Posts Tagged ‘editor’s note’

Let’s make the safety pitch

August 29, 2011

This space has been filled more than a few times with my take on motorcycle safety gear and apparel — why it should be worn, why it could be smart business for dealers to sell the heck out of it, and why the industry as a whole should be more aggressive in promoting its use.

Yes, training is absolutely paramount, too, but protective gear is something I feel very strongly about personally, and it’s an aspect of riding that intimately involves powersports dealers. It seems to me it’s one-third of the trifecta — unit sales, service, and PG&A — that makes up much of the business relationship between a dealer and its customer.

There are tons of reasons why a rider should wear ATGATT and why it should be promoted, and we’ve heard from dealers like Bob Henig, owner of Bob’s BMW, whose store atmosphere revolves around strongly suggesting that customers wear all the kit — not because it’s legally required, but because it’s the smart thing to do.

Yes, I can sound a little preachy, but quite simply, I’m a safety geek. Motorcycle riding is inherently risky and can result in death or severe injuries, and for me it’s all about managing that risk. Suiting up each time is second nature, so much so that I feel naked if I’m not in full kit.
And then I received in the mail a package from Phil Davy at Leatt USA (see our “Five Questions” interview with Davy on pg. 12). Inside the box was Leatt’s new STX Road neck brace, the street-rider version of the company’s successful lineup of neck braces developed and built for off-road riders.

With some interest, I’ve watched as neck braces have become a fairly common part of motocross and off-road racing and riding. (An interesting phenomenon yes, but remember the days before knee braces became the norm?) But I never made the connection to the street until Leatt announced the STX at Dealer Expo.

Upon inspecting the STX I was struck by just how much it looked like safety gear. The armor in a riding jacket is pretty well-hidden, Kevlar jeans are mostly discreet and helmets are just helmets. But this, it looked absolutely orthopedic and a bit awkward. In adjusting the STX for fitment, I was concerned it would be bulky and strange to wear.

I was wrong. After it’s dialed in and properly fitted, the STX just kind of disappears, and can barely be felt while being worn. In fact, there’s almost a comforting feel to having it snugged up against me. It quickly has become a standard part of my riding gear, even for spins around town.
Although it’s comfortable, the Leatt makes me hyper-aware that I’m wearing a protective brace to guard against neck injuries in the case of a crash. Putting on the neck brace before each ride has made me even more keenly aware of protective riding gear — mainly how little of it many riders wear. It’s summertime, so you know the drill; shorts, T-shirts, tennis shoes, no helmets. In noticing all of this it has me thinking about what the industry as a whole can do to get more people suited up.

Perhaps these are wasted thoughts, that those of a mind to protect themselves will do so, while the rest won’t. But I can’t help but think it’s a good thing for our industry if there was a concerted effort to promote protective gear.

Pushing safety gear doesn’t scare people away. Indeed, Davy says that “injured, maimed and dead motorcyclists do more to chase away new customers than any safety pitch.” We all should keep this in mind.

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

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews September 2011 issue. 

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Dealers: You love what you do. Right?

August 1, 2011

THIS COLUMN originally was going to expand on something Mike Vaughan brings up in his column on the last page of this magazine.

In talking about the news that Kawasaki is taking its Costco referral program nationwide, Vaughan points out the never ending negativity that inevitably creeps into any discussion about a new product, new concept, new proposal or impending change in the motorcycle industry.

It’s an observation for a larger point he’s making, but Vaughan is on to something. See the negative online comments accompanying our Dealernews.com story about the Kawi/Costco partnership. But don’t stop there. At any given time stories on our website elicit nothing but negative comments.

And it’s not just our website. This grumbling pessimism and negativity is all pervasive across a myriad blogs, websites, forums, even in person among groups of industry folks. New bike model? It sucks. Someone get a promotion? Oh, he’s an asshole. New biker TV show? What a bunch of tools.

Understood that things have been in the toilet now for a few years and thoughts run bleak in times like these, but this creeping negativism isn’t relegated only to the recession years. It was evident even in the Boom Time, often from the same folks spewing bile now (hmm, maybe there’s something to that?).

Now I understand that some people are just irascible cranks, and I’m no Pollyanna — far from it — but I guess my original question to those who grumble and spit is, what the hell?

But I digress. This was going to be the topic of this column until the day that I sat down to write it I got news of the death of one of the biggest influences on my adult professional life. Jolene Combs, adviser for my junior college journalism program and mentor to countless working journalists, died July 13.

Prior to entering her classroom, I’d never encountered an educator of such wit, passion and energy who demanded excellence and encouraged all. Just about any student who came through the El Camino College journalism program absorbed Combs’ love of the profession, which she taught with such exacting standards that those who learned AP Style through her relentless testing still remember how she phrased her questions.

