Finding Enthusiasm

UPDATE: I’m back working in the powersports business. But c’mon, you knew that would happen.

After taking approximately 16 months off from my previous gig at a local dealership I proceeded to haul RV’s around the country. Now I’m back doing what I thoroughly enjoy. After hitting a proverbial wall in the motorcycle business, which left me dazed and confused, I’ve found a new enthusiasm. I wondered if I’d ever get it back. It’s back.

We all know the struggles this motorcycle biz has had the last few years. The industry as a whole has been trying to figure out how to get previous customers to buy again and fresh blood into the sport. I’m positive there is no time being wasted or energy conserved to bring new models and ideas to fruition, while the experts are trying to get a grip on the secret recipe for growth. In spite of it all it’s really a great time to be a part of this. The flip side is getting that enthusiasm back to the dealer principles that have been feeling the weight of sluggish sales and fewer door swings.

But let’s face it, we have a generation or two not interested in smelling like exhaust, their hair styled by a helmet, or putting their disposable income on the counter of their local dealership for a new or gently used motorcycle. And of course, the internet has impacted every facet of this industry – just as it has every other brick and mortar business down the street. Let me be clear here, every business has its challenges – whether it’s competition moving into your territory, price wars or brighter/shinier objects for sale. That’s business. But the internet is open 24 hours a day and has an audience reach that can’t be rivaled. Don’t believe me? Look into the palm of my hand. Or your hand for that matter. That device we hold is our window to the world around us. Plus lower prices, free shipping and 24/7 phone support is pretty attractive, but not nearly as attractive as our friendly staff. Have you seen these faces? You would see them if you would just look up from your window to the world. Human interaction seems to be waning, would you agree?

That’s business. But the internet is open 24 hours a day and has an audience reach that can’t be rivaled. Don’t believe me? Look into the palm of my hand. Or your hand for that matter.

I can sit here and make excuses as to why inventory isn’t being moved, but do we have to make things harder than they really are? Are we truly so absorbed with the larger picture we forget the fundamentals of building a customer base and exceeding expectations during the customer buying experience?

I recently read an article online at Cycle World written by Seth Richards about his experience of trying to buy a used bike. I liked it so much I read it twice. And as a motojournalist, Seth knows bikes. As for me, someone in this business, it hit me square between the eyes. I get it. I know exactly where Seth is coming from. We as dealerships need to understand how important every customer is and how easy it is for a buyer to walk right down the information super-highway to find another bike. Oh, and with their cash in hand.

It’s true. As painful as it is for me to say, I too have walked into a dealership only to leave dumbfounded – and for a host of reasons. Not being greeted or acknowledged, a staff lacking knowledge (or even more so, a salesperson that has never ridden a motorcycle), and a retail space in disarray with faded and dusty merchandise. Attention to details? how about attention to your customers. There are also dealers that do a great job and it shows. These dealers are usually moving more merchandise because of it. I will admit, we all can do better each and every day.

I’ve wondered if the last few years of flat or negative numbers has had a larger impact on dealers than originally thought. With a combination of internet competition, lower profit margins and a switch in consumer interests from things mechanical to digital has dealers scratching their heads. But more importantly, the loss of enthusiasm and focus that pulled so many into starting a motorcycle shop in the first place. I’ve spoken with dealerships that are on the verge of closing if “this year” isn’t any better than the last. Little do they know, that may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But more importantly, the loss of enthusiasm and focus that pulled so many into the business to begin with. I’ve spoken with dealerships that are on the verge of closing if “this year” isn’t any better than the last. Little do they know, that may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I encourage you to read Seth’s article in the link above. He has a point – several things going wrong in the sales process cost the dealership not only a valuable sale, but also a more valuable customer. I don’t know Seth personally, but I do know folks that have had similar buying experiences with virtually the same result. The dealer maybe had a couple of opportunities to salvage the deal with Seth, but he left disappointed. I don’t blame him.

While you’re shopping online for parts, gear or bikes, I ask that you give your local shop the opportunity to earn your business. The better your relationship with your dealer, the better things will get all around. Spend a little money locally but don’t be afraid to get online as well. We are quick to rate our online experience, but in the case of Seth’s personal experience I would recommend pulling the dealer principle (if possible) aside and explaining the reason for not buying. Either they will accept this as constructive criticism or they will reinforce your decision to buy elsewhere. Thanks for the article Seth!

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The Charlton Church and the 69 Motorcycle Club

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We all come from different walks of life, and to the naked eye it’s just the surface we see. A doctor, carpenter or factory worker on the surface, but behind the scenes we are so much more when the rubber hits the road. Even though the differences of passions and possibilities between us and of those that surround us can be great, we can often find fellowship in what makes the ground we stand upon common between us. Motorcycles are a great way to bring people together and it’s been a common thread since the invention of this two-wheeled transportation. There are those that are involved, those that want to be involved and there are those that are involved indirectly because of us.

