Since the 1970s, when John Rawl founded John’s RV in Lexington, South Carolina, the dealership’s motto has been “taking care of customers the best we can.” Over the past 18 months, this has meant taking care of a lot more customers and Chris Rawl, John’s grandson and one of eight Rawls employed at the dealership, knew strategic thinking was needed to maintain their commitment to customer service.
“The work in our service department needed to be standardized to increase efficiency,” said Rawl, the operating partner and General Sales Manager at John’s RV. “Everyone was doing things in their own way. So, we encouraged our techs to take training courses and, if they intended to stay with us for a while, we’d foot the bill.”
The problem was that not all of the techs were committed to going through the training -- even when it became clear that this was the only way to earn a higher salary. So, the company became reticent to spend the money on RVTI’s certification programs if their techs were going to drop out.
But Air Force veteran and rookie RV tech Tim Scott, 43, was game. He wanted to learn more about the profession that he’d quickly come to love and particularly in the area that he and the company saw as a growing need: electronics and electrical systems. So, Scott suggested paying for the Level I certification himself, and if he passed, the company would reimburse him.
“I was happy to put some skin in the game,” said Scott. “And after passing Level 1, I was hooked.”
A strong work ethic and a record of advancing his career through education were part of Scott’s heritage and resume. As a child in rural South Carolina, his role model was his father, a former drill sergeant and Master Carpenter who owned his own general contracting business. Scott often worked with his dad on projects, including building a community church which his father, also a preacher, led. Carpentry and plumbing became the first skills Scott learned on the winding road that ultimately led to the RV industry.
After high school, Scott joined the Air Force, where he became an electronics specialist repairing ground radar systems used in air traffic control. After two years, he enlisted in the Reserves and when not serving as a “weekend warrior,” he attended Central Carolina University, majoring in network administration. This area of skills became the second he mastered en route to the RV industry.
In the early 2000’s, when demand for high-speed Internet service was growing, Scott, deploying the “over the horizon” thinking he’d learned in the military, got a job with Time Warner. He worked first as a PC technician helping with hardware upgrades, and later doing installs and service calls.
In between, he enrolled in a machinist program at a local college, and while he soon realized a career in manufacturing did not interest him, the skills he learned would also help him to one day service RVs.
At last, in 2019, Scott had a chance conversation with the pastor of his church about the difficulty another member of the congregation was having getting his RV serviced. When he learned that he could make a lot more money fixing RVs, Scott, a father of four, decided to apply for a job at John’s RV.
“It was like everything I had learned throughout my career came together to prepare me for this job,” said Scott. “I loved it, but I knew I needed training. The more experienced techs didn’t have time to teach me; they would fix whatever I couldn’t, then hurry off to service the next unit.”
“People like Scott want to learn the most they can,” said Rawl. The company paid for Scott to take the Level 2 certification program at RVTI, which entailed three weeks of virtual classes and one week of in-person classes in Elkhart.
“While not having him in the shop for a week was challenging, it was definitely worth it,” said Rawl, who believes the knowledge Scott gained has made him more confident. “The virtual courses are good, but they can’t beat hands-on training.”
Scott agreed. “The remote classes are harder and you have to want it more because you have to sacrifice all of your personal time,” he said. “The onsite advantage is if you’re having trouble, an instructor is there to give immediate feedback.”
The enthusiasm in Scott’s voice was palpable as he described working on axels, generators, air conditioners, frames with no house on top so he could see how the slide mechanism worked, and cutaways where he could see inside walls and the roof.
“We saw exactly how RVs are built, then we took them apart and put them back together,” said Scott who noted that all of the RV components were donated by manufacturers. “The RVTI instructors made sure that not only were we book smart, but we could perform all of the work. The number of tasks we encountered in one week wouldn’t happen in the real world; it would take years at a dealership to see all of these.”
Having passed the Level 2 certification – which Scott likened to core university classes -- he is already halfway towards obtaining his Level 3 certification.
“Now it’s like working towards your major,” said Scott. After discussions with his managers revealed a need for a specialist in logic control, he declared his “major” to be electronics and electrical systems. The dealership currently has specialists in generators, awnings, slideouts and other mechanical functions, he said, but work on electronics requires calls to tech support, reading manuals and Googling information – a process that can take half a day or more.
“We needed someone to make our service more efficient on systems related to satellite, multiplexing, Internet access and online navigation,” said Rawl. “We’re excited that Scott has stepped up to be that guy and we fully support his training and certification process.”
As John’s RV seeks new ways to take care of customers the best it can, its average service turnaround time continues to decrease. Rawl is happy to let customers know of his certified RV techs and he’s on the lookout for more of them to go through RVTI training.