Chris McIntyre founded a motorcycle rental company in California that continues to grow today, eclipsing the number of consumers it served last year from its record levels of 2008. The CEO?of EagleRider has agreements with several high-profile worldwide online travel agencies and has turned those into increasing sales from international riders.?In fact, that part of the business now accounts for about half of the company’s revenue.
What’s the biggest challenge for the industry and what should be done about it?
The biggest challenge in the industry is most of what used to work for us has completely changed or no longer works. It’s almost like the rules of the game that you’re so used to playing have completely changed. Take your pick: credit markets, increased costs, increased interest on credit or flooring lines, increased taxes. God bless the beautiful, sunny state of California, but you cannot God bless the tax policy and fee structure here. Magically when times got tough, so did the big tax bills in the state of California. I hate to say it, and not to be negative, but they could become federal. Environmental restrictions.
We have beautiful weekly meetings. We all get together from all departments, whether it’s guys washing the bikes on our lines to the CFO. We call it the “Great Leadership Committee.” What we do in these meetings is challenge ourselves to come up with solutions. In our case, and I can just imagine the OEMs, all the dealerships out there and the guys who I know out there in the industry, sitting and doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That’s going to lead to a lot of pain. So what we do is these weekly meetings. We get in and challenge ourselves. It’s in a real cool, laid back forum in what we call the “Eagle’s Nest.” It’s a casual area. And we leave our comfort zones and offer solutions.
Understanding EagleRider and how we relate to these changes in this business model: EagleRider rents and sells lifestyle and experience. Our own trademark slogan is “we rent dreams.” The beautiful thing about our industry is we all sell dreams, whether it’s me selling a rental, whether it’s a dealer selling that brand new Harley-Davidson or Goldwing or PWC that’s going to become hot in the summer. We are all selling an experience, a lifestyle. So the beautiful thing is our customers want what we have, even in these difficult economic times. It amazes people. They say I can’t believe you grew almost 10 percent in 2009. I was actually amazed. The length of rentals instead of being 12 days, it went down to 10. So people, even the Europeans, take a shorter holiday. But the bottom line is it grew and the reason it grew is we all have something people want. They want to experience a lifestyle. They want recreation. They want to enjoy life. It’s up to us, being business owners, being dealers, being creative rental businesses, to find creative solutions.
We get together (at the weekly meetings) and look at, ‘OK, here’s our current core foundation of our business. We do rentals, tours and travel. We can’t just stop doing that and change everything. But how we create our normal business plan is something we can be flexible in. So we’ll take pieces of our business plan and identify new profit centers in our market. Candidly, Las Vegas was a huge international tourist market and domestic tours market that we did tons of rentals. It changed. So instead of sitting back and expecting the customers to find us and do it and book with us, we went out and created a program called “Concierge marketing program” and joined the hotel concierge program. We hosted concierge events. We found the concierges. We met the concierges. We built the relationship with concierges. So we created a new business plan. We identified the opportunities, the profit centers that were available in each market we’re in. And the key was our business plan became flexible by market and we made simple changes.
When we first started, we created a more complex plan. That didn’t work. We made a very simple plan. You’re going to laugh at this, but we focused on three core areas that we changed. And that was it. In the meetings that we had, we had 30 (changes). There got to be so many that it wasn’t possible to even tackle them, and it was too much and we started losing focus.
From there, it was communicating. As a leader of a business, you have to have a vision. You have to communicate your plan. We changed our plan so we shared our vision and our new plan with every single person in our company.
When something starts to work, don’t just sit back and let it work good. Let’s make it work really, really good. So in order to make it work really good, you highlight your successes. Not only do you have your weekly meetings with your team, but you highlight wins. The thing that I found that really helps build momentum and success is no matter how small the victory, we all love to win. We celebrate the wins and the victories. It’s amazing when you highlights wins, no matter how small, what it does for your team spirit. The key is you get everybody involved and magic happens.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your current position, and how have you dealt with it?
The biggest challenge for me was I realized I had to become a diplomat with the OEMs. What made common sense and mutually beneficial to me and EagleRider was not common sense to an OEM. The solution was I had to become a diplomat and really focus on building relationships with the OEMs and our fleet partners. Because let’s face it, whether it’s your wife, your friends or your business relationships, you always like to work with people that you like and trust.
What’s the best advice you can give to others in the industry?
You know the famous quote, “Don’t recreate the wheel.” We all have really strong egos. A natural obstacle we put in front of ourselves or get caught up in doing is trying to recreate the wheel. A lot of the leaders, really strong aggressive guys that are really, really good at doing what they do, they believe they can do it better than the other guys who have proven their model works. When I see this on the rental side, there are a lot of dealers wasting their time, working really, really hard to recreate the wheel that EagleRider has already created and we know they’re spending two-three times in insurance than going with an EagleRider system. So my advice would be, and I’ve done this to, I’ve aligned myself with companies and experts in their fields. So what I try to preach candidly to the dealers and OEMs is don’t recreate the rental industry. Why don’t you align yourself with EagleRider? We’re the pros. We’ve been doing since 1999. We have the recipe for success. Just as I found of fleet managers. When I realized I had to start selling motorcycles, we tried to do it ourselves. Quickly I said, “You guys, we’re working really hard but not very smart. Let’s go out there and hire the experts out there.” Immediately we can leverage their expertise and put it in our company’s benefit, success and profit.
The single most powerful thing I personally do, and I think an owner, a CEO of any company out there can do, is to lead their company with a positive attitude. My partners in this business, when we started and I trademarked ‘We rent dreams,’ they’re all, ‘Oh God, here goes McIntyre again.’ But the truth is, and I’m living example, if you believe in something, you have to put a plan together. You have to keep the plan simple. You have to execute the plan. You have to build the team. The beautiful thing about an attitude is it’s a choice. It makes my life happy. It’s makes my wife’s happy and makes employees and managers around you happy and it creates a feeling of success and happiness. A positive attitude can single-handedly can make or break a company. A positive attitude eliminates the fear. And what does fear do? Fear immobilizes you. You don’t make decisions. You get stuck in doing the same old, same old. And same old, same old is going to lead you to one path — a problem. But a positive attitude opens up the door of these opportunities that you would never see if you didn’t have a positive attitude. It opens up your people to speak freely amongst each other and come forward with creative solutions. It might sound simple, all too easy, but it’s the truth. People love to follow leaders that believe in themselves, believe in their mission, their vision.