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From Victimhood to Victory: Gigi Stetler's Rise to the Top of the RV Industry

People

At this point, my life could easily be in shambles. Maybe it should be.


The hand we’re dealt

We’re all dealt a hand in life. Sometimes, we fall into things by chance, sometimes it’s choices we make, and sometimes it’s both.

Let me start by taking you back three decades. I was 25 years old, just starting out, living in Miami Beach, and managing an apartment complex. I tried to help a homeless man by letting him live rent-free in one of the units in exchange for him painting and doing maintenance work. But one day, out of the blue, he turned on me and attacked me, stabbing me 21 times. I was left for dead. I had more than 200 stitches all over my body and my left fingers were nearly cut off. Doctors didn’t expect I would live, let alone fully recover, but that’s what happened. I was released from the hospital after eight days and went right back to managing properties on Miami Beach.

Resiliency is something I believe in deeply. It’s part of who I am, and it’s who I’ve always been but for much of my past, I’ve struggled. I came from a difficult family life and was a high school dropout. I was voted most likely not to succeed. Then, I became pregnant at 31, and raised my son as a single mom. I knew I had to make my life a success.

Gigi Stetler

It’s a ‘man’s world’

Overcoming obstacles became a theme in my life as I entered a male-dominated profession for the first time in the 80’s: recreational vehicle (RV) sales in Davie, FL. The industry was and is virtually all men. It’s a boys’ club in every sense of the word. I remember showing up at one of my first big RV association meetings in my ponytail, makeup, and new business ideas. One guy told me, “little girl, you need to go home and bake cookies. This is no place for you.”

Just you wait, I remember thinking. I had to prove them all wrong.

I kept my business open later and on more days than my competitors. I put an emphasis on building relationships and customer service. And it worked; many of my competitors ended up closing down while my business grew. Things were very good.

But over the years, I had to overcome other hurdles, like restarting my business twice for different reasons and nearly went bankrupt at one point. Now, as the CEO of RV Sales of Broward, I’m in my 31st year in the industry and business has never been better. The RV industry has seen a spike in sales the last couple of years as “glamping” has become so popular and millennials are now one of the largest customer bases I have. We’re seeing record growth and a shift in the demographic. I’m still one of the only female CEOs in the industry in the country, and that’s very rewarding for me. But as the industry continues to evolve, I think we’ll start seeing more women in roles like mine. A good percentage of RV-buyers these days are females and they’re often looking to buy or rent from another woman who can offer an alternative perspective when it comes to travel on the road.

As far as getting into the RV business as woman, you need to be confident and savvy. And that all starts with passion: a passion for travel, exploration, and the freedom of the open road. After that, it’s about business-smarts and knowing what your customer is thinking. Put yourself in their shoes.

What questions would you have? What would you want to know? Then, you need to know your product and talk about it in a way that’s informational but not “sales-y.” Your goal is to help a customer understand they’re not simply buying or renting an RV. They’re about to take on a whole new journey.

Keep looking up

One of my biggest passions these days is sharing my story and trying to encourage others, particularly women, to never give up. I even wrote a book about my life called Unstoppable! Surviving is Just the Beginning. We all fall on hard times and sometimes don’t make the best decisions. It happens, but what really matters is how we respond. Get back up and try again.

The odds weren’t really in my favor. But I never believed in odds anyway.

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Career

2020 is Around the Corner: Here's How To Design Your Next Decade

Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!

You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!


Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.

Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.

One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:

What worked? What were my successes?

Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?

Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.

If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?

Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?

Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?

Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.

While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.

Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!