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So you want to be a powersports entrepreneur?

By Tim Calhoun

With consumer confidence on the rise, you may be thinking now is the time to launch that idea, start that company or build that exciting new product for powersports. It is indeed a good time to consider these options. I wanted to impart a few thoughts on this subject but found there are wide and far-reaching areas to cover. Here at least is a more condensed version of an unabashed view of being a powersports entrepreneur.

Understand the business proposition.

If your new company is centered on technical products, or if they are products that offer crossover-selling opportunities in other markets then you will find your ability to gain interest in investors or venture capitol money grow exponentially. On the other hand if it is a more traditionally based business such as a retailer, dealer, distributor, and manufacturer, finding outside investors is a considerably more difficult task so plan accordingly for slow and steady growth.

Understand the emotional investment.

As a powersports entrepreneur, owner or leader of a new company, there is such a range of emotions you will go through on nearly a daily basis when building a brand, developing a product or starting a company. There are days you mentally begin in the basement and then end with exuberant rooftop planning for the next big step of your company. If you have lived through this then you know; if you haven’t yet, you will soon understand. This emotional roller coaster is exciting but also one of tougher things you will encounter; it will test your resolve. This is simply the cost of being your own boss and blazing your own trail and it will not last forever — although you should realistically plan for three to five years of riding the Colossal Coaster.

Surround yourself with smart people.

You will need a strong support system and part of your plan should be surrounding yourself with both like-minded peers and a board of trusted advisors that can offer savvy financial, legal and market advice. These relationships are priceless and will allow you to make informed decisions, avoid common pitfalls and aid in difficult decisions. The strength of a support system like this allows you to stay focused when challenged. They can help you to review and modify your business plan and companies direction when needed or to reassure you to stay the course and help you have more clarity and perspective during challenging moments in business. There are many professionals in the powersports arenas that willingly give of their time to help young companies.

Stock up on grit and resolve.

Forging a new direction, company or product is not for the feint of heart, weak of spirit or soft of mind. Often there are trays of “humble-butter” and “bitter-jelly” sandwiches being served to you and rarely is there something to wash them down with. There will be moments of weakness, personal darkness and also doubt so understand these are normal and lean into your support team. Work through this with resolve and remain humble and strong for your team. If you quit when things get tough, it only gets easier to quit again, but if you dig in and show grit you can make the roughest moments smooth with hard work: like sandpaper on a rough-cut board.

Strengthen your understanding of "Business 101".

Financial challenges are the norm for a new business, not the exception, and you must be prepared for this. Survive the first year, solidify in the second, but know you will not find solid prime rate financial options until Year Three. The golden rule, it seems to me at least, is that you will need five years to realistically create a long-term foundation for your company with lasting results. There are hundreds of sub-prime lenders out there from Vito on the corner to major U.S. corporations. Understand factoring and know what cash reserve options you have, as you will most likely need them. Understand cash flow, EBITDA and how to build and maintain a budget. If you do not, it will be difficult to find success. There are also emerging companies out there that offer a la carte services from bookkeeping to CFO services. A little money spent up front to solidify a plan could save you a fortune on the backend.

Be willing to make tough choices.

Live simply, park the ego and save the perks for later, if you build it correctly they will come in spades in due time. If things become financially tight, you must quickly sort what you really need and what you can do without. Use a scalpel not a butcher knife and stay small as long as you can to make every penny count. If you do otherwise, you will rethink those poor choices 1,000 times when the money gets tight. If you have poison in the company ranks, act swiftly and decisively, it may sting now, but it wounds later. Perfect the art of sifting; you will go through a lot of oysters to find your pearls. Not all money is good money, that goes for company capital to company profits and how and whom you get either of those from.

First, be a good boss.

Strive to be a great boss, but realize you become this by first understanding what it is to be a good boss. When things go wrong (and they will), you take the hit for the team until you are able to manage the issue, solve the problem or take the necessary measures to correct the situation. Be inclusive, share necessary information with your team or you may lose their faith in your vision and their trust in your leadership. The best rule is in today's business world is make your employees understand that they are every bit as much an integral part of the businesses foundation for success as you are, make them lynchpins.

Be a leader and create inspiration.

Find ways to inspire, support, incentivize and promote those in your organization that get the job done for you. Even if you're on a limited budget, there are many ways to do this other than just financial incentives. Find what works for your company to create esprit and develop your company culture: Whether it is an “us-versus-them” approach, building a “we” attitude for your team or a strong shared corporate vision. You will find it difficult to reach your goals or milestones without this glue. Executed well, you will create a fun and dynamic workplace at worst a safe and solid workplace and in either case these are good foundations.

Relationships are everything.

As powersports is a relatively tight-knit industry, my relationships in this business are what have opened the door or created opportunities time and again. Preserve these relationships and nourish the ones with your vendors, manufacturers or customers. My parting thoughts are simply this: Be honest, open and lead with the truth. Make your handshake mean something and do your best to fulfill any promises made. Live so you never have to look over your shoulder to see who is behind you. Be honorable even when know one is looking. I wish you luck and good fortune in pursuing your dream.

Tim Calhoun is the president of SpeedMob Inc., a boutique distributor and brand management company that offers personalized service, expert technical advice and solid after sales support for quality brands. As a recognized powersports leader with over 30 years experience in dealership management, sales management, business development, distribution management, brand building and marketing, Tim has worked with or for the three largest distributors in Powersports (WPS, TR, PU) in an outside sales role, as a national sales manager and as a manufacturer/vendor. With experience in the aftermarket, dealer and the OEM sector he has a well rounded perspective on the interactive roles and impact each of these sectors has with one another.

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