Team focuses on shared vision, mission and goals
When discussing the success Küryakyn has had over the past year and a half, company president Holger Mohr has a hard time talking about the impact he’s had on that success. Instead, he defers to praising his team, which includes everyone working under the roof of Küryakyn’s Somerset, Wis., headquarters.
“People are our most important resource,” he told Powersports Business from his office in Somerset. “You can have any process planned, but if you don’t have the right people to execute it, it doesn’t get you anywhere. Having the right team in place and now adding the right processes and procedures, that’s where the magic comes.”
Anyone who has managed a team knows Mohr is correct. The right people are essential for driving change, developing new ideas and products and delivering on the processes and procedures passed down by management. Mohr has put much of his efforts in 2014 and 2015 into building that ideal team and refining the culture at Küryakyn, which are two of the many reasons Powersports Business chose Mohr as the 2015 Executive of the Year. Mohr’s leadership in 2014-15 also helped the company to launch the new Crusher and Bahn brands, expand its branding expertise, increase and improve product development and prepare the company for the next 25 years, all while producing profitable growth.
The Küryakyn team
Since Mohr joined Küryakyn as president in January 2014, new hires have been in abundance. Notable new employees include: vice president of product development Pete Amenda, who was most recently VP of marketing for S&S Cycle; director of international sourcing and supply chain Kevin Miller, a former source development manager at Safco Products; director of sales — International Business John Kear, previously responsible for dealer commercial and network development with Honda Motorcycles Europe; and events manager MJ Berst, who has worked for Polaris and Harley-Davidson in the past.
But those were by far not the only hires. As part of its 25th anniversary NXT 25 initiative that started in 2014, Küryakyn filled new positions across the company. NXT 25’s goal is to set Küryakyn up for its next 25 years in business. As Mohr developed his new management team, that team also began making hires as well. Miller hired a new quality manager, and Amenda brought on an engineering lead and a design lead, among others.
And the hiring continues. Küryakyn is still looking to fill designer, engineer, product manager and sales positions, and in early May, Küryakyn announced Steve Veltri will serve as the company’s new VP of brand management. Küryakyn has also increased the scope of the work completed by contract designers.
“Around product development, I feel like we won’t stop recruiting. We’ll constantly add new talent,” Mohr said.
But Küryakyn hasn’t only relied on new hires to develop a more successful and product-diverse company. Mohr also turned to long-time employees, asking them to embrace the new Küryakyn culture.
“The good part is looking internally, teams responded really well to it. The people that have worked here for 10, 15, 20 years keep telling me how Küryakyn became a better company. That to me means a lot. Then the new team members seem to fit in great and really enjoy the direction of the company,” he said.
In an effort to increase transparency and communication and assure everyone is focused in the same direction, Mohr has implemented all-staff meetings to keep all 90-plus employees in the loop.
“We have quality all-hands meetings to make sure that the staff all knows what’s going on, so we all march in the same direction, have a clear mission, have a clear vision. All of this didn’t exist, so we had to create that from scratch,” Mohr reported.
That open communication led the company to collectively create new vision and mission statements, which were finalized early this year.
“For us with the changes last year, they’ve been a little bit bigger than the average company, but the team managed really, really well. And I could see that there was a momentum that built up throughout the year where the team became more focused, and us getting all the tools, creating better communication, creating a better environment of transparency helped tremendously to keep everybody marching toward the same goal,” Mohr said.
Though Mohr is quick to point out the improvements Küryakyn’s team members have brought on since last year, he’s humble about his impact. However, it’s clear Küryakyn has undergone major changes since Mohr took the helm last January.
Mohr brought to Küryakyn about two decades of industry leadership experience. He spent 16 years at Custom Chrome, where he was as president of Custom Chrome Europe before being promoted to president and CEO of Custom Chrome International. In 2012, he was named vice president of business development for Küryakyn parent Motorsport Aftermarket Group (MAG), before being tapped to lead Küryakyn in January 2014, as only the second president in Küryakyn history.
What drew Mohr to the Küryakyn position was the company’s history and reputation within the industry.
“Innovation, speed to market and great customer service — those are always key at Küryakyn. Küryakyn has done a fantastic job for 25 years … these are some of the core values or core focuses that we’re not going to change; we want to build on that. But that was already established, that was associated with Küryakyn like nothing else,” Mohr said.
Other Küryakyn attributes that stuck out to Mohr include the company’s ability to understand its customers, combined with having people who can create new product for customers, including products customers may not know they want.
