Six months after announcing the expected sale of Casper, Wyoming’s Sonny’s RV to Camping World, the dealership’s owners reconsidered.
Earlier this month, Sonny’s RV General Manager Mike Rone announced to the community that the dealership turned down the Camping World offer.
Rone said he was energized by the process and looking forward to the year ahead.
“We are able to show the employees that, if we can make these few changes,” he said, “it is going to benefit the employees as well. They are doing better; they are making more money for the dealership and we are going to pay them more money.”
The original decision to sell was not one Rone and his father, Sonny, came to because they were prepared to retire. Mike Rone said he was approached by Camping World Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis, asking whether the family would be interested in selling.
Rone and his father had a long discussion before agreeing, then took time over the next six months to evaluate the dealership, their desires and feedback from employees and the Casper community.
“We did a lot of research and had a lot of discussions,” Rone said, “and it turned out that we just did not feel it was the right direction for us to go.”
As the final three months of 2023 passed, Rone said he noticed Sonny’s RV sales falling. Meanwhile, he heard a nearby competitor saw sales rise.
“Through the grapevine, we heard that a lot of people did not want to buy from us because we were selling to Camping World,” Rone said. “They did not want to deal with them. It definitely affected our sales and you can see that in the stats.”
With the decision made to remain locally owned, Rone said he took the lessons learned while reviewing the company last year to implement changes this year. Among the areas he identified to improve is service operations.
“We did OK but there were a lot of flaws there,” he said. “We have hired a company to come in and work with us to make our procedures and processes better for our customers and for our employees.”
The company began work about three weeks ago. Rone said having an outside group help identify improvement opportunities already is starting to change operations for the better.
Rone said employee feedback about the sale cancellation has been positive. The community also has been behind the decision, he said.
“The employees really like the changes and they are excited about where we are going with this,” he said. “Our big focus in the community is helping children, through Make-a-Wish, the Child Development Center and the Boys/Girls Club. We did not think that was going to continue, and that was a big decision-maker for us.”
Sonny Rone is about 80% retired and living in Arizona in the winters, Mike Rone said. Although Mike Rone said he is not ready to retire quite yet, he is looking forward to bringing in executive help. Mike Rone has been the general manager and the general sales manager for the past seven years. He is actively seeking a general sales manager to hire.
“I want to bring somebody else in that has a different point of view, to help our business grow,” he said. “We want to look at new segments of business. I don’t know if that is boats or other avenues our customers can enjoy. I want to bring on more employees, too.”