As an adult deciding to get a college degree at age 25, I was a bit of an aimless lout who finally found direction through Combs and her colleague Lori Medigovich. These two taught me to love the profession, helped me channel my latent abilities and served to guide my way into this career.

I learned that excellence isn’t something to rest on, but something to continually try to attain. That the next story I write will be the best one I write, and so on. Her teaching helped me into a profession, but her words gave me something more.

What does this have to do with the motorcycle industry and the negativity that spreads through it like a rash? Well, as far as I know, JC wasn’t a motorcyclist, but the lessons she taught me and the guidance she gave transcends any one topic.

You see, JC had “three things,” a trio of principles that would help you find success in life. Find someone to love, who loves you back. Be healthy. And, find something you love to do for a living. She’d say the first two were out of your control to a degree, but the third was well within your power.

And this is why I ask, what the hell? We’re all likely in this industry because it’s something we love to do. I don’t know too many people getting rich in powersports, but I do know a lot who love that their careers intersect with their passion.

Taking JC’s advice, I made the choice to do something I love doing in a business I love. So I don’t understand those who made the same choice, who piss and bemoan anything and everything that comes along. I don’t know what purpose it serves other than to reflect a poor attitude.

Think about it. This is what we get to do for a living. This. You’ve gotta admit, this is pretty cool.
Thanks, JC.

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

Dealers, take a bow

March 1, 2011

Forget about winning — just entering the Top 100 Dealer competition is no easy feat. The application itself is arduous, requiring entrants to submit information about the vehicles and products they carry, the size of their store and all of its departments, and estimated gross revenue per square foot.

Entrants must submit their best examples of customer service and community involvement initiatives. They have to detail how they motivate their employees. They are required to submit a mission statement, and then detail how they fulfill that mission each and every day.

They have to describe their service departments, their accessories departments, their marketing departments and their
e-commerce and Web activities. Entrants submit images — lots of images — showing the best of their stores. They attach samples of print collateral, digital files of commercials, PDF documents of media campaigns.

Indeed, once you complete and submit a Top 100 entry, it stands to reason that you can use this same file as a basis for loan applications, city permits, employee handbooks, franchise petitions, and more.

So for all who submitted a Top 100 dealer entry for the 2011 competition, and many of you did (entries were up 56 percent this year), well done. The competition was the tightest in recent memory. And if the rest of the dealer community is doing half of what you all are doing each and every day — well, then, the powersports industry is going to be in good shape.

Two unique awards launched in the 2011 competition, both recognizing an effort related to the competition itself. The new Consumer’s Choice Award, sponsored by our sister property, the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows, is awarded to the Top 100 entrant that secured the most consumer votes in a balloting process conducted on www.motorcycleshows.com in November and December. The 2011 Consumer’s Choice Award is given to South Texas Suzuki, a Lytle, Texas, dealership that received 37,000 (no, that’s not a typo) votes in the competition. Congratulations to a dealership that knew how to rally its troops.

The second is the new Vehicle Brand of the Year award. We launched this award with a specific mission: to give the OEMs a real incentive to support their dealers who are working hard every day, and detailing their achievements through the Top 100 entry process. The Vehicle Brand of the Year award goes to the “winningest” OEM — that is, the franchise listed most often by the Top 100 dealers.

For 2011, the Vehicle Brand of the Year award goes to American Suzuki, an OEM that arguably has had better years in terms of vehicle rollouts and annual sales. But here’s one thing Suzuki does right: It works with its dealer community to really encourage those businesses to go through the Top 100 entry process. Suzuki recognizes that the entry process is an education in and of itself, and it is to be commended for its support of the Top 100 competition.

Congratulations to the class of 2011. You work hard, you stay focused, and you persevere. And for that, the industry is grateful.

Mary Slepicka
Group Content Director
mslepicka@dealernews.com

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews March 2011 issue.

Straight From the Dealers’ Mouths

April 1, 2010

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews April 2010 issue. 

Dealer Expo has come and gone for another year. You came. You bought. You shivered.

Seems like each year in the run-up to the Indy show there’s talk parsing the benefits of attending, and this year was no exception. It was especially loud out there in blogland where it seemed quite a few powersports experts offered their opinions on why or why not a person should bundle up and head to Indianapolis.

In the years I’ve been with Dealernews I’ve heard the same complaints every year. It’s too far. It’s too cold. The location sucks. Traveling costs are too high. It’s too costly to exhibit. All are legitimate concerns, especially the latter two given the sorry state of the economy and its effect on the industry.

The only thing is, among the loose-floating opinions dropping around the Internet (where everyone’s an expert!) and the industry, I didn’t hear anything from the dealers — you know, the folks for whom this show is intended.

So in a highly unscientific study that would pass no serious scrutiny whatsoever, I decided to survey dealers who actually attended Dealer Expo and took advantage of the Full Throttle Dealer Lounge that we set up. Yes this is a recipe for loaded data, but I wanted real feedback from those who take the show seriously.

