On a number of occasions in the past — four to be exact, the first being in 1973 — I have been involved in efforts to establish a national dealer association. All failed or were short-lived for a number of reasons. The primary ones being dealer apathy or a lack of perceived benefit to the dealer. There also has been the issue of too little active and financial support to enable both a state and national presence.
Around nine years ago, I brought together the managers of most of the active state dealer associations and we formed the Motorcycle Trade Association Executives (MTAE)?for the express purpose of exchanging information on association operations and to assist in the operation of existing associations, resurrecting dormant ones and to help in forming new ones. Along the way we changed the name to National Council of Motorcycle Dealer Associations (NCMDA). I have served as a $1 per year executive director, and am currently owed two years back pay.
The time has once again come for us to pick up the banner and become a true national dealer association. The driving and immediate need is health insurance for dealership employees and their families. Where available it is priced beyond what most dealers and staff can afford. It has become perhaps the primary reason we lose the good people we so desperately need to keep.
Legislative issues, particularly franchise protection laws, should have been enough to draw most dealers to the fold, but the harsh truth is that it has not. A national group will provide the critical mass to attract a top-notch national insurance provider. I have entered into discussions with such a company and hope the NCMDA can soon make a joint announcement with them.
Dealers will have to be members of their state association that will, at no cost to the dealer or the state association, make them members of the national group. There are so many things a national association can provide dealers via their state association in addition to insurance and legislation.
Regional meetings will be held later this year to bring together multiple state associations to share in the cost of a top-notch association executive who will be charged with recruiting dealers and developing and administering programs on a regional basis. Hopefully the availability of group health insurance will make it easier for state and regional directors.
If all goes well, there will be a national dealer convention sometime early in 2010. Watch this space.
SAME PROBLEM, LESS OPTIONS
I had an opportunity at the Indy Expo to speak at the top 100 awards banquet. I chose to compare the current tough times with those of the early 1980s. I asked those in the audience who were in business 25 years ago to stand, and quite a few did. I pointed out that these were indeed tough guys who did not wait for anyone to fix things for them. They played through a really tough environment that in fact saw 50 percent of the retail dealers in the U.S. fail from 1981-1984.
Dealers in that timeframe had some options not open to current dealers. Their smaller operations allowed them to hibernate. That option is not open to the big box operator. The other option was to borrow money. That was a time when if you were a good citizen, paid your bills and had built up a little equity, you could go, hat in hand, to your friendly local banker and borrow some money to get you through the tough times. Whatever so called stimulus is out there somehow has not made its way to Main Street.
So since you can’t hibernate or borrow your way through the current malaise, you need to discover the startling revelation of the 1980s that not only got the tough dealers through the tough times, but enabled them to emerge strong and be the drivers of our business for the next 20-plus years.
That revelation is: That the “money is in the metal.” First and foremost focus on selling motorcycles. As a retail dealer you have no shortage of things that you have to do everyday. The “swirl” is all too real. To succeed now requires that you focus on what you need to do, not just what everyone else says you have to do. Leave home in the morning thinking about what and how you can sell today, drive home reviewing what could have or should have been done, and repeat the process tomorrow.
Cheers, Ed. psb
Ed Lemco has been involved with the powersports industry for more than 30 years. Lemco, the former owner of Lemco Management Group, is the founder and executive director of the National Council of Motorcycle Dealer Associations. Lemco currently operates a call center for dealers in St Croix.