Simply Ride of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, is the largest pre-owned motorcycle dealership in the state. “We have the largest used inventory in one place in Minnesota,” says Andy Brinkhaus, general manager of the dealership. “We’ll consistently be between 200 to 250 units at our height. That’s at one building.”
Owner Brian Cox opened the dealership in 2006 after selling used motorcycles out of his garage. “He bought a motorcycle, was out riding with some people and sold his bike and realized he could make some money,” Brinkhaus says. So, he opened Simply Sport Bikes and began to grow his inventory of used motorcycles.
Three years ago, the dealership took on Yamaha and began selling ATVs and side-by-sides in addition to motorcycles. Cox changed the name of the dealership to Simply Ride, “because we pretty much sell anything you can ride and have fun with,” Brinkhaus says.
Share a beer and talk motorcycles
Brinkhaus credits the dealership’s success to Cox’s hard work and engagement with the community. “He would sell all of his bikes on group motorcycle rides,” Brinkhaus says. “Community engagement is what really made the dealership work. It’s also what we lean into now.”
The dealership hosts numerous events, from large demo days to afternoon cookouts. “Sometimes we’ll say, ‘Come out Friday, our sales support guy will be grilling burgers, so come on down and have a beer and talk motorcycles,’” Brinkhaus says.
The dealership is in a warehouse district, so there is plenty of parking space to host events. “We aren’t a typical storefront dealership,” Brinkhaus says. “As busy as we are, it’s all through word of mouth and online, because you certainly don’t drive by our store. It’s tucked away.”
The dealership also gains awareness through its support of the local police, fire departments, and military. Having retired military and law enforcement staff, supporting individuals in these professions is important to the Simply Ride team. The dealership partners with Solider 6, an organization that provides honorably discharged veterans, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, correctional officers, and 911 dispatchers with specially trained K-9s. And the dealership puts on multiple events and rides throughout the year to support the organization.
The dealership also works with the Eden Prairie Fire Department to help fellow riders learn how to respond if they are in an emergency situation. “We want to give back to those who give so much to us,” Brinkhaus says. And having started his career in public safety, he loves that the two worlds mesh and that he gets to interact with public safety professionals while doing what he loves.
General Manager role
He went to school for law enforcement and firefighting and worked in home and safety for about 10 years. Looking for a change, he entered the automotive industry and sold cars for four years. He always had a love for motorcycles, riding since he was 18 years old, and transitioned to the powersports industry.
Brinkhaus was excited to merge the fun of motorcycles with his daily job. “It’s like you’re not going to work,” he says. “If you’re having a bad day in the motorcycle industry, you just hop on one on the show floor and go for a ride and your day gets better.”
After gaining experience at a couple of dealerships, he joined the Simply Ride team as a sales manager. After a year, he held the title of general sales manager and has now been the general manager for two years.
He explains that the most gratifying part of his job is working with and helping, people. “You’re the spreadsheet guy and you’re doing payroll, but the biggest part of my job is the customers and the employees,” he says. “So, it’s almost like you’re the problem solver and you’re the dealership therapist. I love working with customers. I love when there’s a problem, the customer is upset, and then 20 minutes later they’re saying, ‘I’ll never go anywhere else.’”
He also explains that the dealership has an open-door policy. Employees are encouraged to communicate to leaders about anything, including nonwork-related topics. “We’re all a family here. That’s one of our core values,” he says. “We lean into that more than I’ve seen at any other organization that I’ve worked for. It’s rewarding to be able to help people on a personal level too.”
Creating a team and family
Brinkhaus describes his team as a diverse group of enthusiastic motorcyclists. The team is made up of high school and college students, a retired attorney, a retired Chief Master Sergeant from the U.S. Air Force, a retired police chief, and a retired pilot.
He explains that he works with a unique melting pot of different perspectives from people with a common love of motorcycles and powersports. “We hire based on our core values: family, passion, premier, growth, and integrity. The big one – family. That’s where you get the dynamic where everyone has each other’s back.”
But Brinkhaus hires around all core values, not just family. “I want to know who you are as a person,” he says. “Are you a good person, do you have a love for this industry, do you have a love for your fellow human being and are you going to be a great teammate that’s coachable and that’s going to have a positive impact on the community and our organization?”
Happy employees produce better results
Brinkhaus says that it is critical to make every day about employees, as well as the job that needs to be done, to maintain a positive work environment. During the dealership’s weekly departmental meetings, employees share the best thing that has happened to them personally, and the best thing that has happened to them on a business level. During the weekly all-store meetings, employees share one good thing that happened that week, whether personal or work-related.
The various responses are great conversation starters and help employees continue to get to know each other. “You find common interests and you bond,” Brinkhaus says. “You have to balance the work with the human element. Your staff are people. When the people are happy, the work is better too. You sell more motorcycles when you’re happy. Crabby people don’t sell motorcycles. Employees get as – or more – excited as customers when they get them into the sport or help them buy the bike of their dreams.”
Formerly, quarterly employee events outside of work are planned. Informally, Brinkhaus explains that employees get together weekly if not every other day. “There are always random groups of six to eight people that go out. I just got an email today and a bunch of people are getting together and going out on Lake Minnetonka tomorrow. That happens all the time.”
“We do that fun stuff but above and beyond that, you could call anyone in this dealership, and everyone will without a doubt drop what they’re doing to help. We’ve seen it, it happens,” he continues. “And at the end of the day, we leave as friends and work through issues.”
Brinkhaus shares that he continues to learn despite being general manager for two years. “People have been a GM for 20 years and they’re still learning. If you’re not learning you’re not growing,” he says. And he is grateful that Cox continues to mentor him. “Brian is one of the biggest mentors that I’ve had in my life. He is the reason that I’m successful today.”