Ultimate Off-Road Campers Podcast: Episode 2
We had a fireside chat with Andrew Hearne (literally, bearing in mind the bush fires streaking through the South Coast when we were recording!). Andrew is a key member of the Ultimate Off-Road Campers Sales team and he tells us about his year and his new-found career as a video producer!
EQ [00:00:00] Welcome to the Ultimate Off-Road Campers podcast. I'm Eamonn, I'm the marketing guy. I'm still here after the last podcast, thankfully, after we interviewed the boss, the Big Kahuna himself, David Rodgers. Now, I'm easily excited to be perfectly frank about it. I'm the kind of guy who gets up in the morning and if there's still milk in the fridge because I've four kids, and some of them are like in their 20s and some are teenagers, I'm really excited about the day ahead. You know, if they actually get up and say, I emptied the dishwasher. It's like it's Christmas. So easily excited. But that's not the take away from the fact that I'm spending quality time with Andrew Hearn today and Andrew, many of you will know, you'll have either been emailed by or you'll have met him at show. And Andrew is a member of the Ultimate Off-Road Campers sales team. But I'm super excited. It's only Wednesday, I mean, I'm not sure my we can get any better. So Andrew, you're welcome.
AH [00:00:53] Thank you. Well, I can say it's good to be a part of the second podcast because first one was awesome.
EQ [00:01:00] Well, that's it. I mean, like, yeah, everyone knows, like Neil Armstrong was first on the moon. But, you know, everyone likes Buzz Aldrin. You know what I mean. So you make you essentially Ultimate Off-Road Campers version of Buzz Aldrin. So welcome to the podcast again. What we're going to do, we're going to chat to Andrew, about things, just stuff that happens in the Ultimate Campers world. You know how we ended up as part of one of the industry's great sales teams. That was a quick shout out there to the great Steve Smith and John Àrchibald as well. The show year that the guys have had that Andy has been on the road more than Frank Sinatra probably. And over the last twelve months, he's been everywhere around the country listening to potential new customers and listening to our current owners and stuff like that. So we'll hear a little bit about that and then we'll kind of make this up as we're going along, which is pretty much what we like to do here. So, Andrew, first up, tell us a little bit about your Ultimate Off-Road Campers history. How long are you with the company? What did you do before you got into sales team?
AH [00:01:56] Well, obviously, I've I've lived in Batemans Bay for 45 years, so I sort of grew up in the caravan industry. I can remember actually when the Ultimate started being in such a small town, it was a pretty exciting thing to have a business like that - another manufacturer, because I grew up in a manufacturing business. So there's not many of those around locally. So I can remember back in those days and also in my previous business, we were one of the founding members of the Rosehill Super Show. So whilst I was at the show, when Ultimate appeared at the show for the first time and then many, many years go by, and I found myself in a position looking for a job, but being in such a hurry to find a job, because I had never any time away from work from the day I finished and Kim my wife hassled me to go get a job. I was expecting to spend a few weeks at home, probably sitting on my bum doing nothing. And that lasted one day. And he said, I think you should go and get a job. And I just heard on the radio, Ultimate Campers are looking for a position. So I thought, geez, I've never had a résumé before. Whipped one of those up, sent it down, spoke to HR and they said, oh, look, we'll be we'll be looking at resumes in four or five days time. I think it took 25 minutes and I received a phone call from Jason. So, you better come down, have a chat, which I did. And he said, well, what do you want to do? Well, Nautilus was going, so I thought, oh, something over there.
EQ [00:03:23] So he just pointed in the general direction of what was the Nautlus and said something over there?
AH [00:03:29] Obviously, the owners at that time knew my name and a little bit of my history and obviously said, get that bloke down here. So while Jason sort of led to the thing, there was a goal already put in position. So I came down and spent a bit of time working with the Nautilus and then pretty promptly shipped over to the other side here to the X-series with the current Ultimate Camper and here you go, here's a team. Make it happen.
