One last glance back at 2010

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Much like the relief felt when removing a large splinter from the palm of your hand, we can all look back at the close of 2010 with a collective PHEW! So we sigh, wipe our brow and move on.

There have been worse years, and from what we’ve heard, 2009 was one of them for our industry. It’s just that early on in 2010, things were looking a bit more sunshiny before the whole shebang went down the crapper. Sales didn’t pan out. Consumer credit stayed tight. Customers weren’t parting with their money. Some dealers experienced a bounce toward the end of the year, but all in all, it was fairly dismal.

So, what does 2011 bring? We don’t know, but there’s always something more optimistic about looking down the barrel of an unknown future than back at the dust and debris of a year gone by/bad.

To help gauge what the coming year has in store, we asked our readers — dealers, manufacturers, distributors and vendors — what mistakes they made in 2010. More importantly, we asked them to tell us what lessons they learned from those mistakes and how they’ll use them to help shape their future (2011 at least). Click on this link to see what they had to say.

There were a number of surprisingly candid responses, for which we’re thankful. One such message came from Brian Klock, the famed custom bike builder, small-scale manufacturer and owner of Klock Werks in Mitchell, S.D. I felt his story served as a microcosm of what the industry’s been going through. So, if you think you had a bad year, you should have been at Klock’s business when it flooded out twice in 60 days last summer. Lost revenue. Piled-up backorders. A big ol’ mess. Yes, Werks got worked.

But I’ve met Klock, and the man is amazingly upbeat, even when facing a business under 5 inches of water. He said the incidents helped him realize that the most valuable assets his business has are his employees, whom he credited with helping rebuild the business and the brand. He also thanked his vendors, industry friends and fellow businesses for the support they gave him. “While rebuilding our facility, we have ‘rebuilt’ our relationships. Working with our suppliers and distributor to better forecast, cut costs and expedite delivery — all were lessons learned and will make us an even better company,” he says.

Sounds like good advice, even when not facing a flooded-out building. Klock says that this year he’ll focus on customer service and education, using his experiences to help relate to those with tight finances and a need for low overhead. He predicts that the market will stay tight, but that everybody in the industry needs to work to repair the damage caused by “being lazy when the market was at its peak in 2005-2007.”

“The camaraderie that is motorcycling needs to be revitalized between manufacturers, dealers and consumers,” he added.

Yes, his message about rebuilding is uplifting, but it was the following lines that really caught my attention. In traveling around the country, Klock says he noticed a lack of customer contact inside brick-and-mortar stores. “Employees need to pull away from their computers so I don’t shop at mine. If we want people to have a great motorcycle experience, make sure our employees offer friendly communication and are informed — don’t drive them
to Google.”

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews January 2011 issue.

 

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