“Custom Building Your Dreams”

Elkhart, Indiana is the heart of the Unites States “RV Country,” and is home to HL Enterprise, the premier manufacturer of park trailers, travel trailers, and 5th wheels.  The company began in 1986, when industry experts Mel Hyman and Peggy Flager founded the company, but then decided to retire in 2006 and sold Evolve Capital.   Evolve Capital pushed the company into financial ruin in 2011 and the two previous owners, along with a new partner, Randy Hoff, repurchased the assets and rights to the product name in order to again bring success to the company.

HL Enterprise has a strong customer-centric focus with the idea that “H L understands what you want…and our goal is to build your dreams.”

“Their park trailers are somewhat similar to the traditional Hy-Line product lines, but with many new upgrades, Hoff explained. “The triple slide trailers feature island kitchens, Corian countertops, thermopane patio doors, cherry wood cabinets and all-tinted windows.  Most of what we’re doing now is dictated by the market,” Hoff said. “A lot of the interiors are more plush and there is more of a residential appeal in construction. We also went to a higher ceiling. It’s no longer a travel trailer (84-inch) ceiling. Now it’s a 96-inch ceiling.”

With 32 production line employees working out a 2 building, 35,000 square foot factory, this small business works hard to roll out 4 trailers daily are a retail price starting at $30,000.    The new owners, who are actually the founders, are now working hard to bring the company back to the success that it once was.

“We’re doing a lot of damage control from the previous owners,” Hoff said, without elaborating. “We didn’t buy the liabilities, but we’re working with the dealer base and customers in trying to restore their confidence.”

Recently, the company has gone global with a dealer base in 40 states, along with Canada, England, and Australia; currently the company is also looking to create operations in China!

I found the three attached articles to be very interesting because it completely focused on moving the company back into the direction of their original goal.  Creating a quality product that is desirable to the customers, while making an adequate profit.  Yet the Evolve Capital did not follow through with this goal, and in turn failed.

Do you think that most ownership companies are truly knowledgeable about the products that they are producing, or are they just hungry to acquire and build capital?  Also, how do you think the company evolves, no pun intended, when a new management team takes over and does not hold true to the original idea of the company or corporation?  It appears that stories like this seem to repeat themselves constantly in business, including Dell, Starbucks, Apple, and so many others.






Creating a Real real business

Ok, so I can admit it.  I am a self-proclaimed nerd; I love the exhilaration of meeting new people, experiencing new places and going on adventures.  Yet my usual world traveling, backpacking, white-water rafting self is now a college student who works full-time, and is lacking in discretionary income.  So this year I made a resolution to go on a new kind of adventure, an adventure in reading.

My favorite books are non-fiction and I have vowed to read at least one book a month, having thus far being successful with no intent of failing.  The two most recent books I have read are Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson and Onward by Howard Schultz,  (Like I said I am a nerd, I plan on reading the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in July) and in reading both of these books I have realized a similarity.

In both cases, Steve and Howard, were formerly the CEO of their companies and for whatever reason stopped being the CEO, then years later made dramatic comebacks to help revive their failing companies.  Now, in school, we talk about them as if they are business gods and speak of them in nearly every business, marketing, and operations class I have taken at DePaul.  But what exactly was the knowledge that these men had to bring their respective companies back into complete success?

Finally, just today while watching a video entitled “Joseph Pine on what consumers want” on Ted.com I felt the enlightenment of this intellectual insight; it was that both focused their companies on rendering an authentic experience to their customers.  True, yes, both men strived to have a quality product that consumers desired, and that they through of themselves as a service industry company focusing on people, but even more so they focused on the customer experience.

Steve Jobs wanted each of his customers to build a relationship with their Apple product from the moment they purchased it.  He created the Apple Stores as an esthetically desirable retail outlet that enthralls anyone who walks in.  To visit the store is an experience; from the shirts the staff is wearing to the music that you hear.  Even the event of purchasing the MacBook, iPod, iPhone, or iPad and having the staff check you out on an Apple product is an experience!  I know I was on an adrenaline high after buying my first MacBook just nine months ago.  Steve continued the experiences of arising emotional responses from people on a daily basis when people use their Apple product; even the corporeal click of plugging in a MacBook to be charged, renders the authenticity of the usage experience.

Howard Shultz wanted each of his customers to have an experience from the moment they walked into the store.  One of the most angering items that he immediately addressed when returning to CEO position was to have freshly ground coffee in the store, and the removal of all breakfast sandwiches, what was the beautiful aroma of coffee could be the first sensorial experience that the customer has.  In addition, his building of the mass-customization of all drinks, from coffee to tea, helps his partners (with are employees) to create a relationship with the customer, while allowing the customer to render their own authentic drink.

Do you think that there will ever be a new marketing era that will surpass an experiential economic output?  Will there ever be a differentiation strategy that is more influential than those created by these two iconic CEO’s?  After watching the Ted video (link below), what other companies do you think offer an experience that both IS true of itself and IS what it says it is?

“Joseph Pine on what consumers want”