EQ [00:03:54] Now what are you doing? What would you like? Tell us what you were doing with the Nautilus.
AH [00:03:59] With the Nautilus. Plenty of little jobs. Just sort of some of the finer detail essentially during assembly. So not in the fiberglass part. Once it sort of started to come together, work around those those finer things, and then obviously once those guys sort of realised that I'd spent a lot of time in that sort of department, a lot of driving, a lot of larger loads, I soon got lumped into towing and driving things. The first time we took a Nautilus to the, or we had a black Nautilus, which now resides in New Zealand. No one was game or silly enough to drive it to the Rosehill Super Show for fear that something would happen. So everyone pointed the finger at me and went here, hook this up.
EQ [00:04:38] If something happens, we'll sack you. We're not that worried about it. Yeah, dreadful. I know the feeling, they did that to me.
AH [00:04:43] Especially something that they'd spent so much time getting it to look the way it was a matte black Nautilus. Yeah, those sorts of things. And then came over here.
EQ [00:04:53] So you're on the X-series, getting under the bonnet of the X-series.
AH [00:04:57] Yep. In the X-series running the team on the floor.
EQ [00:05:01] Tell me about your management style, are you Sergeant Major are you going around with shiny boots saying....
AH [00:05:06] I am a cranky old man when it comes to dealing with too many people, as some of you may be aware, but no, did that for a while and then started to move in this helping out with some of the apprentices and training. Then moved in to doing the handovers. Obviously don't mind chatting as a lot of the owners may have figured out by now. So moved into that area and coming from a background of a lot of camping, a lot of traveling, caravanning and what have you. A lot of life experience. So where previously the sales team was solely left with the handover sort of task. They made the decision to sort of have a full time handover person. You know, that was a bit of the specialty. And, you know, some quality assurance with the finished product. So I moved into that redesigned or put more structure to a handover and then whilst the guys, John, Steve, Dave are away at shows, started to do some sales here for the walk-ins. So the people that call into the factory, you know, want to come to HQ to purchase rather than go to a show, there was someone here that could talk to them about purchasing.
EQ [00:06:14] And lucky them it was you mate.
AH [00:06:14] So started some sales. So once again ended up with about three hats.
EQ [00:06:21] So is it true that every time the guys went away on a show and they came back, it was quite a few sales and very often, very often there was massive discounts applied? Oh, no joking. I'm joking.
AH [00:06:31] No, I did have a bad habit of that?
EQ [00:06:32] I thought so. I thought I'd just, there's something you said they mate which is interesting is about being a cranky old man. And as you were talking, I was thinking about and as Steve Smith is a cranky old man, I'm a cranky old man.
AH [00:06:43] We sort of get to that.
EQ [00:06:44] So Graham downstairs is a cranky old man. It's like it's like Ultimate Off-Road Crankers is what we should be called.
AH [00:06:51] Oh, this is when we're at home base. So when we're away....
EQ [00:06:55] Totally different. Totally different mates, smiles all round. So anyway, so you're doing the handovers, see, I'm busy interrupting you. You do the handover as you're getting underneath the bonnet and you understand this product, you understand the intricate bits and pieces of what makes an Ultimate Off-Road Camper. And you're also getting that experience of face to face working, talking, cajoling customers into the product. So and then then the light light bulb goes off in somebody's head, probably Steve's, Steve's light bulb moment. He says, I have a good idea, which he then takes it aboard as his good idea. And he says?
AH [00:07:28] He says, I think you need to come along at the shows because you seem to like to talk to people and you can sell campers.
EQ [00:07:35] Well, you see, that was kind of like me. Accept one bit's missing. You seem to like to talk an awful lot. But that was the end of it. There was no and you can sell campers. So I would just like to tell you. So there you are, you join the team, you now in the sales team you've been there for at least I think, what, 18 months-ish? Something around those something around that's kind of space. And you've made obviously a big impact. Thank you for that, that in-depth sort of history of who you are. Now tell us a little bit about the show. So the show circuit this season has been has been good. We've done a lot of different shows in Ultimate Campers that we kind of haven't done before. We're back in places like Perth and things like that. The Eaglle Outdoors Group has allowed us get into other shows and resource of the shows that we couldn't have done before. So all over. What is the show season been like this year?
