Power Profiles

Gieson Motorsports – Rock Falls, IL – Feb. 12, 2007

Gieson Motorsports
800 E. Route 30
Rock Falls, Ill. 61071
Jon Gieson
When Jon Gieson was a boy, he tried to talk his father into buying a powersports dealership, but his dad wouldn’t or couldn’t do so. Gieson went on to attend college and worked on a degree in forestry. Needing only two credits to finish, he moved home and took his final classes at a local college, but when a nearby dealership came up for sale, he jumped on the chance to own it. “Maybe I was destined,” Gieson said. Gieson Motorsports opened in 1986 with three employees on board. In January 2000, the dealership moved into a 15,000-square-feet facility with plenty of space to display its ATVs, motorcycles, scooters, snowmobiles, utility vehicles and personal watercraft. The move more than tripled available space from the 4,000 square feet at the dealership’s previous facility. It now carries Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha products and emphasizes customer service.
“There’s a lot of places you get a lot of rude treatment,” Gieson said. “[As a consumer,] when you go places and get treated rudely, you understand how frustrating it is. In a rural small town, you can’t treat people poorly and have them come back.”
Insurance costs are one of the thorns in Gieson’s side. Rising health care costs have led to higher insurance premiums across the nation. Product liability insurance costs also have become a concern, with the dealership wanting to look out for its interests in that area. Gieson also has been hit with rising flooring costs. Not helping with paying those rising expenses is the lack of a good snow season. Through mid-January, Rock Falls had little snow cover, effectively killing off Gieson’s plow and snowmobile business for the year.
Yamaha ATVs are the best seller at Gieson Motorsports. In particular, the Raptor 700 and 450 Grizzly have been popular. “Yamaha in general is a stronger brand for us here locally, but it’s not the high-end stuff for us,” Gieson said. Following ATVs, the other products and remaining brands all sell in a good mix, Gieson said.
It’s in the CSI surveys, Gieson said. He can see the impact the Internet has had on consumers’ shopping habits just by comparing surveys from several years ago and today. One question asks how many dealerships a customer visited and instead of only visiting one or two dealerships, these days people are checking out up to seven stores before they buy. Gieson estimates the average answer is five. “People are shopping a lot harder, checking the Web more than they used to,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s necessarily a bad thing or a good thing.”
In a build up to offering two-day service on some maintenance items and a quicker turnaround on others, Gieson added more service employees last year and kept all its service people on board over the winter. The dealership started offering prepaid maintenance, which customers are starting to take advantage of increasingly. Giving a discount on service up front is more likely to get customers back into the store than offering a discount later, Gieson said.
A promotional hint from Gieson Motorsports: it doesn’t always have to be about powersports. The dealership holds events unrelated to the industry on its grounds that get people to the location and seeing the product, even if they’re not necessarily interested at the time. With its 14 acres and large parking area, the dealership is an ideal location for civic events. The city of Rock Falls puts on its annual fireworks display at the dealership, and every other year the area Chamber of Commerce brings in a circus that sets up on the grounds. “It creates awareness of who we are and doesn’t cost us anything per say,” Gieson said. “They get a lot of press and our name is part of it. Then, if people consider getting into powersports, they think, ‘Oh yeah, I know where those guys are.’”
“Something that I’ve always lived by is if you get a problem from a customer, you wonder, ‘What should I tell them?’” Gieson said. “Be honest with your customers. If something happened or something might take longer than you originally thought, be totally straightforward with them. You don’t have to remember what you said if you tell the truth. Get it taken care of. Don’t hide anything. Keep everything out in the open. Short term you might lose a couple bucks, but long term it’s the only way to be.”

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