Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) announced that Michael Happe, President and CEO of Winnebago Industries, a manufacturer of outdoor lifestyle products, has been named the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023 National Overall Award winner.
Happe was selected by an independent panel of judges from 224 Entrepreneur Of The Year regional winners from 197 companies across the U.S. He has transformed Winnebago from a single brand motorhome company to a North American manufacturer of outdoor lifestyle products.
Happe recently acquired a lithium-ion battery solutions producer and establishing the Advanced Technology Group to focus on improving the company's ability to identify, evaluate and deploy products and services within each of its brands.
"Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates ambitious leaders who disrupt markets, revolutionize industries and transform lives," said Andrew (AJ) Jordan, EY Americas Entrepreneur Of The Year Director. "Michael redefined the iconic RV brand from a product-oriented manufacturer into a broader outdoor recreational lifestyle company while creating a sustainable business and thriving culture. Michael leads with focused ESG priorities, keeping employees and the community at the forefront."
Founded in 1958, the company's revenue plummeted during the 2008 financial crisis. Happe revitalized the company from a product-oriented manufacturer to an enabler of outdoor experiences. Today, the company has nearly 7,000 employees and has had a 500% revenue growth since 2016.
In a competitive talent environment, Happe has put a focus on employee engagement. He has also implemented safety protocols that helped to decrease safety incidents by 70%. He established an employee stock ownership plan for employees to share in the company's success. Since he took over as CEO, the results of employee surveys have elevated the company to the top quartile of employee engagement within the manufacturing industry. Happe has also led a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion at Winnebago from its board of directors all the way to its customers.
Winnebago Industries also has a commitment to volunteerism and giving. During Happe's tenure, Winnebago's community giving has increased 20-fold. The company has also implemented programs to support employees and their families during hardship. Happe has consistently championed corporate responsibility and planning for the long-term sustainability of Winnebago Industries across ESG priorities.