Generally Speaking: Scott Folkers

Winnebago’s GC outlines how he plans to expand his legal department and why there’s more for an attorney in small-town Iowa than meets the eye

The bottom line is: one person cannot hope to keep up with all of the legal and other issues that arise in this job on a daily basis.

The entire recreational-vehicle (RV) industry has seen a significant recovery from the recession, including Winnebago. Last year, we grew faster than any other motorized RV manufacturer. That means we’re putting more units in commerce, which inevitably leads to more litigation. Within the last six months, we have dealt with the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the EPA, albeit on relatively minor issues. Making sure that the company remains in compliance requires a lot of people in a lot of areas with knowledge of the laws and regulations. Winnebago had two in-house attorneys from 1994 to 2012, when I became general counsel. I wanted to see what the job was going to look like before I added another person to the payroll, but it has become clear that we need more help.

Iowa has a low unemployment rate, so it’s hard to find the people we need locally. But we offer our candidates a lot. We have the usual draws (competitive pay, good benefits, bonuses, etc.), but more importantly, we offer people the opportunity to work in a dynamic environment.

For example, Winnebago announced it would purchase SunnyBrook RV, Inc., through its subsidiary, Winnebago of Indiana, LLC, in 2010. The purchase involved complex work during the acquisition process, and Winnebago has turned SunnyBrook’s business around since the purchase.

I need people who are able to work in a constantly evolving environment. People who are flexible in their approach to getting the job done, who want to understand what it is that we do here at Winnebago, rather than just understanding their limited area. I need people with interpersonal skills that allow them to work with a wide range of people.

Anyone I hire needs to be a generalist. We’ll probably never be a big enough department that our lawyers can afford to be specialists, so anyone who comes here needs to be ready to work on a wide variety of issues.

I need people who are willing to come to North Iowa and stay. While I grew up in a relatively small town in the state, my wife and I lived in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for 17 years before I joined Winnebago. Moving back to a small town was a bit of a culture shock, but the benefits quickly became apparent: more freedom for my teenage children, a school system where the teachers know all of the kids by name and care about whether they succeed or not, people who are friendly and welcoming, and many amenities I wasn’t expecting when we moved here (nice golf courses, a recreational center, an aquatic center, and, with Clear Lake not too far away, a decent selection of other recreational options, restaurants, and boutique shops). Small-town living is not for everyone, but for many who have come to Winnebago North, Iowa has become home, and Winnebago has become more than a job; it is their career. Those are the kind of people I need.