Steve Hurwitz grew up in the Boston area and, shortly after graduating from high school in 1981, he went to work for a data center maintaining room-size computer systems, which propelled him into an information technology career.
He got sick of the New England weather and moved to Phoenix in his mid-20s, where Steve climbed the corporate ladder to get his own corner office, a big house and a very nice salary. But, deep down, he wasn’t happy.
“I’d go out for lunch and see these guys with their service trucks working as pool cleaners, plumbers and jobs like that,” Steve explained. “I’d be envious because I thought they had more control over their schedules than I did. They could take a break whenever they wanted and didn’t have to work the schedule I did. I suspected they probably didn’t have to put in a full day, then work nights and weekends as well.”
It took him 30 years, but Steve eventually broke out of the 9-to-5 rat race simply because he wanted more freedom. For years, he had been a fitness enthusiast. So he opted to unplug from corporate life and go to work as a personal trainer.
He snagged an interview when he was 47. Although he had zero business experience and never worked as a trainer, Steve was hired to run an entire gym with eight personal trainers working for him.
He hadn’t been in the job long before Steve realized being a fitness director at that gym was little more than a glorified sales manager who enticed people to buy personal training sessions. Then he visited a competitor’s location, which he said resembled the Disneyland of fitness centers.
There were 21 different businesses within that center, including a spa, cafeteria, tennis courts, pools inside and out, as well as literally every piece of equipment a fitness-minded person would want to use. After taking a tour, Steve asked how he could get a job working at the center. That’s when he found out he’d need multiple certifications to qualify for a position. Yet, he still had the drive and ambition to do it.
“So, I did what I had to do to earn my certifications and became a fitness trainer at that location. A few months later, I realized that when people paid for services, the company kept half the money,” he explained. “But, I gave it seven years before deciding that business model wouldn’t take me where I wanted to go.
“I didn’t just want to be a personal trainer, nor did I want to own a fitness studio,” he added. “So I returned to technology and became an instructor.”
Living on the wild side
That’s when Steve dated a woman who owned a wildlife show. In fact, he was directed to hold a scorpion, tarantula and snake on their first date. He joined her business, first by designing its website, then by becoming the senior animal wrangler making presentations at birthday parties, school assemblies and other events. Things were booming until COVID arrived and put an end to public gatherings, which caused the business to grind to a halt.
With everything shut down, it gave Steve a chance to spend more time RVing. Others felt the same way because the industry soon exploded in popularity.
“I loved the glamping aspect of it. I didn’t have to sleep on the ground in the dirt and risk encountering bugs and animals,” he explained. “I had a bed, bathroom, kitchen and television – everything someone needed for a nice, relaxing vacation and to be in nature, with the comforts of home.”
One of the things Steve admired about his girlfriend was that she had built a successful business over a 20-year span. He also wanted to be successful in a business of his own. While things didn’t work out personally for their relationship, at age 57, Steve saw an opportunity that seemed perfectly aligned with his skills that would also give him full control of his time and income.
They sold their home and Steve bought an RV which he lives in full-time with his dog. He moved from Phoenix to Texas where he took courses at the National RV Training Academy in Athens to become a certified RV technician and inspector.
‘You’d have to try to fail’
“I did research and looked at various markets. That’s when I determined this was an absolute no-brainer,” he explained. “There is so much opportunity inspecting and fixing RVs that you’d have to try to fail.”
There are more than 12 million RV-owning households in America, including more than 2 million people who travel and work in RVs full-time. The industry has built nearly 600,000 new units annually for the past few years.
Once Steve attained his certifications, he needed to set up shop. Living by an ocean was always his dream, so he first picked the vacation destination of Rockport, Texas, before deciding to relocate his mobile business to the more lucrative Galveston area. Not only is the region a recreation destination as well, but it’s close to Houston and the 4.1 million people who call that area home. There also dozens of RV parks within a few hours of Galveston.
Steve got his business license for Tek RV, created Yelp, Facebook and Google business pages, then visited several campground offices in the area. That was enough to start the phone ringing. Those jobs led to referral business and he was soon busy enough to support himself with a very comfortable lifestyle by working just 15 hours a week.
“I have yet to spend $1 on a Google or Facebook ad or any other advertising except business cards,” Steve explained. “If I decided to apply myself to this business and work 30 or 40 hours a week, I’d have more money than I’d know what to do with.
“But, at this stage in my life, I want more than money and an opportunity to accumulate more stuff,” he added. “I don’t want the heaviness that comes with the pursuit of money. I want more time and freedom to pursue things I really enjoy doing. You could say that I’m trading stuff for experiences which create memories.”
After spending decades trying to earn more money just to accumulate more stuff, downsizing was liberating.
“The more money I made, the more I felt compelled to keep up with the Joneses by getting bigger or faster cars, bigger houses and more ‘stuff.’ Years ago, I even installed a 20-foot rock climbing wall in my house,” Steve explained. “I installed the wall and a big pool because I wanted to feel like I was getting out in nature. But, I assure you, it is much more satisfying to have time to really spend outdoors.”
