Put your mouth where your money is

By Tim Calhoun

In previous blogs I have been referencing the changing business environment we are seeing at the OEM, distribution and dealership levels of retail oriented businesses. Legacy businesses (JC Penney, Sears etc.) are suffering great losses and you need look no further than the evening’s news broadcast for stories of retail giants all closing stores and shrinking the physical presence in the market place.

The key trends, as stated by multiple publications, are moves towards boutique stores or Omni channel storefronts (combination of traditional brick-and-mortar with e-commerce website sales and at store pickup). Of greater disruption are new business models that offer consumers an inside look at their business practices, in some cases breaking down production, shipping and labor costs factored into the product’s pricing. These companies go so far as to list the factories they are utilizing to reassure their customers they are using ethical business practices in the production of their products.

These new companies are creating unique customers who have a keen sense of supporting companies with a strong sense of identity and utilize ethical business strategies. Plainly stated they are creating their audience and speaking to them directly in an honest and open, conversational tone. I have written previously about the importance of identifying your audience and speaking to them in a way that connects with them as opposed to throwing out print ads or a marketing pitch.

As opposed to continuing to push this point, I would rather share with you one example of a dealer that is absolutely doing it right and is recognizing substantial growth in a year where many are just pushing or recognizing small gains. Jeff Slavens is the owner of Slavens Racing, a KTM dealership in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has become “THE” expert in all things KTM and euro motorcycle to the audience he has created. He is not trying to mass market, but rather is focused on finding interesting products that he personally tests and reviews through video blogs and presents to his loyal followers.

He is a passionate dealer who loves everything motorcycle and shares this passion with his tribe. He offers honest product reviews, comparisons and insights. He has a unique knack to take confusing products and simplify them for his watchers. Slavens does not live by the steadfast rule that social media video needs to be 30 seconds to one minute; he states the information matter of fact. His videos are not studio-like with high production value but typically shot in his shop where the work gets done.

One of the key things I believe has really created the loyalty of his audience is he monitors his videos after putting them up and responds quickly to his audience’s questions and inquiries for additional information. He is having a conversation with his customers, acting as an open book and has created incredible trust in his knowledge and product recommendations. Slavens has created a strong sense of identity for his brand and is well recognized as an ethical dealer and the payoff has been expanding sales.

This is only one example of many of the smaller operators out there who are recognizing the strength of running smaller and more intimate operations. These people are not trying to be everything to everyone, but rather are focused on creating their own audience and followers. Slavens has absolutely put his mouth where his money is and has been willing to step out of the comfort zone and create his own direction for his business. I congratulate him on his tremendous and well-earned success. What are you doing to create your tribe?

If you would like to see Jeff in action you can see his videos at http://slavensracing.com/video/.

Tim Calhoun is the president of SpeedMob Inc., a boutique distributor and brand management company that offers personalized service, expert technical advice and solid after sales support for quality brands. As a recognized powersports leader with over 30 years experience in dealership management, sales management, business development, distribution management, brand building and marketing, Tim has worked with or for the three largest distributors in Powersports (WPS, TR, PU) in an outside sales role, as a national sales manager and as a manufacturer/vendor. With experience in the aftermarket, dealer and the OEM sector he has a well rounded perspective on the interactive roles and impact each of these sectors has with one another.


  1. I'm all for small operations and local business. Slavens is not a KTM dealer. He has a mail order accessory store and youtube following. Just keeping facts straight.

  2. My apologies John, for this oversight but you are incorrect in your statement as well. While he offers online sales he does a phenomenal job in store and with his customers, this being the key point that he has built a great audience by paying attention to the needs and wants of a specific audience. Calling him a "mail order" dealer is a term that has long since past and quite frankly undermines the quality of service he offers to his customers. He is also a rider and drives passion for our industry: something many dealers could take away as a lesson for a fresh approach to their customers.


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