AH [00:08:23] Obviously, this year's probably bigger than it's ever been with exactly that. We have now access to shows and Perth is just a small snippet of that. There's shows in a lot of states which are based around where you have to either have a show room or an agency in that area. So there's shows. Brisbane, for example, that we've never been able to attend before their end of year Christmas show. Your two shows in Perth alone, which the Perth Caravan and camping show this year was by far our biggest show because obviously it'd been roughly 8 years since we'd been there.
EQ [00:08:55] So, Ultimate kind of still looks new if you know what I mean. The product has always kind of looked a little bit different. We get that. So that's that's fine. But the fact that we hadn't been there in eight years and we come back almost makes us look like a completely new. Out of this world product again, right?.
AH [00:09:09] Absolutely. Like, whilst there's plenty of Ultimates over there in WA to go to a show and you get that large volume of people come in the door who may be new to the industry, there's nothing out there that looks even remotely close to it. You know, there's a there's a lot of your basic style campers, people have soft floors, forward folds and that, nothing looks like an Ultimate. So for them, it's quite mind blowing. And then when you when you do mention that being around for 25 years and one of the iconic brands in the beginning of it, they're just blown away. They go, "so, 25 years ago this shape was born". And to them, they find that quite amazing because it is it is still very much forward thinking and in a very futuristic look. Which no one else has, you know, tried to replicate at this point.
EQ [00:09:58] Now. So this year, obviously, we've brought speaking about a supposed the product and where the product looks and it still looks freshness looks new. However, this year David made some enhancements to the range and we've seen the launch of the 360. So what's been the reaction at the shows and what's the general reaction to 360? I think it's been pretty positive, but you're the guy who listens to people face on.
AH [00:10:21] Yeah. You know, even before it went to the public, the opportunity from David to the sales team or to run with ideas or wishes that we'd wanted to do it re-energized us, you know, instead of having a camper that would look ,sure, had advancements in 25 years to have something as fresh and new. And it in reality is probably the the largest change that's occurred to the conventional Ultimate Camper in its 25 years. So we were jumping around out of our skins even before we got to the first show. So, number one, it re-energized the the sales staff dramatically as in we're excited. You know, while we're always been excited to have something drastically new was exciting. And then obviously, the public interest was just staggering. And that that has reflected the fact that, you know, we're now out in May for sales, which have been quite some time to have that that lead time with build.
EQ [00:11:21] That was a very brief ad there for you better start thinking about buying a camper.
AH [00:11:26] If you want to if for Christmas, We're talking about Christmas 2020. Not this year.
EQ [00:11:31] I think we counted it up you and I and Steve and even David, there was like 40 something, 50 something different tweaks. And we've we talked about it before, so we won't get into it again from the smallest to the biggest. And we know the 360 word comes from the actual canvas itself being completely wrapped around the product. What's your favorite tweak? And it could be something small or something big? I don't care. What's the wow factor when you go? I think this is a really good one.
AH [00:11:56] Mine is simply the 360 awning. Like, it's you know, when you work full time, what we do for the very brief moments, we get to get away. We are time poor. You know, you don't want to be setting up a camp. And I take the Ultimate away plenty of times just on weekends when I can generally up into the Snowies. And you don't want to be 40 minutes setting camp up, conventional camp up for me, a few minutes to set up. Well, the 360 is just as quick or because of the tweaks a little bit quicker. But now we get that large shaded area in still a five minute setup. So it's the big thing that excites me. Yeah, sure. Plenty of the little ones. And that's what adds to the speed. You know, a lot of people asked me every day it shows how long's it take to set up that one well, there's a video of me doing it. For me the 360 was 30 seconds quicker than the conventional. So we're still super quick. And the quickest by far. But the excitement for me is the actual 360 awning.
