The Butler Group turns to on-site training with new venture
Duncan Butler and Amanda Blackstone worked alongside each other at the dealership level. Now the two have launched a powersports consultancy that plans to use their more than 30 years of combined experience to help other dealers find success. Coming fresh from dealership operations figures to be a strong starting point for The Butler Group Atlanta, LLC, their new venture.
Butler got into the motorcycle industry when he left his position as a financial advisor to join then-Dick Farmer’s Harley-Davidson in Orlando, Fla. There, he started as a porter before becoming GM of Orlando Harley-Davidson, as it’s now known. Years later, he had a financial interest in a dealership in South Carolina, and during that time he met Blackstone. Her father, Ray Little, had opened the first Polaris dealership in Georgia, and she began toiling with parts as a 5-year-old. When Little opted for retirement in 2011, he sold his Polaris of Atlanta dealership to Freedom Powersports, also based in Atlanta. Blackstone, who had been GM of the family operation, became the marketing manager at Freedom Powersports. Alas, she met Butler at a Polaris Business Meeting, and Butler eventually joined the Freedom Powersports team. Less than a year later, the two became business partners and formed The Butler Group Atlanta, LLC.
“I had always been interested in dealership operations, and what makes a dealership successful,” Blackstone said. “We were a Polaris-only dealer, and I had been on the Polaris dealer council for seven years, so I got to know a lot about both the OEM and dealer side.”
Butler also has more than 15 years in the industry, mostly as a dealership GM. He has worked with Harley-Davidson, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Triumph, Ducati, BMW, Polaris/Victory, KTM, BRP, Vespa and Schwinn. His consultant training includes being a graduate of the Lemco Dealer Candidacy School, RPMG, Jim Zeigler Sales Training School and multiple 20-club sessions.
The Butler Group Atlanta, LLC plans to use its in-store experience to help dealers enhance their management and implementation procedures, sales processes, recruiting, branding, advertising management and operational controls.
“We’re hands-on and come into your dealership and work side-by-side with your staff to implement the right processes,” Blackstone said. “We’ve had some dealers tell us ‘We have this great culture here in the store, but we don’t have any processes in place.’ So we come in and do a two-day assessment of the dealership, and then implement the training they need on-site.”
The three-day implementation workshop can include sales, service, F&I, PG&A, marketing, operations and special events.
“We’ve worked as a dealership management team, and we’re very excited about the positive reception. There’s definitely a need for what we’re doing,” Blackstone said.
Blackstone says the familiarity that she and Butler bring to a dealership assessment provides dealership staff with a level of comfort.
“We’ve done special events, developed performance measures in service departments, recruited new staff, installed finance departments and set up programs to eliminate waste. We’ve done it all. We’ve both had skin in the game and have been employees at one time,” she said. “We both bring dealership knowledge. We can interact with all staff levels up to the dealer principal. That makes it comfortable for everyone. We can do warranty claims; we can operate their DMS, build custom reports, increase online visibility, etc. We build value in the dealerships.”
One of Blackstone’s first jobs with The Butler Group Atlanta, LLC, was a statewide dealership website analysis for the Georgia market. “You would be surprised by the number of dealerships that don’t have a website or even a Facebook page,” she said.
She also was surprised by the number of dealerships that don’t have an F&I department.
“We can go in and install an F&I department for them,” she said.
The outreach doesn’t end with dealerships, however.
“We have proposals into OEMs, to provide dealers in on-site training at their dealerships,” she said. “We’ve had great feedback from them, too. There’s a need for this type of business.”