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The recent success of Rangeland RV being named a top dealer in North America is truly remarkable considering the journey the dealership has taken over the last couple of years.
First of all, Dania Filippetto is not your common second or third generation owner. She began her business from the ground up in 2001 after previously working for another large RV dealership in Calgary. Within a couple months, she hired a sales and service staff and the business took off.
With great momentum and Dania’s sights set on even bigger and better things for the business, the unthinkable happened. On October 16, 2014, the Rocky View, AB, business experienced a devastating fire and the facility was destroyed. This didn’t stop Dania and her staff. They collectively worked together to exceed expectations and were named an RVBusiness Top 50 dealer in 2015.
We recently sat down with Dania to talk about handling adversity and how making a difference in the lives of others breeds success.
The story of how you began Rangeland RV is incredible. Tell us more about how you worked to make the business what it is today.
Dania: “After working for another large RV dealership, I decided that it was time for me to try opening up my own business. I was a finance manager at the previous dealership, so I felt I had a lot of experience to get things started.
In 2001, I bought a load of campers from a dealership that had gone out of business in Pennsylvania. I washed them all, set them up myself, put out an ad and sold them within a week. After that, I went down to Indiana and literally went door knocking to see what lines were available in Alberta. It was just myself the first two months and then I hired a sales staff and brought over a couple of technicians that I knew. Literally that’s how it started. The first year we sold 111 RVs and last year we sold 702.”
In 2014, you experienced a devastating fire. How did it impact the business?
Dania: “We had a fire in October of that year and it was a complete loss. It started at midnight and was finally under control around 7:30 a.m. The cause was never officially determined. They think it was building or electrical issues.
We pretty much lost everything. In fact, the only thing that we were able to save was our daily backup system, which was located in our fireproof safe. Due to my previous online backup system not working correctly, I had gone back to the old way of backing up my system. My accountant changed out my hard drives every three days on top of having a Windows backup.
I was very thankful for my old school way of doing things because we were able to recover all but three days of data. That being said, three days is still very difficult to overcome. There were some things we could never figure out. We didn’t even know what customers were supposed to come in the next week for service. We had no idea of any dates, times, etc. We literally sat down and started calling customers on open work orders to find out who was supposed to come in and whose trailers were in the shop. Thankfully IDS was able to get us up and running within three days. It was the only thing that allowed us to keep moving.
After the fire, it took us roughly nine days to get a temporary location and we were back up and running. In the meantime, we’ve spent the last year rebuilding and putting complete new processes in place. We’re rebuilding a new 23,500 square foot building on 12 acres of land that promises to be the nicest dealership in province when it’s done.”
What advice do you have for other dealers who experience a natural disaster of this magnitude?
Dania: “If I could write a book on what you should and shouldn’t do, I’d advise dealers to really take a look at their insurance policy because we are still in litigation with our company. You may feel like you’re covered with an RV comprehensive package, but you really need to look at your limitations. I think a lot dealers put limitations on their insurance because they don’t think they’ll ever go through a total loss. Dealers should take a look at the entire package and look at it as what would happen if you had a complete loss. For example, your computer system. The value of what you paid for your system several years ago isn’t what it costs to replace it today.
The other side to a natural disaster is that although our server was backed up, our actual PCs in everyone’s offices were not. People think computers save through the server but they don’t. So we lost our emails and our pictures to our manufacturers. Thankfully we have such a good marriage with Forest River because all of our communication back and forth was lost. Even the smallest things such as proof of business cards. Unless your staff is backing up daily on their own computers, you run the risk of losing tons of valuable information.
As a dealership, you need to make it mandatory that your people are backing up at least monthly. To help keep our data safe, we’ve decided to go with the Microsoft 365 Office program, which isn’t cheap. But if something were to happen tomorrow, we can still go back to all of our emails. We can also share documents back and forth and work on them at home.”
