Flagship Powersports prepares young entrepreneurs for success
Over the past few years, the industry has focused a lot of discussion on bringing younger customers into powersports, as the current demographic ages. However, rarely mentioned is the aging of dealership owners, GMs and department managers.
Justin Jackrel thinks we should all pay more attention to dealers’ ages.
“Our average dealer age is probably between 55 and 65 for the ownership. And it’s getting kind of scary,” he said. “You’ve seen a lot of guys retire — great dealers that are retiring, or unfortunately, dying — and no one new coming in to replace them.”
Jackrel is president of Bintelli, a scooter line he imports from China. In the four-plus years that he’s been in the scooter business, Jackrel has worked with fewer than five dealership owners under age 30, and in the past two years, three or four of his dealers have retired, and two have passed away.
As Jackrel began expressing concern about the aging dealer principal trend, his colleagues were noticing the same thing. Jackson Haskell, who joined Bintelli as a dealer support specialist in late 2015, says in nearly 100 dealership visits, he’s noticed a large number of owners and managers in their 50s, 60s and 70s.
“The industry is getting old. We think it needs fresh blood,” Haskell told Powersports Business. “There aren’t a whole lot of entrants because maybe it’s not as flashy or as sexy as some other industries, but with a little bit of hard work, we know this industry can be very successful, very profitable.”
Of course, no one at Bintelli thinks there’s anything wrong with dealers who are 50-plus years old. Their concern, however, is what will happen to the industry when those dealers retire and don’t have successors to take over their businesses.
“We have retail customers just constantly calling us up and saying, ‘Hey, your dealer here was great. He just retired. Where do I go to get my product serviced, or where do I buy more?’ And there’s no one else to send them to,” Jackrel explained.
For years, he and his team at Bintelli have been considering how they can help younger entrepreneurs enter the powersports market. First, they considered opening their own flagship stores but decided it wasn’t the right route for them. Next, the team at Bintelli looked at offering franchises, like McDonald’s does, for example. However, with varying franchise laws in each state, the investment would cost a dealer $20,000-$40,000 just to start, on top of 15-20 percent in franchise fees. That was also a no-go.
But after two dealers retired right after one another late last year, another concept came to light. Jackrel decided to launch a new company that offers young entrepreneurs dealership operating agreements. In exchange for their commitment to the scooter business and
5 percent of their revenue, Jackrel’s new Flagship Powersports company offers new dealers accepted into the program the assistance they need to launch successful dealerships.
Flagship Powersports is born
Flagship Powersports is based on Jackrel’s and his team’s combined decades of experience. Jackrel has been working in retail, wholesale and distribution for 16 years. Though Haskell is new to Bintelli, he previously owned an electric bicycle franchise. Jason Perske, a dealer support specialist for Flagship Powersports, has been with Bintelli for eight years, and many of the other staff dealers work with are also quite experienced.
“We’ve got all of this knowledge here that is allowing these kids and all the future guys to just come in and just take the guesswork out,” Jackrel explained.
The Flagship Powersports operating agreement offers young entrepreneurs the chance to launch their own powersports dealership, while relying on the Flagship Powersports staff for assistance and advice. All Flagship Powersports dealers will undergo headquarters training at Bintelli’s facility in Charleston, South Carolina. They’ll also be visited by their coach and will have access to the 100-plus page “Book of Knowledge” that the Flagship Powersports staff wrote. They’ll be given forms that will help them run their businesses with ease, and a private YouTube channel provides videos that answer frequently answered questions.
The Flagship staff will offer advice on obtaining funding, marketing, employee management, merchandising, upselling, budgeting and forecasting and a host of other topics. A coach will also be assigned to help the dealership with a range of issues, and a dealer support specialist will assist with technical support and questions about their Bintelli orders. Bintelli will floor any of its Bintelli or Adly brand scooters for the dealers.
“We’re required every year — we’re contractually obligated — to increase their revenue every year. We help them with their fundraising; we floor all of their inventory at no cost to them. They have a coach that’s available to them pretty much 16-18 hours per day,” Jackrel reported. As owner of Flagship Powersports, he will also be involved in each dealership that opens.
As of the launch of the program, participating dealers will have to give Flagship Powersports 5 percent of their revenue and show a willingness to learn and use what the Flagship staff is teaching them. Flagship Powersports has no equity in their dealers’ businesses.
“The way that we approach it with people is, if we can make you $100,000 more than you can make on your own, would you give us $5,000 for that?” Jackrel said. “Every person that we’ve ever asked that question to has said yes, and that’s when we decided let’s do this program.”
First dealership opens
It didn’t take long for Flagship Powersports to find its first dealer partners.
While the Flagship Powersports program was still being finalized, Jonathan Kerr and Collin Basinger, students at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, contacted Bintelli.
The pair had been researching the scooter market in Fayetteville, where there was only one scooter dealership. An opportunity to open their own store existed, they thought, so they called Bintelli, looking to secure the Bintelli and Adly territory for Fayetteville.
However, Kerr and Basinger had only $500 to invest into the dealership.
