The Ultimate Off-Road Campers GT 360 was a finalist in Camper Trailer of the Year 2020 sharing the accolade of Most Comfortable Camper. Check out our finalist video and the comments from the judges.
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 Ã€rchibald 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 rÃ©sumÃ© 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
Following a hectic year which included the launch of the new GT 360 and the re-introduction of the entry level XTRK to the range, the Ultimate Off-Road Campers team will be hitting the road early in the new year after a well-deserved break over Christmas.
The shows that the company will be attending from January to March 2020 are:
Geelong Outdoor Living Show
17 – 19 January, Geelong Showgrounds, VIC.
01 – 02 February, Queanbeyan Showground, NSW.
Newcastle Caravan, Camping and Lifestyle Expo
07 – 09 February, Newcastle Entertainment Centre, NSW.
SA Caravan & Camping Show
12 – 16 February, Adelaide Showground, SA.
Moreton Bay Caravan, Campping, Boating and 4×4 Expo
14 – 16 February, Redcliffe Showgrounds, QLD.
Big Boys Toys – Perth
15 – 16 February, Gloucester Park, Perth, WA.
Victorian Caravan, Camping and Touring Supershow
20 – 24 February, Melbourne Showground, VIC.
Let’s Go Gold Coast Caravan and Outdoor Expo
06 – 08 March, Metricon Stadium, Carrara, QLD.
Perth Caravan & Camping Show
18 – 22 March, Claremont Showground, Perth, WA.
National Sales Manager Steve Smith said, “Being part of the Eagle Outdoors Group has opened new opportunities for the Ultimate Off-Road Campers brand. We can now attend shows and expos that were out of our reach due to geography, resourcing or budget.”
New this year will be the Big Boys Toys show in Perth in February.
“Last year was a good year for us in WA. We had not been there for years so there was a real interest in the product as being something ‘new’. We’re looking forward to getting back to Perth on more than once occasion in 2020,” said Steve.
Ultimate Off-Road Campers was founded in 1994, and the next 12 months represents the company’s 25th year in business. The last 12 months has been significant change including several tweaks to the product and new owners in David and Bronwyn Rodgers.
The shows not only introduce the legendary off-road campers to potential new owners but also provide an opportunity to touch base with current owners.
Sale Representative Andrew Hearne said, “We love it when the owners pop by to say ‘hi’ to the team because when they are there and potential new owners are there checking out our camper trailers versus the competition, it’s the current owners who can make the difference.
“They rave about the brand, the quality, the off-road capability. They share stories about being on the track and can really influence a visitor to the Ultimate Off-Road Campers stand. It’s better to hear an owner talk about how much they love their Ulti than somebody from the sales team, who you expect to say all these things as part of their spiel.”
If you are planning to head to a show this year to see one of the most iconic off-road camper trailer brands on the market, we recommend you make an appointment.
Check out the dedicated Shows page on the website for more information and to make an appointment at an upcoming show.
EQ [00:00:00] Welcome to the Ultimate Off-Road Campers podcast. Now, I should have said inaugural because we’ve never done one of these before. So if this goes horribly pear shaped, there’s only one person to blame. And that would be the owner of Ultimate Off Road Campers, David Rodgers, because he allowed me to do this. My name is Eamonn and I do some of the marketing for the Ultimate Off Road Campers brand. And I think with the company in that sense for quite a number of years. So it’s not about me because about a year ago, David and his wife Bronwyn got up out of bed one morning and decided, what do we do today? And someone in the back of their head said, “hey, why not go out and buy Ultimate Off-Road Campers? I believe they’re on the market”. So a year nearly a year on from that, I’m here in the room at the moment with David. He’s looking at me thinking, you better not ask me anything too difficult, which I won’t because he pays me. David, good afternoon. Welcome.
DR [00:00:54] Thank you. I guess as they say, everything becomes my fault when you’re at the top so fire away.
EQ [00:01:03] All right, great. OK.
DR [00:01:04] And then I’ll work out if I’m going to pay you later.
EQ [00:01:06] We’re off to a good start. OK. So as I said a year ago, David, you yourself and Bronwyn decided to commit to buying the Ultimate Off Road Campers brand that had been around for 20, 20 odd years, 24 years. So you’ve come along the last twelve months. So a good decision.
DR [00:01:23] Yeah. Look, it’s been a challenging decision. Might be a better way to call it, but I think a great decision as well. We’ve really enjoyed it. Great product. Meeting all the customers has been really good and we’ve managed to get to one of the musters and met people at that. So, yes, so far I think it’s still a good decision. Time will tell.
