Tom Ryan admits that he’s “looking forward to not having to punch the clock anymore.” But there is still the sense that the 70-year-old, who logged 47 1/2 years primarily in the RV industry’s distribution arena, will still pick up the phone if a problem arises.
“I have let everyone know that I will still be around,” said Ryan, who is set to retire from his dual role as president and co-founder of D&R Agency and senior vice president of sales and marketing for Elkhart, Ind.-based Arterra Distribution. “I invested too much time helping build the business just to walk away and not look back.”
His resume depicts a professional career tracing back to some of the industry’s most prominent distributors, holding key management positions with KEVCO, Shelter Components, BABSCO, and McDonald Equipment Co. In 2001, he and colleague Dave Davenport ventured out on their own and founded D&R, a manufacturer’s sales rep agency handling RV componentry that includes a full line of power products from WFCO Electronics. And that presented another business opportunity.
“We developed a solid relationship with WFCO, and in 2006, they hired us to run their sales and distribution operations,” said Ryan, noting the company’s lineup of converters, inverters, distribution panelboards, and transfer switches are built at WFCO’s factory in Southeast China. “It’s been a tremendous partnership. WFCO currently owns the lion’s share of the converter marketplace in the U.S., growing the business from 15% of the market when we started to approximately an 80% share.”
While building WFCO’s sales volume and its establishment as a power product sector leader, Ryan maintained a long-term relationship with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), serving in various roles with the organization’s standards committees.
“I started my career as a standards inspector with RVI, the predecessor to RVIA,” Ryan said. “RVI’s board of directors passed a requirement that OEMs had to comply with national safety standards to be a member. It created a need to have an inspector visit companies and scrutinize their production lines for conformance.
“Since that point, I have been heavily involved in the standards arena,” he noted. “I was chief standards inspector, director of standards for the eastern region that included 34 states, and vice president for the eastern region office in Elkhart.”
Accordingly, that background translated to his tenure in the distribution community, as he applied the same critical eye to products his companies represented. “I was very involved with the RV products we handled, ensuring they were high quality and safe. That was a direct result of my years spent with the standards committees.
“I’m proud of that, and that’s one reason I’m comfortable retiring and not being at the office every day. I feel like everything is in excellent hands.”