Great Advice from the Florida Motorcycle Dealers Assn.

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We recently received the the Fall 2009 issue of “The Cyclist,” the official newsletter of the Florida Motorcycle Dealers Association.fmdalogo

In his column, association president Joe MacGuire offers some very clearheaded advice to fellow dealers. (MacGuire’s the president of Euro Cycles of Tampa Bay, a BMW, Ducati, Moto Guzzi and Triumph dealership in Odessa.) Although some of the language is directed a dealers in the Sunshine State, the overall message is applicable to any dealer anywhere.

We thought it was too good to pass up, so with MacGuire’s permission here is his Fall 2009 President’s Report in its entirety.

Straight Talk in a Tough Economy

by Joe MacGuire, FMDA president

Greetings, fellow dealers. I was thinking about the current economic times and was reminded of a story my father used to enjoy telling. I grew up out West during a time when there were still large tracts of land without any fences. Sheep ranchers would hire herders, usually Irishmen in those days, to watch the flocks. The sheep were allowed to range freely while they grazed.

One day, a wonderful old herder named Dan was lounging on the grass of a hllside watching his band of sheep below. Dan had a bottle of “the cure” with him and, as Irishmen are sometimes wont to do, he drank a wee bit too much. (Now you have to read the rest of this with a thick Irish brogue.) As the evening grew long, Dan stood up and tried to get on his trusty steed, Sherman, to go home. Unfortunately, Dan was a little drunk, and he could not get on his horse. So he looked up and said, “Ahh, St. Patty, the patron saint of our beloved island, can ya give me a hand up on me horse, and I promise not to imbibe like that again for a good while!” Well, old Dan put his foot in the stirrup, and he gave a good alley-oop and made it about halfway up the side of old Sherman. Sooo, Dan looked up and said, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, have pity on an old sinner and help me up onto old Sherman’s back!” With that, he heaved himself up and almost made it into the saddle. Now desperate and fearing that he would not get home, old Dan shouted out, “All Saints in heaven, I”ll never take another drop if you’ll help me into the saddle!” And with that, he heaved himself right over the top  of his horse’s back and — flump — landed in a sorry heap on the other side of the horse. Well, old Dan looked up with that crooked smile and a twinkle in his eye and said, “I am obliged to ya, but next time, please don’t push quite so hard!”

Well if good times are like a shot of whiskey, then I think we all feel like old Dan on the other side of that horse. We knew the economy had to slow down, but did it have to slow down quite that much? I know it has affected everyone differently, but there are some common threads we can use to help ourselves out of this predicament.

First, we need to get a handle on our inventory. Talk to your neighbors. Talk to the factory rep. Do everything short of a file sale to move product around. We have built this businesses on a tiny margin, and we cannot afford to give everything away and expect to be in business tomorrow. Use the FMDA annual meeting on Nov. 17 in Daytona as an opportunity to talk to your fellow dealers about trading some inventory. Freshen up your product offering. Re-energize your salespeople and create a sense of urgency with your customers. Show everyone that things are still moving!

Control your expenses. Don’t be afraid to call all of your vendors and tell them it is time to look at their services. Everything from trash removal to long distance is fair game. Our trash removal company hit us with a hefty fuel surcharge last year when gas was $4 a gallon. Now that the price has gone down, how about a price reduction? Otherwise, it is time to shop and compare.

Talk to your employees. Everyone I know is darn glad to have a good, steady job. Let them know what your expectations are. Let them know you need everyone working for the team to make things work.

Finally, it’s time to talk to the manufacturers. Let them know this is not the time to have eight different programs with 17 different requirements for holdbacks. Those tactics and tricks worked when times were good, but now we are in survival mode. This is not the time to let the manufacturers force dealers to take stock they cannot sell. This is not the time for the manufacturers to try to force us to build new buildings ore hire additional staff. It is the time for everyone to be on a fair and equitable footing. It is time for the manufacturers to stop looking for loopholes and let us run our businesses.

This is a good time for the manufacturers to work with us to maximize customer satisfaction. This is a good time for the manufacturers to help us move old inventory. This is a good time for the manufacturers to help us succeed so we can buy more product from them as the economy improves.

This is the time for us to reach out to the community and show everyone that motorcycling is a safe, fun, economical form of transportation. WE know fuel will go back up in price. This is a good time to position our stores as the place to go when you want to economize, but still have some fun on the way to work. We have a lot of wonderful weather here in Florida. What better way to enjoy it than on a brand new motorcycle? We offer fun. We offer an escape. And, we are good citizens of our state.

I feel certain every dealer in this organization will get back on the horse. We will survive, and the powersports business will continue to be a good industry. But to do so as dealer principals, we have to get back in the saddle and be in control. The next year will be full of challenges, but they are nothing we cannot handle.

As a final note, the economy in the area where grew up was based on oil. Then, as now, oil was a boom-and-bust business. After the last bust, there was a very popular bumper sticker that said:

“Please, Lord, let there be one more boom. I promise I won’t waste the next one!”

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