Team Winnebagoland Powersports Center has served the Oshkosh, Wisconsin area since 1975, after Cyril “Cease” Van Zeeland relocated from Little Chute, where he started his business a year before. Van Zeeland opened the new location with his son, Lee. Two years later, his son Mark joined the business, followed by younger son Joe, in 1981.
Today, the third generation of Van Zeelands run the Team Winnebagoland powersports and marine dealership. Lee’s three children, Nick, Tom and Rachel Van Mun, purchased the business in 2018.
Tom Van Zeeland started working at the dealership in 1996 right out of high school, but pointed out he had experience in the shop since second grade. He would wipe down helmets, clean the restrooms and mow the lawn.
His first full-time position was parts shipper and receiver. He has since worked in every position and is now president of Team Winnebagoland. His brother Nick is the vice president, and his sister Rachel is controller.
“The most important key between Nick, Rachel and me – we always remember that the business is what pays our mortgage at home and takes care of our families,” Van Zeeland said. “We don’t let personal biases get in the way of decisions. You put all personal ego aside and make sure that every decision is business related. We have, between the two dealerships on the campus, 82 employees working for us, and we have to make sure we’re thinking about them in every decision that we make.”
Employee Enrichment Day
At the beginning of every year, the two dealerships close for an Employee Enrichment Day. The team spends the paid day in a conference room at a local hotel to discuss the vision and culture of the business, what goals they met the year before and what goals they want to set for the current year. But the day is not all about business.
“Life outside the four walls of the store is much more important than the 8 to 10 hours you spend inside the four walls,” Van Zeeland said. “So, we have our guest speakers come in and break off into small groups and enrich your outside life. This year we had a Dale Carnegie speaker come in and we had a mortgage lender talk about financing and how your credit report affects your credit score. We had a real estate agent come in to talk about what’s going on in the market. We had a local shoe and fitness guy talk about healthy lifestyles. We had our health insurance agent discuss how to get the most out of your health insurance – stuff that’s important to know in your personal life to have good financial stability.”
A keynote motivational speaker wraps up the day. This year, Sam Dantzler, president of Garage Composites, spoke about the state of the industry, the forecast for the upcoming year and the importance of getting back to habits that create success. “The general response is always great,” Van Zeeland said. “We’re on a high the next day. The staff is energized. It’s a good time to work on the business, not in the business. They get outside, they get to know each other differently. It’s always a good energy boost. A responsibility for us as leaders is to make sure that energy stays consistent after that enrichment class. Truly, we believe that if one of our teammates has a good outside life, they can perform better at their job.”
Crank It Up
The dealership maintains this energy partly by encouraging employees to submit weekly Crank It Up nominations. These forms give employees the opportunity to recognize coworkers for special performance. Van Zeeland referred to these recognitions as “go-go juice.” In a typical week, employees nominate about seven coworkers.
“Every Tuesday morning, we have a 15-minute huddle to debrief the staff on what to expect, how business is going, what’s going on in their personal lives if they want to share it and then we read all the Crank It Up nominations from their peers. Actions that get recognized get repeated. Then we pick an award and that person gets their picture taken for social media channels. They get to hold the award for the whole week at their desk or workstation.”
“I love riding my Polaris RZR four-seater with my wife and my 10-year-old son,” Van Zeeland said. “We put on about 2,500 miles a year. I lead a lot of customer rides. Once a month I take customers out riding UTVs for a weekend adventure. We ride a couple hundred miles over those weekends.”
In 1994, his Uncle Joe started an annual weekend ride. Eight years ago, Van Zeeland added a second ride in the Spring, and they now organize rides every season. In February, they led customers on a 60-mile ice ride over Lake Winnebago.
“We host monthly events focused on the ATV and UTV industry,” he said. “In the offseason we host workshops and in season we host trail clean ups and guided weekend rides.”
Digital and Detail Center
The marine dealership, powersports dealership and multiple warehouses sit on a 40-acre lot on the corner of a major highway. In addition to these facilities, a Digital and Detail Center is under construction and is expected to be operational April 1.
“On our 40-acre campus here we are putting up a 14,000 square foot building, which is going to have four lifts, four wash bays to detail units,” Van Zeeland said. “We have a designated person in charge of detailing them who has a background detailing cars.”
The addition of these wash bays on the campus will free up a detailing bay in the marine dealership that will be used for turning wrenches. The center will also store used units.
“We sell a ton of used product,” he said. “You want to make sure you’re getting top dollar for it, and it looks good.” The dealership invested in an automotive 360-photo booth to improve the quality of images uploaded to the website. Units sit on a table that the camera pivots around, preventing shadows and producing clear images.
“I would say that 80 percent of the people walking in our store know what they want already,” he said. “We understand that our industry and buying habits of all consumers is totally digital. Everyone starts their buying process online. We want to make sure that we have the best online presence.” Two full-time digital uploaders will work in the center and keep the website updated. The three-member digital marketing team will also work in the center.