The Maverick store on the south end of Fillmore, Utah, was packed. RVs, campers, 5th wheels, SUVs and pickup trucks were lined up at the fuel island, inching their way forward as the pumps opened up. Most were either trailering, or carrying four-wheelers and dirt bikes. Moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas and kids were out of the vehicles stretching their legs and moving toward the convenience store doors. The Gold Wingers and Harley folks were content to pull off the hot asphalt, carefully lower their kickstands onto the small concrete border and wait their turn, helmets off, glad for the few moments of still air. This pitstop was welcome respite as families filled up one last time and then moved off, headed for home after a weekend playing on the vast desert of Southern Utah.
It was UEA weekend. The Utah Education Association learned years ago that they couldn’t stop people from enjoying this last bit of late summer weather before the snows settled in. So they shut the schools on Thursday and turned the kids loose for a long weekend while they huddled to think about the coming year.
And that was why the crowd was at the Maverick this late Sunday afternoon, loading up on gas and food, and then piling back in the vehicles for the last stretch home to Salt Lake City.
I took my turn. Got out and filled the tank while DeAnn made her way to the store through the tangle of yappy dogs and happy kids. A few minutes in the store, we’re loaded up and back on the road again, headed for home.
And that’s when the thought hit me.
For years now, we have been measuring the length, depth and severity of this recession thing that we are in. We have written about it, talked about it, surveyed it, speculated about it, agonized about it and watched as the effects have hit us all. But what we have missed is the commitment our customers have to the fun and convenient transportation that we offer. We have forgotten that people still really want what we have. We have focused on our problems, instead of our future. Our customers are still out there, and they still want to ride.
We had just spent two days at the Powersports Business ProfitX conference in Las Vegas. Both my wife and I were impressed with the up-beat tempo of the presentations and the total absence of doom and gloom. There was Sam Dantzler, spreading the word about using databases to keep your customers and maximize your share of their wallet. Bob McCann was telling us that when we respond to a web inquiry within 30 minutes, our chances of making a sale skyrocket. Glenn Roller spent an hour selling a helmet to a guy using seven different approaches with seven different levels of sales skills. As we watched, it became clear that when the customer walked without buying, it was usually our fault.
And in my own session, there were heads down and note-taking on every table as I talked about using business math to resolve questions of breakeven points, gross margin yield and balance sheet reconciliation.
And a dozen others were there, both single presenters and hard-working dealers who have found things that work with customers today, and who were willing to tell us what they are doing.
As a young man, I would corral Trixie, saddle her up and ride out to the south pasture to bring in the cows at milking time. I hadn’t thought of that in years. But the cultural change that has happened in my lifetime became ironically clear when earlier in our trip, DeAnn’s attention had been drawn to the side of the road. There, a ranching family was moving their herd of cattle off the summer range down to feed lots in the valley below. She watched for a moment, then turned to me and in amazement said: “Wow. They’re using horses.”
Cowboys using horses. What a concept. Novel now, only because today they are more often found on four wheels, rather than on horseback.
We and what we sell are now an integral part of this American culture. We have worked hard over many years to get here. We have transformed farming, ranching, construction and recreation. We have created new ways of getting people where they want to go and what they ride to get there.
And that is what became clear to me, sitting at that Maverick in Fillmore, waiting for my turn at the pump. I looked at the dust-covered dirt bikes, the mud-splattered ATVs, the empty gas cans, the chinstraps being re-buckled with practiced fingers and the tired, happy faces of people headed home. And I thought about the fun that we make possible and the work we make easier. I thought about the families that we draw together because of our products. And I realized that this is not going to go away. And neither will we.
See you at the Maverick. PSB
Hal Ethington has been associated with the powersports industry for more than 30 years. Ethington is a senior analyst at ADP Lightspeed. He can be reached at Hal_ethington@adp.com.
Copyright 2010 Powersports Business