Working from a list of these dealer principals, GMs and parts managers, I contacted them specific business benefits they get from attending the show, any stand-out products they saw and any drawbacks from going to Dealer Expo. Seems the primary reasons for attending the show are meeting suppliers in person, getting to see new products up close, and taking advantage of show discounts and other ordering specials.

Ryan Moore, parts manager at Athens Sport Cycles in Athens, Ohio, cited the opportunity to see new display ideas and learn some key selling points, in addition to researching delayed-billing options and dating terms. Moore added that while he didn’t see any products he could live without, and that he can understand why the location is difficult for some dealers, “I can’t see why anyone would not attend the Expo. Even if they didn’t take advantage of the purchasing deals available, it’s worth the product knowledge you can gain.”

Another attendee, Derek Osner, the parts manager at Crossroad Powersports in Upper Darby, Pa., said he noticed distributors were really willing to work with stores given the economy, and that he appreciated that the show’s layout allowed him to find the things he needed to find. He also took advantage of show specials. “Seeing all the new products before everyone else gives us a jump on the competition even if it’s only for a little while,” he said. “You get to see the people you talk to on the phone every day. It’s nice to get my ass kissed vs. kissing other people’s asses!”

Relationship-building is another reason many come back. Alex Horeczko and Scott Dudek, co-owners of Extreme Supply in Signal Hill, Calif., says the show is a great place to see everybody under one roof — despite the logistical problems (winter, flight delays, etc.) of getting there. “We debate annually if we should attend the show, and year after year, we always find some new products or a meeting that made the expense and time of the show worth it,” they said.

Horeczko added that one business benefit is “supporting the industry by doing our part to make the show a success so the vendors continue coming year after year to do business.”

Personally, I get a charge out of Dealer Expo. It’s very easy in the monthly schedule of producing a magazine, and daily grind of keeping our website fresh, to get bogged down with what feels like work. The show is an excellent reminder that I work in the motorcycle industry, that I’m surrounded by some of the coolest gear, gadgets and gizmos money can buy, and that I get to talk with and write about the most creative, intelligent, ingenious and fun-loving people I’ll ever know.

This may sound like I’m blowing sunshine, but it’s true. There’s no other industry like ours. For goodness sake, I could be working at a trade magazine covering the paper products industry. Blech.

But don’t take my word for it. Danny Manthis, co-owner of Doug Douglas Motorcycles in San Bernardino, Calif., had this to say about Dealer Expo. “The size of the show in its own way is an inspiration to a smaller dealership like mine. Why I say that is [because of] the number of vendors and the size of the crowd all there at Indy in the middle of winter for one specific reason: an interest in powersports. This makes me want to be, and glad to be, part of this industry.”

Have anything to add? Let us know.

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

Modern Selling: Creating a Friend

November 3, 2009

By Guido Ebert

Research shows that the two main reasons consumers often dread visiting motorcycle and automobile dealerships are 1) the disrespect inherent in being ignored while on the showfloor, and 2) the way in which salespeople tend to descend upon them like hawks on a field mouse. Polar opposites, but equally harmful to the selling process.

I make it a habit of visiting the five local dealerships near my home in the Minneapolis area. While I’m greeted like a long-lost friend at three dealerships — Hitching Post Hopkins, Leo’s South and Scooterville — at the fourth dealership, I often spend 20 minutes walking the showfloor, milling around the Ducati, Triumph and KTM sections, without anyone speaking with me. At the fifth dealership I’m followed around like I’m a thief on the prowl, explained every vehicle or product I stop to take a look at, and never left to simply enjoy the practice of “browsing.”

Ignoring the customer has obvious drawbacks and has long been taught to be among the top reasons for losing a possible sale, but is attempting to capture and control the customer — considered a “must-do” in many sales textbooks — any better for the selling process?

Some sales trainers working in the industry now say selling shouldn’t be a matter of controlling the customer, but a matter of creating a fan of (more…)

Ready for the Rebound?

October 1, 2009

Note: the following is the “From the Editor’s” column appearing in the October issue.

Here’s an exercise: Enter the words economy and rebound into Google’s News search function. You’ll get some interesting results.

The day I’m writing this column, I perform this very search. The first story to pop up by relevance is a Wall Street Journal article, the lead paragraph of which reads, “The U.S. economy and financial markets are improving, but are still shaky and are vulnerable to further shocks, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said.”

I’ve been curious what the policy wonks across the country are prognosticating for a very specific reason. In the course of researching and reporting a handful of stories recently, I’ve heard a phrase with a common theme running through that sounds something like this: “Making sure we’re doing everything we can to brace for when the economy turns around.”

The first time I heard talk about the economy turning around was last year, and it sounded a bit more like pie-in-the-sky hopefulness than what I’ve been hearing lately. And thank goodness for that doubt — this was before things really augured into the ground in September (more…)