Although he has been a rider and motorcycle enthusiast his entire life, Steve Okenfuss didn’t start out intending to sell motorcycles.
For 21 years, Steve worked as a banker. After that, he decided to get into the auto industry, but was not entirely happy selling cars. Steve wanted to try something more fun, and he began to consider opening a motorcycle dealership.
Steve located a large vacant building in a good location, and got a steal of a deal. He named his new business Reno’s Powersports (Reno is what Steve’s riding buddies call him) and started researching OEMs. “I was looking for an opportunity and obtained a Yamaha franchise in 2001. Then I acquired Aprilia. Now we sell Ducati, Yamaha Motorsports, Aprilia, Wave Runner, Sea-Doo PWC and Sport Boat, Can-Am ATV and SxS, Spyder Roadster, Vespa and Piaggio.”
Okenfuss has chosen this varied mix of product to provide something for everyone who is likely to walk in the door. The big building has few frills and issues with deferred maintenance, but does offer a lot of display space. He has carefully exploited the good points of his location. “We serve an 8 to 80 market,” he says. “We have kids who want dirt bikes, first time street riders, racing people, Italian bike enthusiasts and the local agricultural community, who want side-by-sides and ATVs.”
The large space makes it easier to serve all the diverse people walking into the shop. “Our goal is to give each customer the easiest shopping experience. We try to segregate each brand,” explains Okenfuss. “We put all the scooters in one area, the Waverunners and Sea-Doos in another and the ATVs in a third.”
“The Italian bikes have their own showroom,” Okenfuss continues. “They attract a more discerning buyer. We have trained staff to help ensure each Italian bike rider has the best experience on the bike.”
In addition to his Italian motorcycle sales, Okenfuss has done well with a Can-Am Spyder franchise, achieving Platinum Can-Am dealer status and Spyder Dealer of the Year in 2010. “Spyders appeal to every age group,” he says. “They are popular with all kinds of people. They especially appeal to people who are lacking confidence to ride a two-wheeler. Can-Ams open the door to motorcycling with a big group who have given up on ever riding again. They give the riding experience of a motorcycle. They are also a conversation piece.”
In addition to his Can-Am sales awards, Reno’s is a Pro Yamaha Star and Sport Specialist and had achieved Waverunner High Output status. Okenfuss credits the success of his dealership to three factors. The first is his Kansas City, Missouri location, which combines a sophisticated urban core with excellent riding opportunity. “From Kansas City, you are out in the country in a matter of minutes. There’s little traffic once you get out of the city. You are close to the Ozarks, with all those twisty roads, and you are equidistant to everything. It’s a great place to navigate from.”
The second is his attitude towards his customers. “All our customers are interested in value — the most bang for the buck. Coming out of a recession, people are focused on value. There is a bigger issue, however, the customer wants to be able to match a product with their needs and intended use. In order for us to do that, my staff must spend time with the customer to get that best match.”
“Our approach is that we are in the information business. We give the customer the information to make the best buying decision. The market is fractured at the moment, what we do is targeted to the buyer who is interested in more than price.”
The third factor is Reno’s ability to create a sense of community around the dealership. Okenfuss’ long-term experience as a motorcycling enthusiast has taught him what interests other motorcyclists. The Reno’s community attracts potential customers even before they learn to ride. “We have four Motorcycle Safety Foundation schools in Kansas City, and I am hooked up to every one of them,” he says. “I loan them bikes and send them a stream of enrollees.”
As a result of Okenfuss’ successful business model and the low overhead of his store, he did not have to lay off employees during the recent recession. “My idea was that I would continue to do business. I did not stop advertising, but I did reevaluate my expenses.
“My product mix is evolutionary,” Okenfuss concludes. “I sell beginning riders used bikes or entry-level bikes, then have increasingly sophisticated offerings as they get more experience. Actually, motorcycles are easy to sell, much easier to sell than cars. They sell themselves.”