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How to leverage 20-group membership

By Forrest Flinn

1-15 Forrest Flinn blogSo you have decided to start thinking of joining a 20-group in the powersports industry? Joining a 20-group in the powersports market can be one of the biggest and best decisions that you can make regarding your dealership. Full participation in such groups can take your dealership to new levels of profitability as well growth. If you are considering joining a 20-group I am excited for you. This blog outlines some of the key features of group membership and it also sheds some light on what you can expect from joining a 20-group.

First of all, joining a 20-group allows you to step away from working in your dealership and allows you to strategically work on it. Active 20-group members can expect to be exposed to the newest industry thinking and trends as well as dealership management concepts and techniques. In addition, it allows you to be around other dealers who actually “speak your language and walk in your shoes.” The relationships that you will build through time are one of the biggest reasons dealers pick and stay in a particular group.

There are many 20-group operators out there. Some are highly polished and well organized. Some are less formal and less organized but make you feel welcome. The only way to judge which group is best for you is to simply bite the bullet and join one. See if it is a good fit for you. You will probably be asked to share some of your dealership background to allow the other group members to get a feel for you and your dealership. If you don’t feel a connection to the group or with the moderator you don’t have to stay. Ask to be a visitor. I would tend to shy away from 20-group operators that ask that you pay in advance for six months or a year. If after a few months of membership you do not click or “feel the love” then you are not out the prepaid membership dues. Picking the right 20-group is a big decision.  Take it seriously without financially committing yourself in the beginning.

Membership requirements for a particular 20-group will vary by group and moderator. Some groups will have only dealerships of like kind and size. For example, Honda has sponsored a 20-group just for its Level 5 dealers. Others may have members that only consist of large metropolitan multi-line dealerships. Some groups are called 20-groups but only have ten or so dealers in them. Then there are groups require that existing group members “vote” in new members. Do your homework when shopping for 20-groups to belong to as there are many options.

Membership costs for being in a 20-group can range from $150 per month to upwards of $600 depending on the operator. In addition to the monthly costs of being in a 20-group you may have to pay start-up costs or initiation fees. Also keep in mind that you are also responsible for your own travel related costs to and from the meeting. There are usually shared meeting costs such as for the meeting facility, meals and snacks. The group moderator’s travel expenses are usually shared among group members as well. Some operators keep things simple and others seem to appear to nickel and dime the dealer to death. Check with your OEM as some underwrite the cost of group membership because they know what a 20-group membership can do for a dealer.

To strategically leverage your investment in time and money in 20-group participation there are certain things that I suggest you adhere to in order for your 20-group experience to be positive over the long-run:

  • Take 20-group membership very seriously and be committed to the 20-group experience. Don’t skip meetings. Skipping meetings is counterproductive and counterintuitive to increasing dealership profitability and efficiency. Non-attendance undermines the entire process and is not fair to your other group members.
  • Submit your composite and financial data timely and accurately. I have seen too many dealers get wrapped up in being big dog at the meeting and fudge their numbers so they don’t look so bad. Don’t do this. It's dumb and it is self-defeating.
  • Be prepared for the meeting. Be ready to actively participate group discussions and be ready to learn from your peers in the group. Offer suggestions and share your insights that you have gained from your positive dealership experiences.
  • Don’t succumb to “groupthink.” This is a very dangerous and possibly expensive phenomenon. Use your own mind to determine what is best for your dealership. Not all things work in all dealerships. Groupthink occurs when one or two strong personalities determine or dictate the thought process of the entire group. Be strong and be your own person.
  • 20-group meetings are not fraternity parties. Going out to dinner after a tough day of meetings is a very good thing. It allows you to be social and really get to know the other members of the group. There is nothing more pitiful than a bunch of hungover dealers, and sometimes the moderator, trying to strategically work on their dealerships the next day. Such behavior is not fair to other group members.

Again, if you are considering joining a 20-group in the powersports market, I am very excited for you. It means that you are willing to do the hard work and subject yourself to peer review. Only through this kind of pain does true growth occur. Many dealerships attribute their long-term success to group membership. The overall best advice I can give you is to give it a shot!

Forrest Flinn, MBA, PHR, SMS has been in the motorcycle industry for nearly 20 years and has been a true student and leader serving in various capacities. He previously worked as an implementation consultant for Lightspeed and as a general manager with P&L responsibility for a large metro multi-line dealership. Currently Forrest is the managing partner and chief visionary for a consulting firm that specializes in outsourced accounting, human resources, social media strategy, dealership operations consulting and Lightspeed/EVO training.

Contact: forrest@powersportsmc.com

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