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Keeping community outreach a team effort

By Kate Swanson

Power 50 dealer Cole H-D named Best in Class for Community Service

When the going gets tough, West Virginians band together to help their communities. “It’s a very tight-knit community. Anything we can do to help one another out, it’s always first and foremost in everybody’s mind,” said Chaz Cole, general manager of Cole Harley-Davidson in Bluefield, West Virginia. “It speaks volumes to where we are from. This state is full of really good people that would give you the shirt off their back.”

For living up to the those West Virginia standards of community outreach and support, Cole Harley-Davidson was recognized by Powersports Business as a Best in Class dealer and claimed the Ray Price Community Service Award during the 2017 Power 50 awards dinner in Columbus, Ohio.

“It was a bit of a shock and I was sort of overwhelmed. I wouldn’t say that I knew Ray Price well, but I did have the opportunity to have dinner with him during a dealership trip back in 2014. So having met Ray, that really made the award a lot more special to me because I know how he was and I always had a lot of respect for him,” Cole said.

Cole Harley-Davidson owner Charlie Cole uses a forklift to load supplies onto the donation truck. Photos courtesy of Cole Harley-Davidson

In June 2016, the dealership stepped up to aid those who had been affected by major flooding in the state. Cole H-D started out by donating some cleaning supplies to those affected and soon became a collection center for anyone in the community who wanted to donate supplies. 

“Everybody was just bringing us all kinds of stuff. I had one person who bought an entire pallet of water and it was so heavy I wasn’t sure that our shop truck was going to be able to actually haul all the water!” Cole said. 

Soon the dealership teamed up with the local sheriff’s department and more donations were flowing in. Fortunately, one of the Cole H-D’s customers owns a trucking company, and offered to lend a truck and driver to the cause free of charge. 

Cole H-D loaded an entire tractor trailer with donations, an outdoor grill, food and drinks and traveled to the affected area. Once there, a team of Cole employees — along with the general manager, the owner and family members — spent an entire day unloading supplies and cooking for volunteers and those in need.

“This involved everyone from our service techs all the way up to our GM and our owner,” said Lisa Horne, marketing director of Cole Harley-Davidson. “The owner was loading up the truck with a forklift. This wasn’t a minor thing that we put together — everyone was involved.”

Members of the sheriff’s department, general manager Chaz Cole and owner Charlie Cole were on hand to help load donations at the dealership.

Cole H-D’s dedication to its community and customers rolls over into its day-to-day operations as well. In 2016, the dealership made several improvements to better its customer service and staff training. 

“I think we’ve finally got all the right people in all the right places and increased our daily training. The best way to describe it is a culture shift,” said Cole. “We’ve grown as a team and finally started to mesh.”

“A big part of this culture shift is finding the right people in the position, it takes a while to find that fit. We’re team-oriented and customer-focused. It makes a big difference when you’ve got that caliber of people,” Horne added.

The dealership hosts many in-store and community-related events per year. Horne said that adding in a community support element is key to having successful events in the dealership. “Those events are really tremendous for us and we’re going forward with that plan to incorporate those ideas,” she said.

A team of Cole Harley-Davidson employees traveled to the affected area to unload donations and cook up meals for those in need.

In September, Cole H-D hosts an annual Discover More Open house. In 2016, this two-day event featured test rides with new Harley models featuring the Milwaukee 8 engine, sweepstakes and prize giveaways. A well-attended event, the number of door swings in two days was up from 139 swings in 2015 to 904 swings in 2016. In addition, six service appointments were made and more than 36 leads were gathered during the weekend open house.

It’s not only customers who show up to support the community. Horne added that the staff is very involved: “It’s not just the customers that pick up on these community events, it’s the staff here too and it means so much to us.” When the local Marine Corp. dropped off boxes to collect Toys for Tots this year, the staff had already filled the box before it was available to customers.

Looking ahead, 2018 is full of promise for Cole H-D. While Harley-Davidson as a company celebrates its 115th anniversary, the dealership will also celebrate 20 years in business. 

Cole Harley-Davidson served as collection center for donations from the surrounding community, including the local sheriff’s department.

 

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