Through your adversity with the fire, you still managed to be named a 2015 RVBusiness Top 50 dealer. What factors contributed to being named one of North America’s best dealers?
Dania: “Through such a huge trying time, I’d say one of our biggest contributing factors is that our team is incredible. I’d say 90% of our employees have been with us for over five years and everyone came together. We didn’t lose people because of what happened and that showed me why we are so successful. My people, as a team, are truly passionate about what they do. I think selling RVs is easy. Retaining customers and getting referrals is hard work. From the smallest to largest things, our staff believes in the company and philosophies. We treat our guests as if they are guests in our own home. They all drink the same Kool-Aid and love what they do. Alberta is saturated with RV dealerships, so our competition is huge. Alberta is also in a tough economic crunch, so we really look inside our own bubble and see how we can stand out and be the choice.
In addition to our people, we also have great relationships with Forest River so we carry the top lines in North America. If you don’t have that, you won’t be successful.”
The Rangeland team has been big supporters of local causes in your community. What does it mean for your dealership to have this kind of presence?
Dania: “Back in 2001, I was fortunate enough to meet a lady who was unbelievably passionate about making strides with curing childhood cancer. Back then, 75% of children died of cancer. Today 75% live. She was so unique in starting a camp for children with cancer where they could go and enjoy the outdoors and camping. I came up with this plan that at every RV show, every consumer that was going to buy a trailer was going to donate money to the camp so children could enjoy the same experience. Over 14 years, we’ve raised over $200,000 for this particular cause. During the shows, we bring in children with cancer and cancer survivors to volunteer at our fishing pond and these kids move me in a direction that I’ve never seen before. Nothing phases them. They are so excited to help. We are also the go-to dealer for Make-a-Wish in our province. We sell roughly seven RVs each year at a massively reduced rate so children can fulfill their wish. Their last wish is to own a trailer with their family and go camping.
Every initiative we do, whether it’s the children’s camp or supporting the food bank at Christmas time, gives our employees a great sense of satisfaction. If you’re being successful, it’s only right to support the community.”
On the business side, you mentioned how much IDS has helped. What led you to choosing it as your dealer management system?
Dania: “When I first started in 2001, we ran on a Windward accounting system. We moved to a different facility three years later and knew we needed a new system. At my previous job, I used IDS. I looked at other systems, but I didn’t like them as much as IDS. I also had a controller who was very familiar with IDS. It was a huge investment and I was super proud when we first got it. I knew it interlinked all of the departments together. Overnight, it made a huge difference. My accounting department was like night and day. Just having the right system in place can make you more successful.”
What features in the system have helped you the most?
Dania: “CRM makes our sales department successful when it’s used properly. I love how everything talks to each other. I can’t even imagine running the dealership without it. We just sent out an email to 6,000 people and we were amazed with the response. The reporting really allows you to capture any problems you have to deal with.
On the service side, you can track billed vs collectible hours. That alone helps my service manager coach his people every day. Clocking in and clocking out is night and day. We can now go back to our manufacturers and show them the difference. For example, you can prove that it doesn’t take an hour to complete a job, it takes two. You’re able to track that efficiently and show your manufacturer. Being able to send email appointments and work orders to customers is huge. We’re really working on customer communication and that comes with a computer system that works efficiently. I think it’s great that IDS is consistently doing updates and looking at the software to see how it can be better.”
What future goals do you have for the dealership and what contributions do you see from both your employees and IDS in helping you attain those goals?
Dania: “We’re in the middle of a huge rebuild. You can build beautiful walls, but unless you’re also concentrating on making your departments the best it can be, it’s pointless. We want to be more successful at selling trailers and getting through a tough economic time. Fortunately with the new building, we’ll go in with our new systems in place and we’ll be looking to implement some of the great things that IDS has come out with such as mobile technology. It hasn’t made sense to implement them into a temporary facility, but we’ll be looking to IDS for a lot of support and help as we move forward.”
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