The Flagship Powersports staff thought the duo might be ideal candidates for their pilot flagship dealership. Communication between both groups began, and within a few weeks, Jackrel and the team at Flagship decided Kerr and Basinger would be the perfect fit for the program. Haskell was assigned as their coach, and Perske became their dealer support specialist.
“Jon and Collin, one attribute that made me excited to work with these guys is they had a fire in their belly, and it’s just not something that you can give to somebody; you can’t cultivate it; I don’t believe that,” Haskell said. “So when we ran into these two kids that were just hungry to do something exciting and interesting in their stomping grounds in Arkansas, that’s what attracted me to them because I knew they were going to work hard because it’s going to take years of hard work to build something incredible, but they were into it.”
Work with Kerr, Basinger and their ScootTribe dealership began in May. Over the course of three months, they secured enough funding to operate for six months, attended headquarters training in Charleston and hosted Flagship Powersports staff in Fayetteville twice.
The dealership opened the week of July 25, and within two weeks ScootTribe had sold 15 scooters and serviced five. And that was despite the fact that pre-opening advertising was limited due to the urgency to open before University of Arkansas students began their fall move in.
“Just the fact that these kids went from having nothing to now retailing our product and other products, that’s a huge win,” Haskell exclaimed.
Jackrel added, “They’re going to kill it. They only have one competitor there. They’re going to do so well. After visiting that market, I now have faith that they’re going to do twice as well as I originally thought a month ago or two months ago.”
The goal, he said, is to have ScootTribe experience successes in Year 2 that may not have happened until Year 5 or 6 without the help of Flagship Powersports.
From their viewpoint, Kerr and Basinger know they’re already better prepared because of the Flagship program.
Basinger said, “There is a zero percent chance we would have been opened before the start of school season [without the Flagship Powersports program]. If ScootTribe would have somehow gotten the doors open before school started, the processes and organization would have been terrible, and ScootTribe would have jumped on the train heading toward the 80 percent of businesses failing within 10 years.”
Kerr said, “I believe the program has saved us from making hundreds of mistakes, losing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars while accelerating our business plan.”
They both said they’d recommend the program to other young entrepreneurs looking to enter the powersports arena.
“The program has taught Collin and I how to think before we act. Because we are only 21, there have been many times that Collin and I have looked at each other and said, ‘If we started ScootTribe without the assistance of the program, we would not exist.’ I still believe that to this day,” Kerr said. “The program has also taught us how to relate as business partners, as well as how to split responsibilities up amongst ourselves to ensure every day is an efficient step forward.”
Flagship Powersports’ future
With one dealership under their belt, the staff at Flagship Powersports is looking forward to launching their second.
They’ve compiled a list of 15 locations where they’d like their next dealerships to open, with Boca Raton and Tallahassee, Florida, at No. 1 and 2. However, they’re willing to look at other locations, if they’re proposed. Fayetteville, for example, wasn’t even in the top 10, but Kerr and Basinger offered market research that proved it was a great place to start.
Jackrel plans to speak to business students at colleges within Flagship Powersports’ top prospect cities in an effort to recruit young entrepreneurs into the program. The Flagship Powersports staff is looking for those who are motivated, hard working and willing to learn.
“We’re first pre-qualifying. We’re not just letting everyone join this program because we have to know that this is going to be someone that, if they get the right coaching, and if they get the inventory, they’re just going to crush it,” Jackrel said. “They have to be someone that’s relatively intelligent and will accept the coaching, but someone that wants to stick with us and do this for a good amount of time and really make some money and take care of the community and do the little things that the struggling dealers aren’t doing.”
Haskell added, “I just want to find other interesting people. I would happily do it again with somebody of [Kerr’s and Basinger’s] level, if they had the same fire that those kids have. That’s what we need. The industry needs young people, and we want those young people, too.”
Though the program has been designed to launch new dealerships, Flagship Powersports is also accepting applications from current dealers seeking more help.
“There’s a lot of companies out there that are failing that we would love to keep in the industry instead of see them go out of business in the first year or two,” Jackrel said.
The goal of Flagship Powersports is to open two to four dealerships per year.
“We want to make sure that we are giving everyone the proper amount of time between myself, the coach and Jason to make sure that they’re getting everything they need to succeed. We don’t want to do this 50 percent; we want to do every dealership 100 percent.”
Jackrel said it would behoove interested parties to apply early, as eventually the revenue share will increase, and the best territories will soon be taken.
While he and his team started Flagship Powersports for selfish reasons, as a way to improve its Bintelli dealer network, they’ve all fallen in love with the program over the past few months and would like to dedicate more time to it. Flagship projects it’ll lose money in its first 12 months, with investments in travel and coaching time, but the team is proud of what it’s developed.
“We’re in this for the long haul. We’re in this to make them money for a long time and then eventually we profit from it,” Jackrel said.
He added, “This is what the industry needs, in our opinion. We’re going to do the best we can, not only for us, but for everyone else because a lot of these dealers that are under the flagship program will eventually start selling UTVs and dirt bikes and ATVs. … ScootTribe, they’re just rocking and rolling in Fayetteville. This is going to help out six to eight different distributors out there because we’ve now made a dealer that is a Level One dealer.”