“I was always a huge Küryakyn fan exactly because of those things,” Mohr said.
When pressed for how he has impacted the culture and success at Küryakyn, Mohr conceded, “The management team and the overall team had have a huge impact on us being successful. I’m sure I brought in my piece. I’m a motorcycle enthusiast; that helps. I have a good understanding of business and have been in a leadership position for the past 20 years, and so a lot of things come naturally. And then there’s just things that I believe in strongly — communication, team building is one of them, and they just seem to complement [each other] really well.”
When talking about how he sees business, Mohr conjures up memories of playing soccer in his home country of Germany as a child.
“We were 7 years old, and there was a ball, and all the kids were on the ball. And then there were like one or two kids just hanging out somewhere playing with the grass. And the ball moves over there, and the kids follow. And a lot of companies do that, believe it or not. They follow the ball instead of being strategic and staying focused on what they’re doing,” Mohr explained.
His goal in leading Küryakyn is to have his players strategically placed throughout the industry’s playing field, ready to score.
Though Mohr isn’t one to tout his role in Küryakyn’s recent success, others will.
“I think he’s been very successful in driving profitable growth at Küryakyn, and he’s done that, I think in three ways,” MAG CEO Andy Graves said. “He’s expanded the Küryakyn brand with a very aggressive and robust new product development process. He’s also leveraged Küryakyn and some of the MAG Group capabilities, particularly by launching the Crusher brand of exhaust systems, and then I would say he’s stepped out again by capturing a new consumer segment for Küryakyn with the Bahn brand and the Bahn product line. So
I think it’s impressive in the way that he’s leveraged Küryakyn’s resources and the company’s resources to really drive profitable growth in that way.”
MarCom manager Undria Davis, who has worked for Küryakyn since 2006, said, “It’s the mindset that Holger brought to the company. I’ll define it as building the framework, the foundation of the home. Each department is now doing that, in a way. So with Küryakyn as a company, it’s ‘Let’s build the framework; what does that look like?’ Then in product development it’s the same thing; let’s build the framework so we can get that machine going. Same with creative marketing and sales; every department is going through that same building and restructuring process, making sure we’re set up for the future growth we’ve laid out for ourselves.”
Communications content specialist John Galvin, a September 2014 hire, said Mohr is approachable, even though he’s in a leadership position.
“I think that helps as a company overall. I think people want to be able to go to their leader if they have an idea, or if they have a question,” Galvin said.
To that end, Mohr can often be seen grabbing a seat with any group of employees in the company’s cafeteria at lunchtime.
“You can’t always be there for everybody all the time, but I think in these days you’ve got to try to at least be available,” Mohr said. “That’s what I love about Küryakyn — since we outsource our manufacturing, the size of the team is relatively small, so you’re actually able to touch everybody.”
He added, “I just like to treat people how I want to be treated.”
Branding at Küryakyn
When reflecting on his first 16 months at Küryakyn, Mohr said, “A lot of changes, I think, sums it up. I think we in all forms made adjustments. We basically have a new management team. We kicked off a lot of initiatives around product and brand and staff. Those were the focuses last year.”
Küryakyn not only changed its culture, added new employees and updated processes and procedures during Mohr’s tenure so far, but the company was also able to launch new brands as well. Crusher, the Performance Division of Küryakyn, was unveiled at Sturgis in August, and Bahn, a line of motorcycles accessories free of names and logos, was revealed at V-Twin Expo in February.
“We’re trying to get really good at brand management and designing products around those brands … so that was a huge initiative last year,” Mohr said.
The Crusher brand was launched with the new Maverick exhaust line, along with some performance products Küryakyn previously had but Mohr felt weren’t getting enough attention under the Küryakyn brand.
“Some of the things we always did; we just gave it a name. Or we refreshed brands that were already existing by putting some horsepower behind them and giving them an edge,” Mohr said. “You get a little bit more precise on finding the right brand for the right product for the right consumer. If you connect those dots,
I think it can be very powerful. I believe that the dealers, the brick and mortar dealers, they actually benefit from that a lot because now we’re driving specific customers into their stores for specific products.”
Bahn was developed for riders who want to customize their motorcycles without the names and logos that come on traditional motorcycle accessories. The Bahn accessories are made of all premium-grade forged aluminum and precision machined with features that contrast with their chrome or black anodized finishes.
“It really talks to a different consumer. We have some very loyal Küryakyn customers; they love us; they love what the brand stands for, but there’s other consumers that have different needs, different style ideas, and with the Bahn brand, we’re trying to cater to that customer,” Mohr said.