EQ [00:12:56] OK. Now, you've mentioned you've beautiful segue into my next question. You mentioned videos. You have become, yeah look, I'm not saying, I'm not saying, I'm not saying , you know, I'm not saying you're any kind of, you know, Martin Scorsese here. You know, people aren't queuing up outside of the theater to look at your next one and a half minute video. But maybe you've you've done everything this year. You've shown people how to cook. You've shown people had to take a shower. You've shown people how to set up. You've shown people how to how to bounce up and down on the bed. You have become a video. You're viral. You're viral within the Ultimate Off-Road Campers, you know, fraternity. People wait for the next installment of Andrew Hearn, and you're a natural like. Go ahead. You know, none of this is scripted. You just pick up your phone and you go...
AH [00:13:42] Well I can say that I owe or blame. This is where it swings - you for this. So whilst most people. Yes, okay. I guess it's getting back to, you know, relating with the general public out there, the owners, not being scripted. I guess everyone gets a little bit sick and tired of seeing analysts scripted. I made the videos. The man obviously sitting here, Eamonn's the one who still makes the....
EQ [00:14:11] Stop, stop, stop, stop. We don't know who said that.
AH [00:14:14] But no, look, I. I enjoy doing the videos. It it brings that lightness to it. Obviously, it shows people come up and go. You know, it's like they already know me. But it's more to the point out there. It answers a lot of questions for people, but also it shows people how simple an Ultimate is. I think without the videos, a lot of people would have looked at the 360 and gone, geez, they've made that really complicated. And now it looks like, you know, we're taking which is unquestionably the quickest camper set up in the in the world and made it really complicated. Where through the videos have shown, that's not the case at all. You know, we've tweaked a lot of things and added a lot of things like ensuitess and that. But in true time, we haven't changed anything. You know, it's still by far the quickest camper to set up. It's still the most Off-Road capable camper because of its weight and that it's always been and no one's really challenging that. But through the videos, people can physically see it. You know, you can write all you want and you can claim anything you want if you show it in a video real time unscripted, you can see my little errors in it. I see my little errors in it.
EQ [00:15:17] We don't mate we don't, we don't...
AH [00:15:18] Well, people come up and they see that, but they love it.
EQ [00:15:21] You know, it's that I can see and this is how I'm just a normal person and open close a camper and do all those things and people can relate to that.
AH [00:15:30] So I think I think one of the one of the important things is, is that you do it quite naturally and keep them coming. That's the main thing. And I think the thing about it is you're kind of touched on it. You know, from from opening up the big stuff to doing the small stuff. I think people are genuinely interested in, you know, open that locker door and stuff like that. So I think all I'm going to say to you mate is just keep them and keep them coming, mate. I mean, I want a fresh one every week. I don't care if I'm watching Andrew Hearn walking up a set of steps. It's all I want. I want Andrew here, walking up a set of stairs. So, I mean, in all the time you've been over the show and on the shows and on the road, well, anything funny that's happened or anything you can show and share with us that we won't get sued for?
AH [00:16:10] Oh, I've got some photos of things we could probably get sued for. But look...
EQ [00:16:15] Show them to me now, show them to me now, so people can't see them on the podcast. No, go on.
AH [00:16:19] Some other companies struggle to put caravans onto the back of trucks and stuff like that. We've seen the bad side to that this year.
AH [00:16:26] Funny things always happen. You know, and going back to the launch of the 360, because we we did manage to keep it such a good secret. Was with great anticipation, we waited for the first Ultimate owner to appear and see the new 360, which we stood back. I'm not going to name names, but he walked inside. He touched his head and reached up because obviously everyone, as David said, and in the list of improvements, it's 100 mill tall, four inches taller. So, you know, this gentleman standing in there, he's going there's so many things it's like for him it's a a sensory overload of there's all these changes that's very different to mine. I never thought this would happen.
