and services to better suit the customers’ needs has been a rewarding challenge.
CAN YOU ELABORATE ON SOME OF THOSE CHANGING WAYS?
Well, in the past, RVers would rarely stray from an established RV park or campground, but, as I mentioned, now RVers are regularly seeking to camp at places like vineyards, farms, undeveloped beach locations, and frequently driving their RVs and trailers onto unpaved roadways. This adventurous mindset has opened a whole new world for RVers to explore, but, it has also exposed them to new struggles. Currently our roadside assistance limits sending service providers to RVs located no further than 100 feet from a maintained road. With the recent consumer trends we’ve recognized that this limited feature is no longer sufficient to the customers’ needs. Consequently, we’re in the process of removing that limitation and expanding our benefits to ensure our customers are taken care of. Coach-Net’s mission is to be our customers’ connection to carefree RVing. That means if the customer experience changes and they’re consistently encountering new issues since they’ve discovered new ways to use and enjoy their RVs, then we simply need to follow suit. We know that RVers are going to encounter problems when they travel; we want to provide them with the solution. So new problems mean new solutions and evolving with the changes.
We’re also excited to see other companies and organizations within the industry evolving with the changing market. Coach-Net has known for years how valuable technicians are to RVers. That’s why we have our own in-house RV certified technicians. Customers can call in 24/7 to ask questions or troubleshoot issues they may be having with components. Towing and tire changes will always be a necessity for any RVer, but we are seeing more and more RVers appreciate having direct access to a certified technician. And, with so many service locations often overwhelmed with the number of customers needing care, we have more and more RVers seeking mobile technicians who can come to them. The significant rise in the number of RVers the demand for these specially trained technicians is becoming even greater. We love that RVIA is really digging into this increasing demand for service with initiatives like the RV Technical Institute.
WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING A WOMAN IN SUCH A MALE-DOMINATED INDUSTRY?
I think this “male-dominated” mindset the industry is historically known for has undergone significant changes since I first joined. At first, it was slightly intimidating, but I’ve had several mentors, who are men, who made sure I always felt welcome and included. They supported me in being an outspoken leader and I have worked hard to encourage everyone I’ve mentored, both men and women, to do the same. Coach-Net actually has a ton of women working in numerous departments. In fact, we’re proud to say that one of our RV technicians on staff is a woman. Female RV technicians is a rarity, but, I would love to see more women in that role. Women can sometimes have a tendency to compete with each other, when we really should be working together to support each other and our collective advancement within the RV industry. That’s why I’m excited to be on the board of the RV Women’s Alliance. It’s a newly formed organization focused on bringing both men and women together to create a more inclusive and supportive industry. We have made great progress and with new initiatives, like the RV Women’s Alliance, and the continued hard work and advancement of women, like myself, I am confident the RV industry will see even greater success in the years to come.