Driving Customer Success
“We built our business on small-town values like providing customers with a great experience, keeping our word, and being fair,” says Brian Wilkins, owner of Wilkins RV. “And these values continue to drive our business today.” From humble beginnings in 1936, this third-generation family business has grown into a leading RV dealership in the state of New York, that puts the customer at the centre of everything they do.
Despite being almost 1,000 miles from the closest Bank of the West branch, Wilkins RV has been a retail customer for close to 30 years. And when Brian’s commercial banking partner exited the market suddenly in 2009 amidst the global financial crisis, he leaned on long established partnerships with his bankers out west to help grow his business.
“Bank of the West stepped up and created a great package for us. Since then it’s been a gradual build in the relationship. We added our second location in 2011, third and fourth in 2017 and our fifth, sixth and seventh in 2020 and 2021. Through all of our acquisitions, Bank of the West provided and then expanded our flooring credit line to take on additional inventory. It’s been a great relationship.”
– Brian Wilkins
Owner of Wilkins RV
Eric Curtis, Senior VP, Eastern Region Sales Manager, has worked with Wilkins RV in a retail capacity for 25 years. When the opportunity came to help Brian grow his company via the bank’s commercial arm, he jumped at the opportunity and enlisted the help of his colleagues Andrew Hein, Head, Dealer Financial Services and Bruce Richard, Senior Relationship Manager.
“We believed in Brian and his team and the way he’s managed the company,” says Bruce. “I’ve known him for a long time and he runs a great business. His people love working for him and that’s a sign of a great manager.”
“He’s been a fantastic partner over the years,” adds Andrew. “When he’s had issues he’s been open and proactive and he’s been receptive to suggestions and ideas that we come up with. At the time he came onboard he only had one store and it’s been great to be a part of Brian’s journey and expansion.”
Alongside growing the family business, Brian has also dedicated his time to raising awareness and funds for a cause that’s close to his heart. Brian’s mother, Patricia, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007. The Wilkins family rallied and brainstormed ways they could help.
“My mom was always a very charitable person,” explains Brian. “She got involved with anything that she could to raise awareness or money for Alzheimer’s. Walks, bake sales, fundraisers, anything that she could do. I brought up the idea of a golf tournament with the thinking that we could raise a lot more money through an event versus selling cookies.”
Brian was right. The Patricia Wilkins Alzheimer’s Disease Research Fund was established in 2011 to raise funds for the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Neurology Department. The Wilkins family held their first golf tournament in August 2011 – with Bank of the West as a founding sponsor.
“Our first tournament raised $23,000. This week we’ll be holding the thirteen edition and we’re expecting to raise just shy of $90,000. It’s been pretty cool to see something we thought would raise $10,000 is now bringing in almost ten times that every year.”
– Brian Wilkins
Owner of Wilkins RV
Patricia Wilkins sadly passed away in 2013, but her memory and name lives on through the family foundation which has raised in excess of $800,000.
“Seeing Patricia’s strength in her fight against Alzheimer’s was an inspiration for ourselves and many others to commit their time and effort to making the tournament a success,” says Eric. “Bank of the West has been a gold sponsor at this tournament since its inception based on our relationship with Brian and we’re incredibly proud of that partnership.”
Brian echoes Eric’s sentiment.
“The people from Bank of the West that I’ve worked with through the years, they’re friends as much as they are business partners. It’s been a great experience getting to know them, working with them and having shared experiences both in and out of the work world.”
As BMO takes the natural next step in our North American growth strategy, BMO Commercial Bank will welcome 15,000 new Commercial and SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) clients. Together, as one unified team, we’ll help our clients drive real financial progress across our expanded footprint.