It’s with mixed emotions I must announce that this will be my final article in Powersports Business. After many years of consideration, I’ve decided to take the plunge and become a dealer principal myself. As you can imagine, decisions like this don’t come easily. But it was the right time to make that leap of faith. After all, I really should start practicing what I preach – and more importantly – put my own money where my mouth is.
It won’t be easy. But with some help, some hard work and a little luck, we’ll be successful.
Before I continue, I need to offer heartfelt thanks to the staff at PowersportsBusiness.com, particularly Kate, Liz and Dave. I was honored to be allowed a voice on your site and look forward to seeing you at a future Power 50 awards dinner…!
I must also offer the deepest gratitude to Chris McIntyre, Jeff Brown and all 300 employees of EagleRider Motorcycles. Thanks for putting up with me these last three years; it’s been an amazing ride, and I look forward to future partnerships. To my Retail Sales & Operations teams: Thanks for making me look so darn good. You are, without doubt, the hardest-working people in the motorsports industry, bar none. Keep loving what you do.
Chris McIntyre, Jeff Brown, and I with the U.S. Marines following the 2016 Camp Pendleton Mud Run.
Ironically, my very first article, published in 2010, was about the idea that I’m currently living – putting yourself in your dealers’ and customers’ shoes. It’s about the notion that one cannot be effective until they’ve experienced what their clients live every day. So I thought it appropriate to bookend my final entry with the first:
“When was the last time you were Primary through the door?”
— "Out of Sight," by Elmore Leonard
As any fan of military or SWAT-style tactics would know, ‘Primary’ means the first person through a freshly bashed-in door during hostile entry. It’s the man on point, the first to receive inevitable gunfire from entrenched opposition, the one who lays it all on the line. Anything goes badly, and that one hero is guaranteed to pay the price.
So where’s the insightful consultative business advice? The ATF agent asked that question in "Out of Sight" wasn’t a rookie. He wasn’t young; he wasn’t dumb, and he had certainly done his homework. Yet the point was made that — in reality — he had no idea what he was doing and couldn’t put together a winning strategy. He didn’t have the capacity to lead a team into harm's way, nor could he effectively execute. Why? Because he hadn’t ever taken point. How could he lead and inspire others to do what he himself had not? He couldn’t effectively engage with those who risk everything because he had no frame of reference.
Why do educated, intelligent managers and salespeople still fail — and fail often? We tend to assume that experience and brains are all you need. But what good is your experience, if you’ve never walked in the shoes of your customer? How many times have we seen Ivy League senior executives at OE manufacturers who’ve never actually set foot inside a dealership? How many leaders run "motorcycle experience" companies having never experienced a motorcycle?
They’ve never desked a deal; they’ve never dealt with an angry retail customer. They’ve never borrowed money from their personal retirement account in order to make that month’s payroll. These brilliant, experienced, talented professionals have never been forced to clean floors because their dealership can’t afford janitors. They’ve never risked their home and their family’s future on a dream — the promise of a successful business that their children could someday inherit. So it shouldn’t be surprising that these corporate geniuses fail sometimes — the real shock is that they don’t fail more often!
So get on point. Sell a bike, desk a deal. Know how to write-up a foursquare. Better yet, buy a bike with your own money. Don’t just talk to any retail customer, talk to an angry one. Help your client ACV a trade. Learn how to look-up a part on their computer. Learn how your clients live — how they work, how they think, what motivates them, and most importantly, what keeps them up at night. Work their hours. Live their life, even for a day.
Only when you truly know your customers’ perspective can you understand their business. And only by understanding their business can you help make it better. And by making their life better, you will become successful.
Your experience means nothing — it’s your client’s experience that counts.
Chris Clovis has had the honor and pleasure of 27 years in the Powersports Industry, recently resigning his position as vice president of EagleRider Motorcycles [www.eaglerider.com] to assume an ownership stake in Freedom EuroCycle, two Nevada dealerships selling Triumph, MV Agusta, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Vespa, and Arctic Cat. Chris’ opinions are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of employers, publishers, or clients. Please visit Chris the next time you’re in Las Vegas – he’ll be the one looking stressed-out.