Anyone can do it
Demand for RV service technicians and inspectors is so high that anyone who can provide good customer service and actually fix problems for people will make a very good living, he noted. Steve said there is one technician for every 15,000 RVs on the road.
“Every single RV has an issue – even the expensive $2 million dollar Prevost motorhomes. Eventually, the water heater is going to break and the owner isn’t going to fix it himself,” he added.
“When people buy a Toyota, they expect it to work perfectly and not break for 5 or 10 years and there’s a good chance it will work out that way,” he explained. “That’s because auto manufacturers invested billions of dollars into robotic equipment and engineering to build cars. But, RVs are built by hand.
“The unit just moves down the assembly line where a man or a woman staples, screws, glues or attaches something in place,” said Steve. “Now consider the speed in which an RV is built – on average four days from start to finish – and you just know they are bound to have issues.
“It’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality of it. Customers join in the march against this lack of quality control, given they are willing to spend a large amount of money to purchase an RV. Manufacturers try to meet demand for more units and quality control sometimes slips,” he added.
“Dealerships are overwhelmed with service requests,” Steve explained. “I started this business to help other RVers enjoy a quality, exciting RV experience, and to help them mitigate their RV issues. I earn a living while helping people. It’s a win-win.”
When he inspects RVs that sell for $100,000 to $1 million, he still finds problems. The roof wasn’t put on correctly, the propane wasn’t hooked up, the plumbing leaks, etc. It is not uncommon for someone who just bought a brand-new RV to discover dozens of things that need to be repaired during their first night in a campground, Steve explained.
The inspection side of Steve’s business helps buyers become aware of those issues before they sign a purchase agreement. The negotiation power they often end up with is far greater than the investment in the pre-purchase highly detailed inspection that Steve performs, he noted.
“Demand is so high for RV repairs, and dealerships don’t have appointments for months on end, that I can drive into an RV park with 85 sites and know I could be there forever because I’ll wind up with 85 customers,” he added. “If I just visit a few RV parks, shake a few hands and drop a stack of business cards at the office, I’ll soon have more than enough business for however many hours I am willing to work every week.”
Being an RV technician in Texas doesn’t require any specialized licenses other than a certificate issued by the state enabling someone to work on an RV propane system.
“There are a lot of things on an RV that run off propane, including water heaters, furnaces, stoves and refrigerators,” he explained. “There is potential for a catastrophic error if someone who isn’t qualified works on a propane system.”
The certifications he earned from the National RV Inspectors Association and RV Technician Association of America reassure consumers that Steve completed 400 hours of training and passed testing requirements. That way, clients are more confident hiring him to work on their RVs than someone who just shows up with a toolbox and a flashlight.
Steve paid less than $20,000 to get training, buy tools and start his limited liability corporation. The $100 or so Steve spent on business cards was the only advertising cost he incurred other than a cap with his company name embroidered on it.
“I wore that hat into a Walmart one day. I wasn’t there 30 seconds before someone walked up and asked me what TekRV was about. When I explained I was a mobile RV technician, he asked for a business card because he needed a new air conditioner installed,” he explained. “It’s literally just like that. If you’re good at fixing RVs and provide great service, money flows from heaven and falls at your feet.”
RV technicians need to be in relatively good shape. Steve is 58 years old and a former bodybuilder who enjoys a healthy lifestyle by working out, eating well, taking vitamins, drinking lots of water and getting plenty of sleep. Yet, somedays feel like he just had a core workout after crawling into and out of tight spaces, and under RVs.
“It’s especially tough in warmer climates during summer months,” he added. “In my part of Texas, the temperature can be 88 degrees with 88% humidity. I carry a few changes of clothing in my vehicle because I can literally walk away from a job in summer literally drenched in sweat.”
Steve said he doesn’t see himself ever getting to a point where he would retire in the way people traditionally define the word.
“Given the amount of work I do, I am pretty much semi-retired right now,” he explained. “If I can work 10 to 15 hours a week, I will have more than enough money to support myself and get to play the rest of the week. I just plan on doing that until I physically can’t do it any longer. Living in an RV is a minimalist lifestyle and quite affordable compared to owning a sticks-and-bricks home.”
The best advice he can give people over 50 is to take care of their bodies first and foremost.
“You could live to 70 or you could make it all the way to 100. Who knows?” Steve asked. “But we each have one life in this human body and we need it to work until we don’t need it anymore.”
He also encourages people to try whatever they’ve dreamed of doing. Steve knows he’d have a lot of regret if he didn’t try something he’s always wanted to do.
“When you think about it, 50, 60 and 70 are just numbers. You’re truly as old as you feel. If you have the passion to do something, then do it,” he explained. “Any hobby can be turned into an occupation.
“Don’t sweat the small stuff. Too many people go into analysis paralysis where they think about doing something so hard that they end up afraid to step forward,” said Steve. “When you’re over 50, you have to be an optimist, be positive and only think of positive thoughts.”
He recommends people read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. It’s a series of books that help people use an ancient secret to understand the hidden, untapped power within them to achieve health, prosperity, relationships, happiness and overcome obstacles.
“I don’t care if you’re 50, 55, 60 or whatever, pursue whatever makes you happy,” said Steve.
To connect with him, visit www.tekrv.com.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.