Without logos or branding on the product itself, the Bahn line opens Küryakyn up to reaching new audiences, especially internationally, and to pairing Bahn products with those already on the market from other brands. Performance Machine wheels, for example, pair well with Bahn accessories, Mohr said. (Performance Machine is also under the MAG umbrella.)
“There are two or three Harley dealers that said, ‘This is perfect for me. This is a great addition to what I have from Harley. It’s a great addition to the two or three brands that I focus on in the aftermarket.’ They’re really excited about it. When you hear that stuff, then you think that you’ve really got something that can be really strong.”
The Bahn line, which currently fits Harley-Davidson and Victory bikes, also complements a number of Küryakyn accessories. Küryakyn wants dealers to merchandise the two by each other, so customers can mix and match themselves.
“You have a consumer that goes into a dealership inquiring about the Bahn product, and all of a sudden he realizes there’s actually some cool stuff on the Küryakyn wall that complements the Bahn product as well. Just like we do with our bikes, people put a Bahn bike together and have the Küryakyn Kinetic line complementing it or other product that’s just flowing really well,” Mohr said. “We believe they can drive each other. Bahn drives Küryakyn; Küryakyn drives Bahn. There really is a partnership there.”
The Bahn line has also created other opportunities never before explored by Küryakyn. Bahn teamed up with Jim Nasi earlier this year, as Nasi created a Bahn-inspired custom bagger that was unveiled at Daytona Bike Week.
“Küryakyn has never done anything like this in the past, teaming up with an outside designer and bike builder like that, and Jim Nasi is a big deal, globally, too, not just for the United States. That’s not something we used to do, and I think it really represents Bahn tremendously well,” Mohr said.
Though the Bahn product, even on his packaging, has little reference to Küryakyn, Mohr said there will never be a complete disconnect between the two, and that’s important, at least from an industry standpoint.
“There’s always going to be a connection to Küryakyn somehow, as much as you want to make sure it’s its own deal. Definitely for the dealers, I think it’s important that they know it is from Küryakyn, and it comes with 26 years now of experience and reliability, everything we stand for from a quality perspective, from a customer service perspective,” Mohr explained.
Overcoming brand challenges
As Küryakyn adds new brands, the company has had to enhance a number of aspects of the business. For one, Küryakyn has had to focus more on branding and how to differentiate each brand.
“That just makes the whole thing more complex; that’s why we need somebody that’s responsible for brand management and more people focusing on product development because we need to always be thinking about what product, what brand, what packaging goes along with it, what sales channel does it touch. It gets more complex,” Mohr said.
That’s where Veltri’s hire came in. Mohr said upon hiring Veltri that improving Küryakyn’s branding capabilities is imperative to the company’s growth and important to Küryakyn’s overall business plan.
One initiative Küryakyn is focused on this year is studying its packaging, from what customers see on a shelf, to what they experience upon opening the package that their Küryakyn, Crusher or Bahn product is housed in.
Küryakyn also carefully considered the marketing look of each brand, focusing not only on differentiating each, but also on which customers each brand will touch. Küryakyn now has different POP, marketing materials and rally and events displays for each brand.
Küryakyn has also reworked its rally and events schedule, exhibiting not only at the big rallies but also at other consumer and dealer events throughout the year.
“The rallies were super important — they are still very important — but we’re now also trying to talk to other consumers. That’s why … we attended consumer events like the IMS, or the EICMA and Intermot shows in Europe,” Mohr said.
Rallies and events are now more marketing driven, rather than sales driven, as they have been in the past. That’s just one reason Küryakyn hired Berst to revamp its events presence.
“It really helps drive consumers into dealerships, of course, for the product, whatever brand it is,” Mohr said. “That’s our ideal circle — you talk to the consumer, educate them; they and a bunch of their friends go to the dealer and ask for our product. And it works; we’ve seen it working.”
Küryakyn also attended more dealer shows in 2014 than it had in the past, returning to V-Twin Expo for the first time in a few years and expanding its booth space at events like the Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties Regional Showcases.
“The dealer is, to me personally, a huge focus,” Mohr said. “They need to be educated, trained, comfortable with merchandising our product and selling to consumers. That’s the focus of our brand reps when they visit with their dealers, to help with the education process. We’re trying to be stronger at attending dealer events with our distributor partners, which is important, but also directly, we bring our team to events.”
When it comes to now housing three brands, Küryakyn staff also has to think about developing new product for each.