EQ [00:01:41] Well, good. And and obviously, you know, there’s been some public enhancements, we’ll come to that later on. We’ll talk about the product a little bit later on. But you’ve said you’ve enjoyed it. You went to the muster. Was that your first muster?
DR [00:01:53] Yeah, I’ve never been to one before. So we last minute decision to head up to South Australian muster and had fantastic weather and got to practice setting up in a few times in the way of that, because we took the new camper trailer home and I had a set up competition when you arrived and we didn’t want to look like a total gumbies, so we had a few practice runs on the way. I have to admit, nah, was a great weekend and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
EQ [00:02:17] Now, bearing in mind your own Ultimate Off-Road Camper trailers, did you get a gold medal? Did you even get on the rostrum with the with the set up and take down? Are you still are you still a newbies? Are you still learning?
DR [00:02:28] Oh, look, I think we sort of our time somewhere come in the middle. So I think we weren’t the slowest. We weren’t the fastest because we didn’t get the prize. But, you know, for where we’re at, I think we did pretty well.
EQ [00:02:38] Yeah, well, listen, you know, I the course based on my preamble, I would agree with you. You did extraordinarily well, I believe. Over the last twelve months, and it’s worth pointing out, you obviously have a lot of other business interests – Emu Camper Trailers. You’ve got Blue Water, got Didgeridoonas, you’ve got several other businesses in your in your portfolio. So taking on Ultimate at that particular time would have been a challenge and you kind of sort of pointed to that. But but what is, in your view, what has been the biggest challenge for you, for the group over the past 12 months?
DR [00:03:11] Well, I think anyone in the camping industry is in for a challenge in the current economy due to just the it’s pretty challenging out there. I guess people are watching where they spend their money. So I guess, you know, when you can sort of take anything to market and it sells, it’s pretty easy. But once people start becoming fussy, you’ve got to have the right product. So I think having the Ultimate Campers brand in our range has helped us, you know, cause some markets you go to and the premium market buyers are there and sometimes you go there and as only the guys that don’t have a lot of money and they want the low end. So having from cheap products through to the expensive product, I think has enhanced our base of products and helped us in this tougher time. But look, certainly it’s still a challenge across, I think for everyone out there at the moment to be, you know, you’re happy to be just paying bills really, rather than worrying about making hay you know.
EQ [00:04:01] Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s a fairly you know, that’s an honest, very honest answer. I think, I think people would appreciate that. I mean, from from getting a little bit into the product, because that’s where I want to go. But getting a little bit into the product. Your background and you spoke about it very briefly in a video that we did, you know, several months ago. But your original background within Fiji and stuff like that is pretty much in the rag trade, right? So that’s where we’ve seen a lot of canvas developments. Now, don’t get too much into it because I want to get into it in much more detail. But just generally, that’s that’s where your background has been and that’s contributed to making these first initial changes to the product.
DR [00:04:37] Yeah, you have been thirty five years or so in the rag trade has helped through clothing, through to tents and swags and stuff as is helps having that experience. And then. So we’ve been able come in and look at the canvas side of Ultimate very quickly and expand on the possibilities with different fabrics and different designs. That was I guess early on the board for us to change.
EQ [00:04:59] Now, I’ve spoken to you on several occasions and I speak at a hundred miles an hour. You put me, as we say, in Ireland in the ha’penny place. That’s just that’s the place right down the back somewhere and no one sees me. But you think like that as well. So that’s why that’s why you talk like that, you think like that. So when you first when you first took over Ultimate, when you Bronwyn sat down and said, this is the move for us. This is a good strategic move. It’s a good product in the right marketplace. And then you came in, you looked at the product. I remember having a chat with you and you just blew me away within the first ten fifteen, you didn’t start talking about what you were going to do to this product and how you’re going to do to the product. And in fairness, you’ve done quite a bit of that in the first twelve months.
DR [00:05:44] Yeah. Look, I think you always want to do more than you think. Everyone thinks they’re gonna be more and you end up doing less. I think it’s the same with your staff. You wanted to work faster and they tend to work less as well. I’m pretty optimistic.
EQ [00:05:58] But not me.
DR [00:05:59] Well, you know, I’m sure you work twice as fast. But look, you know, I think part of optimism is that you dream big. And if you don’t quite get as big as you dreamt it, at least you got most of the way there. And I think we’ve we’ve come a long way. I would like to achieve more, quicker. But I’ve also look back and go, hey, we actually have quite ticked a few boxes and made quite a lot of changes. But, you know, I still have plenty of things I’d like to keep doing and hopefully we are ticking them off as we go quickly.