For a small town Kansas boy I’m a world away from the United Kingdom, but for many of you who have a passion for motorcycles, distance is only a minor thing. I recently heard of the 69 Motorcycle Club and started to understand how this big world can often seem a little smaller. No matter where we are, what we ride or how people perceive us as bikers, we still have many layers of who we actually are. This is a universal thing and it transcends gender, age and location. We are united by passion and it becomes a universal language that we all speak and understand. Who we are on our motorcycles is exactly the same person we are when we’re not riding, and the motorcycle is just another vehicle used to spread the fellowship.

Father Colin Johnson, the Parish Priest at St. Peter and St. Paul – The Parish Charlton Church and Tower Hamlets in Dover has close ties with Kent’s 69 Motorcycle Club. The 69 M.C. is actively involved in raising money for charities and putting on events within the area to bring people together. Father Colin and I have never met but I understand him and can relate to his passion and his desire to share his energy with others. To be the Parish Priest of a community can have its own rewards but to have the ability to mix his enthusiasm of motorcycling with the fellowship of the church can only bring excitement to the congregation. Bikers by nature are very giving and the 69 M.C.C. would be no different. The fellowship of the biker community working in unison with local churches and groups can only make each organization stronger. After all, looking at the faces sitting in the church pews are the faces of the community, and each and every one of us has our own interests outside of what we wear on the surface. For Father Colin to don the collar of a Priest and a leather jacket, speaks to me. Fellowship in the truest sense.

Whatever we choose to do in our lives we should do it out of passion and for love. Others will see the excitement and enthusiasm in us but more importantly they can feel it. Thank you Father Colin for spreading the Word and the fellowship and I know we’ll meet someday!

http://www.69motorcycleclub.co.uk/

http://www.charltonchurchdover.org/id16.html

Be The “Enthusiast”

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

JLM

en·thu·si·ast (n-th z-st) n. 1. One who is filled with enthusiasm; one who is ardently absorbed in an interest or pursuit: “he’s a motorcycle enthusiast.”

And that I am. I have been since around 1972 and it has been an amazing ride, pun intended. After forty-plus years of riding just about everything, racing a little on the side and owning more than sixty self-propelled “motors-on-wheels” I can honestly say it has changed my life and made me the individual that I am today. And not only is my enthusiasm still as high today as it was back in the 70’s, I would almost go as far as saying it is even higher. Is that possible? Fifty years old and still getting excited about internal combustion isn’t something I would normally admit but it happens on a daily basis with me. The “motion” of the motorcycle and the “emotion” of a motorcycle still brings a smile to my face.

In 1974 with the help of my dad, and a pocket-full of cash saved from mowing lawns I bought my first motorcycle from the dealership that I currently work at today. Think about that for a minute-City Cycle Sales Harley-Davidson in Junction City Kansas (Since 1962) sold me my first Harley-Davidson X90 in 1974. After that, a Yamaha 550 Maxim, Husky 175 enduro and a Yamaha Warrior 4-wheeler. I raced both the 4-wheeler and a Honda CR250 back in the 80’s and Wayne sponsored me. Lot’s of parts and accessories purchased along the way and look at me now. Selling Harley-Davidson, Suzuki and Kawasaki’s at City Cycle Sales and loving every minute of it. Since then I have purchased a couple more units and three Harley-Davidson’s. A Sportster 883, Heritage Softail Classic and my current ride is a Road King. 

Wow, how the time flies when you’re having fun! With all these years of riding under my belt, it has helped me put many, many customers on the motorcycle of their dreams. But it has also put me in a unique position. You see, I’m not just a Harley-Davidson guy, dirt bike guy or a sport bike rider. I don’t focus on one brand or just one category in this power-sports business. I am a enthusiast. I like ALL things power-sports and sometimes it’s hard to convince customers of that. So many riders are brand loyal and I’m good with that. But not to the point where I “dislike” someone’s brand choice in motorcycles, or why they don’t have the same interests as I do. 

I deal with all kinds of riders and their varying degrees of interests. From the extreme and hard-core, to the casual weekend rider that would rather take the Buick. I also need to be able to talk about the new Honda, KTM or any other “latest and greatest”  gizmo or motorcycle when someone wants to compare bikes and parts. Not to mention the vast number of makes and models and every detail of each one and what makes them different (better or worse) than the other. I deal with the brand new, never ridden a motorcycle in their life to the veteran rider like myself. Men, women, parents with their kids and everyone in between. I also act as a psychologist for the mid-life crisis crowd. But I do it, all with a smile on my face. I find it rewarding to see their enthusiasm grow as the process begins, and most importantly, where it ends. I also see the value in being able to describe what it’s like to ride and how it has changed my life-and how it can change theirs.

Sure, the days are long and retail has its challenges with the six-day work week. When the weather is nice everyone is out riding and you’re not. But I’m involved. And I would like to be even more involved. One thing is for sure, if you don’t like what you do, you need to do something different. But I do like what I do. The folks in this industry are a close-knit family and it shows. We get “it.” We get each other and we are ready in invite anyone new into this amazing sport. We are enthusiasts. 

If you find yourself involved in this industry as I am, and you aren’t having fun or you’re bored or frustrated in what you do, remember what it is that brought you into this sport. Take yourself back to that moment when you realized the impact the motorcycle had on you. Mine was a dealer who cared enough to see my enthusiasm and build upon that over forty years ago.