By Karin Gelschus
Looking to strengthen its dealers’ profitability, Genuine Scooter Co. partnered with Gart Sutton & Associates to form the first-ever 20 groups for scooter dealers across the country.
The 20 groups aim to bring dealers together to share best practices to cut costs, increase profit margins and improve sales. Philip McCaleb, president of Genuine Scooter, says Sutton’s methods have been successful for Harley-Davidson, and he can do the same for the scooter industry.
“We want to take our strongest dealers and get them in groups to help each other learn best practices from the best guys,” McCaleb said. “That’s why we chose Gart Sutton because he can do a credible job of the challenge of handling the scooter guys.”
Any Genuine Scooter dealer can participate in the 20 groups, McCaleb says, and adds the company is looking to improve every dealer who wants to thrive.
“We’re committed to the philosophy that strong dealers make for strong manufacturers and distributors, and there’s no way around that,” he said. “We’re not a top-down organization. We start with the customer. We focus on the dealer, and we take a very humble support role to satisfy both of them. We’re very picky about our dealers. We treat them like family. Only when they’re strong do we benefit.”
The first 20 group meetings will be held in January in Dallas. There are two meetings a year and one conference every two weeks or month. For the initial two-day meeting, the cost is about $500 and those payments can be applied to a one-year fee. The total cost per year, which is fully paid for by the dealer, is $5,000.
“What it comes down to is do people want to save $100,000 in operating costs?” McCaleb asked. “Do they want to generate $500,000 more in income? It’s very much like a 12-step therapy group for people who want to stay in business.”
With the uncertain economy, McCaleb says there isn’t a more critical time for people to ask for help and join these 20 groups.
“If you’re not strong and you haven’t asked for help from the best people in the business,” he said, “then your chances of surviving diminish greatly.”
Sutton and McCaleb worked together to tailor the meetings to better suit scooter dealers since McCaleb says they sell differently than other powersports and motorcycle dealerships.
“There’s a lot of activity that these dealers get involved in on the local level,” he said. “There’s a tremendous push to display their best-selling vehicles in other, unrelated retail venues in all their cities. (Dealers) do a massive amount of partnering deals with everything from movie theatres to grocery stores to Whole Foods and Chipotle.”
Genuine Scooter dealers also focus on blog sites and scooter-only events to create more awareness about the products.
“We work those heavily and we participate in all major events,” he said. “We put on scooter events in every major city in the country. The one in Minneapolis this year had 350-400 scooters, and 80 percent of them were Genuine.”
Those events are just one area the scooter dealers can look at as far as best practices. McCaleb says the scooter 20 groups aim to expand the traditional format of the 20 group.
“(20 Groups) have worked very well for a lot of brands, like Ducati and Harley-Davidson,” McCaleb said. “As first-timers, we’re looking forward to being followed, not followers. This is one of those things that seems on the surface and in the long run, the right thing to do.”
‘going very conservative’
This year Genuine Scooters will close out the year with a 130 percent increase in sales and will have sold more than 12,000 units. The economic uncertainty, however, has the company more cautious than usual.
“We’re going very conservative next year because everything we hear from the credit markets and consumer information says people are not really spending a lot of money right now,” McCaleb said, adding dealers are having a difficult time getting money available for spring and summer orders.
The 20 groups intend to address those challenges. “Everyone has weaknesses in finance capabilities, marketing skills, sales skills,” he said. “People who struggle with any issues find themselves in groups where they have support. That shouldn’t be any different in business.
“Gart’s philosophy and mine dovetail nicely: We both believe that strong dealers make for successful manufacturers and distributors. We are committed to building our dealer base with aggressive, experienced dealers who are committed to growth and prepared to handle a challenging economy.”