Truck Camper Magazine talks with Northwood Manufacturing’s new CEO and COO about the leadership transition and their future vision for Northwood.
Last January, the RV industry was shocked with the news that Ron Nash, Northwood Manufacturing’s Founder and President, had suffered a stroke. Since his health emergency, Ron’s condition has improved and he’s now recovering at his home in La Grande, Oregon.
Like any company that suffers a sudden loss of leadership, Northwood Manufacturing has faced the challenges of a leadership transition. That transition included the appointment of Jim Jones as Chief Executive Officer and Ward King as Chief Operations Officer.
We had the pleasure of meeting Jim and Ward earlier this month and later talked with them about Ron Nash’s condition, the leadership transition experience, the status of Outdoors RV, and their future vision for Northwood Manufacturing moving forward.
TCM: Before we talk about the leadership transition at Northwood Manufacturing, can you clarify what happened to Ron Nash?
Jim: Ron had a stroke on Tuesday, January 12th, 2010. It was fairly severe brain stem stroke. He was in the hospital in La Grande, Oregon for about a week to ten days and then went to Boise, Idaho for rehabilitation.
TCM: How is he doing now?
Jim: Ron’s made a lot of progress. He’s been at his home here in La Grande since April. He is improving physically but needs assistance and still has problems with short term memory. He is well attended to and has a great attitude.
Ward and I meet with Ron and his wife, Sherry, every week to keep them informed about Northwood. In fact, this afternoon at 2:00 PM we are going to go meet them.
TCM: After Ron’s health emergency, tell us what happened to the leadership at Northwood Manufacturing.
Jim: Ron told me many times that he wanted me to work with him full-time. He would say, “Jim, what do you need me to do to get you to come to work for me?” I knew eventually I would come and work for Ron, but I obviously didn’t think it would happen the way it did.
When Ron had the stroke, I knew I had to come to Northwood and help Ron any way I could. I arrived here later that week and for January and February, I was here two days a week to keep things on track and to evaluate how Ron was doing. Throughout those two months, I was at Northwood having weekly meetings, maintaining continuity, keeping the management team moving forward, and developing Ron’s plans.
On the 18th of March, we had a formal consulting agreement signed with Sherry for me to take over as CEO of Northwood Manufacturing and related entities. So after the stroke, Sherry and I waited for about three months before the formal agreement was signed and the announcement was made. I wanted there to be some transition before I took an official title and position. Previous to signing this agreement, I was here at Northwood performing the functions of a CEO, but not in an official capacity.
Ward: As Jim was working through his assignment to CEO, I was doing the same work as before Ron’s stroke. Ron had me assigned to product development, materials, production, and service. Everyone at Northwood continued doing the things Ron had us doing. He had a lot in place. When Jim came on board, he did the financials and assured us that we were moving forward.
TCM: Have you had to make any changes to how Ron was running Northwood?
Jim: We really haven’t changed anything Ron was doing. Before Ron’s stroke, the management team, Ron and myself were having formal meetings with managers and we have continued those meetings. About a month before the stroke, we had begun the process of developing a business plan for Northwood. At that time, there wasn’t a formal written business plan in place. Now we’re developing a five year progression plan. My background as a CPA, made me realize that planning was a key to keeping the business moving forward and progressing.
Ward: The small changes we are making, Ron would support. For example, we are now working differently with the banks and going to dealers for dealer sales agreements. As a result, our financials are in great shape. Before the stroke, Ron carried a lot of the financials in his head. That worked because the banks trusted Ron Nash. After his stroke, we’ve had to prove ourselves to the banks as being strong. We’ve demonstrated that.
TCM: Jim, tell us about how you got involved with Northwood.
Jim: I’ve known Ron since I was thirteen years old. We became good friends throughout junior high and high school. I did a lot of hunting and fishing with Ron and his dad. We also roomed together at Brigham Young University where we both graduated from college. Then after graduation we lost track of each other for awhile. I went in one direction with my career and Ron went in another.
I got back together with Ron right after he started Northwood. Since he launched the company over fifteen years ago, I have been Northwood’s CPA. I have handled Northwood’s auditing, tax work, tax planning, and setting up of the corporate structure as well as developing plans and goals.