Cliff Clifford is CEO of National Powersport Auctions (NPA), a growing wholesale provider to the industry. Thanks in part to increased consignment activity with its dealers, NPA added a new facility in Cincinnati in 2008 and is scheduled to add another new site in Portland, Ore., later this year. The auction provider also has purchased a new and larger site for its San Diego facility.
What’s the biggest challenge for the industry, and what should be done about it?
When we talk about the wholesale market, we are very closely aligned with the dealer base because wholesale is reflective of retail. If retail is doing well, the wholesale market is going to coincide with that. So from a sales perspective, the industry needs stronger retail financing. Most dealers are reporting floor traffic is up, but they’re unsuccessful with trying to get the buyers into deals. The financing isn’t supporting it. Obviously this isn’t isolated to the powersports business, considering the economic climate. Hopefully as the economy starts to mend, financing will return to suitable levels that we have seen in the past few years. I think the powersports industry deserves a wider menu of financing that we haven’t seen in the past. With the amount of raw data NPA has available on residual values, I think the forward risk in financing can be mitigated by looking at some of the data and taking some of the guesswork out of it.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your current position, and how have you dealt with it?
Dealing with growth and controlling expenses are always challenging, even more so in today’s environment. NPA’s goals always have been to over-deliver to our clients and customers, what I call the Gold Standard, with initiatives such as simulcast sales, virtual OEM factory sales and of course, new facilities. My challenge has always been delivering more, overachieving but dealing with the responsibility of running this business in tough times. So watching our expenses but still delivering good quality merchandise to our clients and our customers. You have a lot of good ideas that come up on the table every day and you have to kind of weed through them on the risk/reward side of it. What is the most important value that your company holds and how do you augment that? There are a lot of ideas that come through all of my staff but you have to sit down and weed through it and make sense of what is the best, suitable way to grow your business and invest money on a return down the road. Your returns aren’t about tomorrow. It’s about two, three or four years out.
Staffing in the powersports business is critical. Finding the right, critical people that make the difference. We’re only as a good as our people allow us to be, so we spend a lot of time searching and training staff to understand our culture.
What’s the best advice you can give to others in the industry?
Stay focused. Stay focused on your operation. Set personal goals. We’re in a lifestyle and leisure segment and consumers need to have a relief from all the negative news they hear everyday.
Setting a positive tone to your employees is critical. It’s attitude. It’s a positive attitude on a daily basis — that’s the best advice. These are tough times. Guys like myself who have been in this business for a long time have experienced this before, and we’re going to come out of it again. The people with the positive attitude are going to survive.