EQ [00:17:09] Did you need to sit him down and pat him down and maybe a glass of water?
AH [00:17:13] I think when he looked out and saw three of us, Steve, John and myself laughing that he realised he'd sort of been caught up in a bad joke. But, you know, it then turned to excitement. So there's certainly that that sort of stuff. You know, there's always that banter between the different manufacturers. So, you know, there's always if we're all, you know, very sort of prim and proper and didn't want to talk to the competition and that, shows would be a very boring thing. There is tricks played. An easy way to to get rid of a large group of kids from your site is to tell those kids that these lollies hidden underneath and opposing, the opposition's pillows in their bedrooms. And then when that occurs, you will see your competitors looking around, seeing who just played the joke. And why do I have 20 kids in my camp up here? So, you know, there is seems plenty of things do happen. You know, we do have a good time. The other funny thing is, is the coffee and donuts challenge that started to occur with our owners. So it was kicked off in Adelaide by Dieter. He brought coffee to me in the site. That was followed by a few larger coffees. And then currently the record stands by Oliver, who runs the owner's Facebook site. Oli Fullerton stepped it up with large coffees and Krispy Kreme donuts.
EQ [00:18:34] And just for you?
AH [00:18:34] Well, we did share them.
EQ [00:18:37] Generally they're just for you though?
AH [00:18:38] Yeah, pretty much. I snuck in a few before we handed him around the site, you know. So just, you know, keep it lighthearted. Well, they do have extremely passionate and friendly owners, you know, which I really love. And and it does get commented on it by, you know, people, new people to Ultimate who have had previous campers and say that, you know, your owner's group are a passionate people and very friendly and very welcoming.
EQ [00:19:01] And they do help us, of course, big shout out to our owners. They do help us sell campers, because when they come to shows, it's important that if they're there and they're hanging about and they're asking questions or looking at new optional extras we're bringing out or just getting a little insight into what's going on next in in David's mind or whatever the case may be. When they're there, they do help, because if they're talking to someone who who who is just interested in an Ultimate and they can get and talk about what they've been doing, where they've been going, the kind of off roading capability that we have, it actually does help us sell campers because it's better coming from someone who's passionate, who isn't getting paid to be passionate about it. Then I'm not saying mate your paid to be passionate. You are a passionate man. You know what I'm saying, it's important that those it's important that our owners understand there's a place for them there. And, you know, great. Please come. Please tell your stories because it helps us get campers out the door.
AH [00:19:50] They're walking reviews. You know, where everyone goes. You know, you visit a site or you make a purchase. Please post a review online on my Facebook site or something like that. Well, with Ultimate owner they're walking reviews, there is as been many occasions when we've been at a show where someone's, you know, they're getting down to the nitty gritty and there's a a couple of campers in the running. If you happen to have an owner that's standing beside you, we're not opposed to turn around to go "here talk to him, he's not a salesman. He's an owner". Or she's an owner. And they'll tell you that they're not going to hold back. They don't hold back. But they're very positive, you know. So some of those sales are not necessarily related to a show. The sales are related to an owner, you know, and their feedback or they may have they may have shown someone in the remotest part of Australia, their camper and they are very, very welcoming. Like everyone loves to show off their Ultimate.
EQ [00:20:42] Andrew, mate, doesn't surprise me based on your videos, that you're a natural at this as well. You know, for those of you who think it was scripted, it absolutely wasn't. I stuck a microphone in front of Andrew and I said, maybe we'll just make this up as we're going along. So you are wonderful at this kind of stuff mate. Thank you for sharing your insights with us. You will see Ultimate Campers out on the road as normal next year. We've got lots of shows planned in the first three months. Go to the website where you'll find it on the cleverly named Show web page. And you can also book an appointment to see us at these shows because Andrew will be obviously too busy collecting coffee and Krispy Kremes and talking to other people all the time. So please do make an appointment to see us. We look forward to seeing you out there on the road. Andrew, mate, thanks again.
AH [00:21:27] Thank you Eamonn