EQ [00:06:28] Yeah. I mean, look, I I’ve written some pieces, obviously, on the Web. There’s a blog for the website. If you’re on the Web site, go and have a look at the blog. But I think we counted up. Oh, I can’t remember. 40 something, 50 something changes from very, very small things to very, very big things. And we won’t go and ask you to go through the entirety of that, the full amount. But off the top of your ahead. I mean, because I know I remember talking to you first and some of the stuff you were talking about was the minutia. It was this was almost like those things you hear about Steve Jobs, about, you know, not allowing anyone to talk about the screen or things like that until they actually had the typography. right and stuff. So the minutia is important to you. There was little screws in those little brackets and little things I don’t understand. And they drive you along, so what’s your favourite little thing and what’s your favourite big thing that you’ve done or that you and the team have done?
DR [00:07:18] Yeah. Well, look, little thing on this. This morning I went down and had a look at the little clips that we have for clipping on the mounts that we use in the tapes. Initially we’d tried to zip ties and, you know, Z clips and different types of clips. And a lot of them were either they’d bite your fingers or they’d be a little bit clunky to put on. And we ended coming up with a new design and it’s something very simple, but it works after having all the hard ones. And then you get the one that works. You think, well, that that really works well. So just seeing that hand over today and the customers saying, oh, well, these worked so well, it’s you sort of appreciate the effort that went into that little tiny item. But, you know, so we’ve gone through quite a lot of R&D on some of these components to get them to do work I guess as well as they are now.
EQ [00:08:02] Yeah, I’ve seen Ross and Ross is our R&D guy. He looks like an R&D guy. But I’ve seen Ross. I remember you saying to me, this is a piece and it’s a bracket. And it was 3D printed. Now for me, I’d never seen anything that was 3D printed in my life. So I was more interested in the fact that this was a real squashy thing that could actually be be made in a 3D fashion. But that’s the kind of stuff that you’re doing here at Ultimate now, is that it’s not scribbling on the backs of envelopes and kind of getting bits and trying to bolt together is actually using that kind of technology to imagine what it should look like on the final.
DR [00:08:39] Yeah, well, I think 3D printing is going to be bigger and bigger in the industry and even before I took the company over, one of the customers themselves are being printing small components for replacement parts. So, you know, it would only enhance the idea that, hey, this is a new technology coming into manufacturing. And we’re just sort of we’ve got three 3D printers now and we print componentry that you don’t have the volume to go out and manufacturer in a good price point or if you sometimes they’re so expensive to make and you could get it wrong the first time. That’s where the 3D prototype you do it wrong, it didn’t cost you much to throw it out the door and print another one. So the 3D printing has been great fun and can get distracted because you sit there look at the thing watching it print. But no, it’s it’s been great fun developing all those mounts. So that was another project, getting all the mounts of the poles to where they work well, you know, just very functional and trying to speed the set up of the tent.
EQ [00:09:37] And it’s funny because when I post stuff on Facebook or whatever and you make sort of some vague, vague reference to where this piece might be, it’s almost like a kind of a Cluedo piece for it for the owners because they’re trying to figure out where it might go. Very often you find it only takes two or three goes for someone to say, oh, that will probably fit in the x and it will probably connect with y. And you go, “damn, yes, they knew that one.” OK. So all those little bits. I was I was quite intrigued by the little sort of 3D printed bits. Now, the big thing and I’m putting up words in your mouth, the big thing has been the 360 tent. Now, my own personal favourite before we got to the 360 tent has to be the easy-fold bed because that was of the bugbear of Ultimate Off-Road Camper Trailers for the best part of two and a bit decades. And you’ve sorted that one out. So well done on behalf of everybody. Thank you very much, David. But that was my own personal favourite. But the whole 360 canvas has been revolutionary obviously because it hasn’t been happened before. But this in particular, tell us a little bit about how you imagined that and what you have to do to sort of bring it together.
