Finding a new job was the furthest thing from Ryan Sessler’s
mind when a Masco Corp. recruiter contacted him through his
LinkedIn account last December. His wife had just given birth to
twin girls, and that was his first priority.
“Family is really big with me, and I was concentrating on my
kids,” says Sessler, who at that time was the director of
North America Sales for Pentair’s RV/Marine/Industrial
But after a recruitment process that lasted nearly five months, the
37-year-old father of four stepped into his new role as Watkins
Manufacturing’s vice president of sales and marketing
— North America.
“When looking for a place where you can fit in, you need to
ask yourself how all the pieces fit together,” Sessler says.
“The culture and people at Watkins really give you a great
perspective of what a successful business can be like.”
No stranger to success himself, Sessler attended Pepperdine
University, where he received his Bachelor of Science in business
administration, followed by an MBA from Pepperdine’s
Graziadio School of Business Management.
In 1999, after a stint at the Southern California Marine
Association, he joined SHURflo, a pump manufacturer serving the RV
market. After the company was acquired by Pentair in 2005, Sessler
moved up the ranks.
Aside from the obvious water references and discretionary-dollars
market, there aren’t many similarities between the RV/Marine
and hot tub industries. But Sessler is able to see the bigger
picture and how the two segments relate. In fact, he joins the
ranks of executives who are transitioning from other luxury-item
industries into the spa business.
Embracing both the similarities and differences will help him
relate to his customer base, he explains.
“From a product side, hot tubs are plumbing products. I came
from the plumbing-type industry, and this is a plumbing-type
product. Really, it’s just taking a high-ticket luxury item
and being able to understand that industry.”
For Sessler, the focus is on educating people about the benefits of
owning an upscale possession.
“There are always people looking for a boat, RV or hot tub,
but we need to drive those who don’t understand the lifestyle
to get them to understand the lifestyle. The products we sell are
not needs, they are definitely wants. So how do we get people sold
into the lifestyle of owning a hot tub?” he says.
To answer this question and fully achieve his mission, Sessler
first must learn the ropes. The initial step, he says, is to get to
know his customers and engage the industry as much as possible.
Indeed, he believes building relationships is key, and so he makes
it a priority. Though still busy settling into his new position,
he’s already visited a few dealers, and plans to see many
more in the days ahead.
“Concentrate on your customers and the relationships you have
with [them],” Sessler says. “That should be No. 1. If
you do, the rest will come along. The profitability. The success.
All those successes will come along.”
Sessler says he is adjusting to his new job quite nicely, but it
doesn’t come without the obvious challenges. Not
surprisingly, he points to the economy as one of the greatest
obstacles. “We have a serious issue with consumer confidence
right now,” he notes. “People are tentative about going
out and spending money. Anyone selling product right now is dealing
with how to address their customers. It’s a global issue.
It’s not just with hot tub customers.”
Despite these unique times, Sessler sees some advantages to selling
luxury items for the home — like hot tubs — in an
economy that’s in slow recovery.
As someone with experience marketing to those pursuing family fun,
he recognizes that people who are ready to spend money plan to do
so if it will make staying home more comfortable and enjoyable,
like buying a hot tub, “especially since it’s in the
backyard all the time, so they don’t have to take the family