House of Harley-Davidson

High-quality employees drive dealership

Being a Harley-Davidson dealership in the company’s hometown brings with it a high level of expectation, and House of Harley-Davidson has stepped up to the challenge.

“We’ve won more Bar & Shield performance awards than, I think, anyone else in the country,” principal and president John Schaller reported.

The House was founded in 1971, and it has grown. Since 1994, when Schaller took over, the dealership has blossomed from 14 employees to nearly 90 full-time and part-time staffers.

House of Harley is situated in an ideal location, five miles from the Motor Co.’s headquarters and museum and three miles from the Milwaukee airport.

Unit sales
Though many flock to the House for new unit sales, pre-owned has boomed since the recession.

The dealership pushes used inventory over the Internet, and supplements its selection through trades, Craigslist, other websites, newspapers and, occasionally, auctions.

“I believe that we have a well-defined sales process that is adhered to by the salespeople,” Schaller added.

Because of the volume of sales the House handles, Schaller looks to the auto industry when hiring in F&I. He seeks employees who are accommodating and understand menu selling.

“Since all Harley dealers essentially sell the same thing, it’s always the people,” he said. “Just with the sales team and every other department, I think we have the greatest group in the F&I department.”

The greatest success the House has seen in PG&A is participating in Harley’s Fit Shop pilot program, which began in 2010.

“The Fit Shop is essentially using some very, very highly trained chrome consultants to talk to every buyer of a bike about accessorization, and that has been very successful for us. It has more than doubled our parts per unit sales,” Schaller explained.

The PG&A department is also mindful of its inventory.

“I hate empty pegs on a wall, so our parts manager is also essentially our inventory manager. It is his job to make sure we always have what we need,” Schaller added.

As in PG&A, the House also participated in a Harley pilot program in service, which became the Express Lane at the dealership.

“If a person brings a bike in by 2 o’clock, and we think it’s less than two hours of work, we’ll have it to them same day, so it’s eliminated the two- or three-week waits we had in the summer,” Schaller said.

The dealership also keeps its techs busy in winter, with a storage program and encouragement of winter service. On average, each bike stored brings in $700 in winter repairs.

“We try to get the service department busy, and the service department likes that,” Schaller said.

House of Harley is known for its events, which draw anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people to the dealership. Some include an indoor winter bike show, an outdoor spring bike show, bike nights, poker runs, charity runs and more. The dealership also hosts an annual Dining with the Starrs event with Green Bay Packers legend Bart Starr and his wife Cherry, benefitting the Lombardi Foundation.

“We say, ‘Make the House your home,’ or ‘All roads lead to the House.’ We just want people to know if they come here, there will be food or something going on,” Schaller said.

Inventory management
Inventory is carefully monitored at the House. The dealership is one of 10 using a beta computer inventory management system from Harley.

“It is a computer inventory management system that every night pulls our inventory, and items that are below the reorder point are reordered,” Schaller explained, adding that he focuses more on getting rid of non-moving inventory and keeping things fresh than how many turns the merchandise has.

What attracts employees to your dealership?
Employee satisfaction is extremely important to Schaller, as he believes it’s the people that make the business successful. Among other benefits, the House offers competitive wages, profit sharing, training and opportunities for professional growth. The dealership was voted one of the best places to work in Milwaukee by its employees in 2010 and 2011.

“Of all the awards we’ve won, that’s the one that I was most proud of,” Schaller said.

He sees his ultimate job as creating a business where people want to work.

Milwaukee, WI
# of Locations: 1 full-line dealership and 1 ARO apparel store
Full-time employees: 63
Year founded: 1971
Principal/Owner: John Schaller
OEM brands: Harley-Davidson


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