DR [00:10:47] Yeah, well, look, I think the Ultimate camper can sort of be set up anywhere on rocky ground and because the pulse systems are mounted off the camper, that was always a great concept for me. And I thought, well, as I expanded to the outside kitchen, there was sort of a need for shade over that area. Well it will nice to have shade around this side or this side? And we certainly saw what we went all the way around. And that’s sort of where the concept comes from, saying, well, people want shade and also a quick set up because once you get past halfway, it’s almost just as quick to go all the way round, because if you’ve only got one side, you got to support it with poles in the middle. Once we went all the way round, we could use the same amount of poles because we didn’t need the poles in the middle. So I think it’s come up well. It took three, four tents, it wasn’t like first time up as well. And, you know, it tends to costly. So it’s a costly process compared to a 3D printed component that cost you a few dollars, you’re throwing away thousands and thousands of dollars of fabric when you get them, get the shape wrong. Trial and error. I think it’s still refining bits and pieces, but we’re really excited with the product now and how it’s working.
EQ [00:11:58] Can I ask you as well just about that, the material that’s being used, it’s different to the original canvas that was being used as a does a shinier feel to it. I mean, I’m probably using completely their own technical jargon here, but it’s definitely different feel to it somewhat. What’s that material about? What does it bring to the party? Why is it different?
DR [00:12:16] Well, I guess one of the concerns we had with a large area of owning would be that if it gets wet and stays wet it out, pack it away, wet canvas, it can always be very dangerous to get mould. And the silver coating we have on it doesn’t absorb the water, it lets it run off. It’s also highly reflective and is a lot cooler to be under, but it also sheds water better, doesn’t wetout and it was easier to clean. So with those properties, which is a better choice to use for that roof area and lower maintenance, again, we’re trying to make this thing easy to use, easy to set up and reduce problems that can happen with some other canvas products out there.
EQ [00:12:57] And I won’t expect an answer on the next one because we don’t necessarily give away anything. But I know you’re thinking about, you know, more enhancements as every time we look at it, you think about something new, don’t tell us what they’re going to be, release them and Rosehill perhaps. But there’s more stuff you think gonna happen with this camper over the next year.
DR [00:13:19] Look, I think I don’t stop and I think we’ll continue to develop the product and keep refining. And then the plan will be to add range to it when we can when we can get a chance to relook at moulding and other types of products. We will expand on it. But right now we’re just refining the product and waiting for the market turnaround and then we can look at what can be done then.
EQ [00:13:42] Now, you as I said, I’ve met you over the past twelve months or so. I would certainly describe you, I think workaholic sounds always negative because it has connotations with the word “holic”, chocoholic, alcholic. But you’re certainly someone who enjoys work and you’re passionate about work and you like to keep busy. What is a normal day? Just not not in not in relation to Ultimate Campers, Ultimate’s one of your brands. What what’s a normal day when David Rogers gets up and the brain ticks in? What happens for the rest of the day? Is it work, work, work, work, work. Is it?
DR [00:14:13] Look, it’s really, I guess when I get out of I start to think about work. That’s it. It’s just work. And I’m in that mindset. I get off if I’m in work mode. It’ll just be work until I basically go to sleep mode at the end of the day. But I can switch off. So if during the day someone comes, we’re going to have lunch out. I can sort of switch off of this fishing trip. I can switch off so I’m fully in or I can actually go a step out and go fully out. So I just don’t often step out as often as I need to or like to. And particularly for family time, that that’s a challenge, that I’ll still be working late when the wife’s rang and texted a few times saying dinner has come and gone, you’re going to come home and see the kids at all. I have to watch that. But when I get home, if we play games on switched off is good, but sometimes switching that switch, on and off is a challenge.
EQ [00:15:01] Do you think is that because you’re an engineering brain, you’re a creative brain, so therefore it’s different to being a manager who managers, just manages right so. The managing director like Alan Joyce, he’ll probably sue me for this because I’ve met him and I know him. He manages but doesn’t fly planes and he doesn’t think about the design of planes. And he just manages, he manages people. And I’m sure he’s a workaholic as well. But I guess what I’m trying to get at is you’re quite a creative person. So you’re constantly thinking about the product’ constantly thinking about product enhancement, constant thinking about making it better, not just all the bits which I know you do, which is think about the business and its positioning and all that. Is that part of it? Is it constantly thinking about new things? Is that what keeps you?
DR [00:15:41] I enjoy the creative side of it and unfortunately, I’m still responsible for the management. And I’m working on, I guess, getting a management team around to take some of that. I think boring managerial type work away so that I can focus more on the daydreaming about concepts and new ideas and what can be, whether it’s process improvement or new equipment. I enjoy that development side of it. I’m not really someone to go there and go, you know, marketing, this does this and, you know, get excited about selling. I’m probably more of the purchasing side. I get more excited about. I was able to buy something at a really good price more than being able to sell something for a really high price. I mean, I made X on this trial or X on this car when I sold it. I don’t get excited about is how I bought this car for a bargain or I bought this component for half price because we’re buying dozens instead of singles. So I don’t really like the selling. So I’ve preferred to stick to the developing and purchasing side of the business, honestly.
