It’s my mom’s fault. When I was 13, she asked what I wanted for Christmas. I blurted out, “A leather jacket!” She shrieked, “Why do you want to look like a … motorcycle hoodlum?” That’s all it took for me to want to be in the motorcycle business. Looking back on my two decades in this business, there have been mistakes, successes and lessons learned. Here are a few of my favorites; hopefully you’ll find them instructive:
During my early days at Hannum’s Harley-Davidson, after one especially long day, I left an ATV outside of service. I knew it wasn’t smart but I left it out. Fortunately it was there the next morning, unfortunately so was Tom Hannum. I gave many justifications why the unit was left out overnight: There was no more room; we were already locked up; it was an older unit, so I thought it ok; and others said it was ok.
Finally, I had run out of reasons. Tommy looked me in the eye and said, “You know better. No excuses.” Then he gave me a playful punch in the shoulder and walked away. Tommy was right then and, although he’s no longer with us, he’s right now; you have to own your own behavior.
- Not selling more? Chances are good it’s not the market’s fault.
- Not saving enough? Probably not the result of the inflation rate.
- Weigh too much? It’s not McDonald’s fault.
Are there things outside of your control? Of course, but you’d probably agree that if we all assumed a bit more personal responsibility for our actions and their subsequent results we’d all be better off.
The customer doesn’t care if you’re tired
During the riding season, 80-hour work weeks are common. But your customer is working hard, too, and they come to you for escape. The last thing they want to hear is you complaining or see you limping around like a ’79 Sportster firing on just one cylinder. There are times when working in the dealership is about survival. I know it’s hard, but you have to suck it up; you’ll rest when the season’s over, because the customer doesn’t care if you’re tired.
Success is more about marketing than competency
As consultants, our clients don’t care if we can detail all aspects of the Herzberg Motivation Hygiene Theory. They just care that we can improve their business. So that’s what we concentrate on.
Most of your customers don’t care if you know the molecular structure of the frame material on the bikes you are selling. You need to know something about the bike and be able to explain it in a way that allows the customer to differentiate this motorcycle from others, enabling him to make an informed purchase decision.
Typically once you have 80% of the subject down (technical competency) you then start telling people (marketing). That’s the path to real success.
Save your money
No one is going to take care of you but you. Not the government, not your rich uncle, not the lottery. The sooner you embrace this reality the better.
Many financial experts say most people are two paychecks away from being broke. Don’t be a statistic. Start saving.
If you start with nothing and put away just $100 a month every month for 25 years into a decent growth mutual fund that has an average annual return of 7.5% you’ll accumulate $87,691.44. That’s pretty amazing. Of course there will be taxes and in 25 years $87,000 won’t buy what it will today, but it’s more than you have if you don’t start saving!
Albert Einstein called compounding rates of return one of the most powerful forces known to man. He helped split an atom, so I’m listening to him.
Don’t be afraid to fail
Most people are held back by an inner voice that says, “What if I fail?” If you’re taking calculated risks, who cares? I’m not talking experimenting with open heart surgery that would be ridiculous. But if there’s a new consulting idea, method or intervention, and it seems like it will improve the client’s situation, I’ll try it.
I’ve lost the sale, blown the assignment, not gotten the job, not gotten the project, not gotten the result … so what? I always learn from the experience, increased my capacity and am better prepared for the next time. No one’s keeping score. Life isn’t a zero sum game. Take a risk.
Use the right amount of energy to do the job
Early in my career I worked for a person who nicknamed me the terminator. Why? Because whatever project he gave me I marshaled all my energy and resources to not just complete it but to crush it. Need it in two weeks? I did it in one. Need three solutions? I came up with 10.
Here’s the problem. Because of this disproportionate emphasis I was missing other opportunities and actually decreasing my overall effectiveness.
Not every assignment you face demands the resources of the D-Day invasion. Rather, you should really use just the right energy and resources to get the result. No more. No less.
Learn to compartmentalize
Sometimes you may have a nagging issue with a co-worker or customer and you’ll find it all consuming, meaning you can’t think of anything but that one issue.
To increase your effectiveness, it’s important to be able to “box it” and save it for later. You may need to think about the issue or wait until someone is available to have a conversation. But you can’t let it impact all aspects of your work.
Respect those who have come before you
Your dealership is where it is today because of the people who have come before you. It’s important to understand that and respect it. I’ve never met anyone who said, “Man I’m really going to mess this place up.” People do the best they can with what they know at the time. Respect that because with a little luck, before you know it, you’ll be the old-timer.
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Performance Based Selling
Be like a favorite sweatshirt
Early in my career I was pretty hard-nosed. Who are you? What have you done? What are your credentials? Those were all considerations I made of people.
When people interact personally and professionally, more often than not they’re not looking to be on the receiving end of the Spanish Inquisition. Instead of being a tough-minded, discerning evaluator of people, now I just try and make them comfortable. You know, like the way you feel after a long day and you go home and pull on your favorite sweatshirt. People like that more.
Tell others what you like about them
Everyone likes to receive a compliment. Just because you give someone a compliment doesn’t mean there will be fewer compliments for you. In fact, there will probably be more. So go ahead, make the world a bit better and tell people what you think they do well.
Being right isn’t enough
Here’s a news flash. Want to get a good idea off the ground? Being right isn’t enough. You have to recognize that it’s ok to work the human system that is your organization. You have to, as Joel Deluca defines it, “Ethically build a critical mass of support for ideas you care about.”
Discover how to help others achieve their objectives and they will help you achieve yours. As long as it’s good for you and the dealership, that’s doing things the right way.
Asset or liability
This last lesson was actually one of my first. Rita Hannum, explained to me, “Mark, our people are really either one of two things: They are either assets or liabilities. You’ll have to decide which you are going want to be.” That’s pretty clear.
I’ve done interesting things in this business. Although I’m not finished yet, and may be running the risk of being self-indulgent, here are a few: I’ve run across the Golden Gate Bridge, seen a space shuttle launch at night, looked over Windsor Castle while the Queen was in residence, stood backstage at sold-out rock concerts.
I’ve traveled to the Netherlands and seen the Holland Tulips in bloom (I was in Oslo the day the Spice Girls announced their breakup from a downtown Oslo Hotel … oh, wait, that’s not something to brag about), stood atop Grouse Mountain in Vancouver and sat on a beach in Waikiki.
I’ve looked over Sydney Harbor at night, flown in private jets and visited the England’s Midlands, the birth place of heavy metal. I’ve done Sturgis, Daytona and Laconia.
I’ve met thousands of interesting, hardworking and engaged people and, most importantly, met my wife, Amy.
All of these opportunities were a result of working in the motorcycle business. What adventures might the motorcycle business hold for you?