Fun (and profit) in business

by

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews July 2010 issue.

Boil this business down to its bare essentials, and what do you get? An industry created around fun, recreation and excitement. Repeat those words three times: fun, recreation, excitement.

Sure, with sales down, the gloom index turned up to 10, and the possibility of your life’s work taking a nosedive, it has been easy to put fun, recreation and excitement in a corner. I’ve heard from many who say a variation of the following: “I’m spending so much time working that I don’t ride anymore.”

You spent the last two or three years foregoing fun, recreation and excitement so you could focus on the numbers. You had to, for pure survival. Well, enough. It’s time to get out. It’s time to put the fun back in our business.
When we started talking to dealers and industry-folk for this issue, asking them for ideas on how to make things fun again, we came away with three main ideas that are essential for injecting excitement into the business.

IDEA NO. 1 — Many people, including Dealernews columnist and industry man-about-town Eric Anderson (in turn quoting the legendary John Wyckoff), say to do this: Give your customers a reason to ride. So what are you doing to get your customers to swing their legs over their motorcycles, their scooters, their ATVs and their PWC?

Our cover dealer, Bill Cameron of Skagit Powersports (the 2010 Dealer of the Year, incidentally), takes this lesson to heart. Turn to page 24 to read about Skagit Powersports’ monthly track days and track day license program. Not only has Cameron given his Pacific Northwest clientele a reason to ride, he’s created a specific base of customers who are more than happy to spread Skagit’s gospel to friends far and wide.

Cameron, as some may already know, is adept at keeping the fun alive inside his business. He hosts the Warehouse Racing Association, a minibike racing series he holds in a rented building behind the dealership. Call Skagit, and if you’re put on hold, you’ll hear Cameron’s stream-of-consciousness voice-over on top of a Muzak background. He has a particularly unique sense of humor, positioning himself as more of an entertainment director than a business manager these days. Poultry even plays a part (when you get to the story, you’ll see why).

IDEA NO. 2 — Reconnect with your customers. You managers, come out of the office and start working the store again. Rick Fairless (owner of Top 100 dealer Strokers Dallas and another one of our columnists) often says that people don’t want to just buy from his dealership — they want to buy from “Rick Fairless.” He promotes his personal brand, and in doing so he’s on the floor, talking with customers, every single day.

Consider yourself your dealership’s own grassroots marketing plan. If your name is on the sign outside, your presence should be available to every employee and every customer.

IDEA NO. 3 — Give your customers ownership of their machines. Hold free service seminars. Create do-it-yourself service kits that enable customers to do some basic maintenance themselves. Work with them to accessorize their bikes. Promote rider training. Host rider training. Host rides.

This issue provides a number of tips and tricks for putting the fun back into the business, including some ideas straight from the Top 100 dealers. And if you need further help, check out the MIC’s Revive Your Ride program (www.reviveyourride.org).

There are many ways dealers can put the good times back into the business. But first we need to remind ourselves why we’re here in the first place. Fun, recreation, excitement. Make it a mantra.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

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