“Our goal is to tremendously increase the output of new products on all brands,” Mohr reported. “First of all, Küryakyn, that is our core No. 1 brand; we shouldn’t forget about that, but then specifically around performance on the Crusher side, the Performance Division; Bahn on the premium accessory line; XKürsion luggage and other soft goods, etc. Our goal is to come out with more product than we ever did, and that’s why we’re heavily investing into product development — new employees first of all, designers, engineers, product managers, but then tools, testing equipment, etc.”
More than three-quarters of Küryakyn’s additional investment for 2015 is going toward product development.
To improve product development, Küryakyn has purchased new design software and precision measurement and accelerated weather-testing equipment to help its designers conceptualize and then quality-test their designs. The design team’s workspace was also recently restructured to encourage more collaboration.
Mohr credits Amenda with taking charge of and improving the product development area, since his July hire.
“He has, No. 1, created a new team, a combination of seasoned designers and some younger talent that joined us, but then also created a product development process, so we can be way more effective as a company and way more effective in our product development side of the business. Those are things we haven’t done in the past,” Mohr said. “When I joined Küryakyn, there wasn’t necessarily a good process, and that’s now really defined with the Phase Gate approach Amenda implemented. It’s an important tool to take us to the next level.”
Reshaping to success
Though Küryakyn has no doubt undergone major changes internally and externally since January 2014, the company’s efforts are paying off already. Through the first three months of this year, Küryakyn completed what Mohr called “the best first quarter we’ve ever had.”
“We continue to get great feedback from our dealers on our products, as well as our new brands, and the team provides great feedback as to the direction Küryakyn is heading. The fact that the first three months of 2015 mark best first quarter in the history of the company, combined with this acknowledgement from Powersports Business, really shows me that Küryakyn is on the right track,” he said.
Mohr believes that what the company began building in 2014 and continues to improve upon in 2015 is setting Küryakyn up for even more success.
“Probably the biggest challenge was restructuring the company, while at the same time meeting the expectations of the employees, your partners, your customers, your shareholders. We play a huge role in the MAG Group, so you have to make sure you meet the expectations of the group and the shareholders there, and we’ve done a good job of that”
Graves agrees that MAG is pleased with the progress and change Mohr has implemented so far.
“I think extremely highly of Holger. He does an outstanding job of motivating his employees, setting a clear vision for where they want to go as a company and motivating employees to seek that vision, and I think he also has been an exceptional user of the broad capabilities that the MAG Group has and in partnering with Vance & Hines or other of our businesses to use their expertise and their capabilities to help further Küryakyn. He’s done an excellent job at collaborating with his peers using those resources,” Graves said. “I think it’s a combination of making the most of the team he has at Küryakyn, attracting, developing and retaining some of the best folks and collaborating with his peers across the broader MAG Group that’s enabled a lot of the success that they’ve had at Küryakyn.”
As Küryakyn began its 26th year in 2015 and looks toward the future, it is truly building itself for the long haul, or the NXT 25, as the company calls it.
“The Küryakyn of the past was very successful. It’s always been a huge piece of the industry, a very successful piece, but we very much operated in silos, and as the industry progresses, if we want to continue to build on that success, I think you have to be more diverse with the way you manage your portfolio, brands and obviously your staff. Things continue to evolve, and you’ve got to go with it,” Mohr said. “We are making sure that we’re set up for that NXT 25. It’s not just a phrase; we use it quite a bit internally, not just in recruiting talent, but also when we’re planning where we want to go.”
In the near future, Küryakyn is looking to launch new product at the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, gain ECE approval for more of its products in Europe, implement a new quality management system and provide products for more motorcycles.
“You’ll see us getting deeper into the Victory and Indian brands when it comes to our product offerings,” Mohr said. “We also want to continue to be first with a full collection of products when bikes come out of Milwaukee. We’ve identified new product development initiatives with the introduction of these new models to the market. With an already solid portfolio, the ability to continuously adapt our products across a number of segments will be one of the keys to our future success. We’ll continue coming out with additional performance products under the Crusher umbrella, and the Bahn line will also see a significant increase in offerings for 2015.”
A 2016-17 initiative also includes branching out to motorcycle brands Küryakyn has previously not provided product for.
As time progresses, Küryakyn will remain focused on that vision and mission its team developed to keep a sharp eye on the future.
Mohr said, “We want to be that global leader in powersports innovations and be the first choice for our partners — the customers obviously first, but equally employees, other partners and shareholders.”