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Old 01-10-2014, 02:21 PM   #1
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Meet Mike Snell

After attending the unveiling of the 2015 Monaco Dynasty at Charlotte Motor Speedway this past week, I feel compelled to comment on the person who I think will be the driving force behind Monaco’s “Return to Power”.

First, the entire event was crippled by the bitter cold. Mike Snell had arranged for several members of the Monaco home team to make presentations about the features of the new Dynasty and the new Monaco Coach Corporation. None of them could get flights out of their ice-bound airports. Mike himself was there because he drove the Dynasty to the event, so it was left almost entirely to him to fill in for everyone else. Let me say from the start that I never expected to meet this man in person, and I am very much impressed.

I would not have wanted to be Mike Snell. If I had been the most prominent figure at a corporation that went belly-up, and left both owners and dealers holding the bag, I would not have wanted to be there. I would have sent one of my lackeys. What I expected, and was prepared for, was a well-planned, professionally written speech delivered by a Jay Carney clone—i.e., “It’s not my fault. It’s not OUR fault. It just happened and we couldn’t help it.” Instead, what I listened to was an impassioned plea from a man truly dedicated to the RV industry. It must be a humbling experience to admit to a group of folks who have all purchased at least one of your products, that you let them down. It has to be even more difficult to explain in excruciating detail the mistakes and misjudgments you personally made that hastened Monaco’s downfall. Yes, that must be one helluva difficult speech to make to a small group, each of whom has direct eye contact with you. But that is exactly what Mike Snell did.

I will spare you the details of Monaco’s rescue by some investors who specialize in rescuing companies with viable brands. The investment firm has deep pockets, but perhaps most important, they are rich in industrial engineering expertise. They are not just corporate raiders. From what I have heard from Mike Snell, and all I can read on the subject, Monaco will now have engineering and production expertise it did not have before. As long as the economy does not collapse, I think Monaco will have a better chance even than most existing MH manufacturers to become dominant once again in its field.

Perhaps one of the things that will give Monaco its greatest edge is the good judgment of its new owners in making two key upper management decisions. One, they are leaving the “nuts and bolts” operation of Monaco in the hands of those that know it best—many of the previous employees and management team. The investors have great engineering expertise and will guard their investment and require it to be profitable, but will not micro-manage it. Perhaps even more important, those investors wisely chose to separate Monaco/Holiday Rambler/Beaver engineering and development teams. Their rationale was that if the separate brands were to survive and to NOT become all the same coach with different emblems, they needed to foster a sense of competition among the brands. If Monaco, or Beaver, or HR engineering teams come up with a winning concept, it will be THEIRS, for their brand. To be sure, Mike said, some basic engineering improvements will make their way into all brands, but each brand is free to show their own expertise and to benefit solely from it. I find that to be an interesting, somewhat out-of-the-ordinary concept coming from basically venture capitalists.

With the small turnout due to the weather, I had a much unexpected opportunity to repeatedly engage Mike Snell on a one-to-one basis. As I said, I am impressed with the man and with his vision for what I think he considers to be his “child”—Monaco. I, and a Monaco acquaintance, did not get to attend the tour of the Freightliner plant. As we both spoke to Mike at the Speedway Club dinner about what we missed, my friend said that he was sorry he missed the opportunity to drive the new coach. Without hesitation, Mike Snell said, “I have to fly out early in the morning, or I would love to accompany you on a test drive. But I will leave the keys and tell the Tom Johnson Campground staff that you and your friend are coming by tomorrow morning for a test drive.” I was surprised, to say the least! As we parted that night, Mike only added in jest, “You won’t wreck it, will you?”

So, the next morning, my friend and I arrive at the RV sales office of Tom Johnson RV, pick up the keys, and off we go without so much as an accompanying salesperson. “Mike said he was sending someone to test drive the coach,” was all the salesperson said. The driving impressions of the new coach I’ve listed in another post.

I think the fact that Mike Snell turned down a lucrative offer with another non-RV company (whose name he divulged and we all know well) fits well with my impression of the man. I do believe he is dedicated to the “Return to Power” of Monaco. I believe he is just as dedicated to regaining the trust and support of a group of customers who were once arguably the most brand-loyal DP owners ever. I am not presently in the market for a new coach. But if I were, I would be looking intently at the FUTURE prospects of a company whose management team just might be the best the entire industry has ever seen.

Van W. 2000 Dynasty 36 pulling one Harley
Eastern NC
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Old 01-11-2014, 09:35 AM   #2
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Thank you for this well-written summary of your experience! I too am excited that Monaco is on the way back up!
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