EQ [00:16:41] That’s because every answer is done with my next follow up question was gonna be describe your management style. But I think you’ve done that with then boring you to death about having to talk about that. Now, when you go camping, so let’s get back to camping, what are your four-wheel driving skills like?
DR [00:16:58] Look, I probably tend to run along the edge. So, you know, when I was driving it be like they’re always awfully off-road vehicles and had roll cages and stuff. And honestly, I rolled three four-wheel drives when I was doing my driving. So, I’d push the cars and the vehicles to the limits or the tracks to the limits and probably go out on days you shouldn’t when it’s wet. I just don’t tend to do that anymore because I don’t like seeing the new cars that you have get scratched and damage, you sort of want to stick to the old Nissan Patrol or Cruiser 100 series if you’re going to go Bush these days. But that that I had been have to get out there and have another try and I’m sure I’ll give it a try before we get bogged somewhere or dent the car up I’m sure.
EQ [00:17:40] Well, the good news is, because you probably made many Ultimate, Ultimate owners who are going to be able to help you on that on the track. They’re always out there. Now, when you go camping, what is the must have accessory you guys bring? Now, it can be as glamping as you want or can be as hardcore as you want. I mean, what is it? What’s the must have you guys bring?
DR [00:18:00] Wow.
EQ [00:18:01] Don’t say the kids.
DR [00:18:01] I was thinking more like a fishing rod, you know?
EQ [00:18:08] Yeah, go on.
DR [00:18:08] So if I got a fishing rod, I can always nick out and there’s always some way there’s more water and some fish around. So, I think, you know something to do. I probably don’t go away and just switch off and maybe I’d go away sometimes and have a book. But generally to be I’ve gone somewhere to be like, oh, what’s around me, the climb? Or to do? You sort of don’t get a lot of time off, and when you do get to go away somewhere, just to sit there and stop and do nothing. You know, it’s sort of a waste if you’re in this beautiful scenic view with mountains to climb and places to explore. So, try to make the most of it, I guess.
EQ [00:18:41] Okay. Now your favourite location across Australia for camping. And again, it doesn’t have to be anything off the beaten track. It could be somewhere you have to pay to go. Who cares? What’s your favourite location when you’re camping?
DR [00:18:53] We used to like going up into the highlands. I like one and got a station up into that area was great. And honestly, Wilpena Pound over there in South Australia where they call that area out there, got another a name for it. Those two areas I’ve always enjoyed in just any way remote. I think it was really matter as long as your away and there’s no less traffic and there’s no one around. It doesn’t matter where you are.
EQ [00:19:18] Now, last question, where is on your wish list? So, bearing in mind we know where you like to go, but is there somewhere where you say if I just cross that particular track, if I do, that’s what I want to do, once. Is there anywhere that’s on your wish list?
DR [00:19:35] Look, probably not anything I haven’t been to just those places you’ve been to that you want to go back to. I’ve been to a few Aboriginal stations up north that we’re right close to, you know, fishing grounds and barramundi grounds and heading up there and just being remote. I think I’m got a wish to go back to some of these places because I’ve travelled to many places, but quite often you’re only there for a day or two. And if you’re travelling around, you’ve set your program I think plenty times you look back and go, I wish I could’ve stayed back there some few more days, but you’ve already booked ahead, so I’ve got a few places around Australia that we’ve marked from previous trips saying I must get back and spend a week or two in that location. Kakadu is another one.
EQ [00:20:17] Well, David, bearing in mind that I’ve taken you away from what you love doing, which is working, and I saw that as soon as I came in and you were there standing with Ross, going through another tented piece that I couldn’t figure out where it was for the camper. Thank you very much for your time. Thanks for letting us into your working world and also into your mind around what’s in store for Ultimate Campers and how you got to where you got to. So we really do appreciate your time. And thank you very much, David, for being on the podcast today.
DR [00:20:47] My pleasure Eamonn, and I can keep doing what I like to do while you go out and do the marketing side for what I don’t like doing. So.
EQ [00:20:54] Sounds like I still have a job at the end of this one. Thank you so much. Thanks, David.
Take a whistlestop tour of the all-new Ultimate GT 360 off-road camper trailer courtesy of company owners, David and Bronwyn Rodgers. The guys are setting up for Camper Trailer of the Year – Go Ultimate!