John Tisch, the owner of Motorcycles of Dulles, is a modest person. Despite the fact that he moves more motorcycles than most dealers on the Eastern Seaboard and his operation has a 4.9-star rating on Facebook and a 4.8-star rating on Google, he hastens to state that the success of the dealership is due to the vision of his now-retired partner, Ken Davis, and his great staff. “I can’t take credit for this,” Tisch says. “We have a superb reputation in the industry and I am only one part of that. It’s all the folks who work here who make this place.”
That superb reputation is reflected in online reviews, one of which reads, “It’s the little things like how they give you a place to hang up your gear so that you don’t have to carry it around, or offer you free coffee and donuts while you’re browsing.”
Running a motorcycle dealership is Tisch’s third career. He started out as an aerospace engineer while road racing motorcycles for several years. He chuckles that his claim to fame was being “a braking marker for the fast riders while road racing at Daytona.” At the same time, his friends were involved in the wholesale car business, and Tisch joined them. Wholesale morphed into a retail business repairing and selling used BMW cars. Tisch and his partner Davis realized that BMW dealers were taking over more of the used car business and decided to apply to sell BMW motorcycles.
“We were granted a franchise, but that was just before the economy died in 2009,” Tisch says. “We regretfully decided to hand the franchise back.”
In 2013, Triumph (then looking to expand its network) contacted the partners and proposed they take on a Triumph franchise. They wound down the car repair business and started up as Triumph Manassas. Triumph Manassas was very successful, and in 2015, BMW Motorrad came around and wanted to add the line. The dealership location was moved to a 20,000 square-foot facility in Dulles, Virginia; the name was changed to Motorcycles of Dulles (MOD); and the partners took on a Zero franchise, a Royal Enfield franchise and finally an Indian dealership too.
In addition to those original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), MOD is an authorized dealer for Klim ADV touring clothing, helmets and accessories. Klim makes high-end, all-weather garments for dualsport and adventure riding and is a preferred brand for many BMW riders. MOD also stocks Arai, Shoei and HJC helmets, brand apparel for all five OEMs and Denali accessories.
Davis retired in November 2020 and moved to Arizona but still calls weekly to chat business. Tisch attributes his dealership success to happy customers, running the business internally by the numbers with a high level of team member engagement and running externally with an exceptional level of customer care. He says that happy customers are the result of “people, processes and product.”
The first step is to hire people who care. “I look for people who care about themselves, the product and the customers. Some of my best hires come from suggestions from customers. I am looking for a can-do attitude. It’s also important to give team members a voice, to make sure that suggestions and complaints are heard. I want my team members to realize that each of them is a key ingredient in the success of the business. It’s also important to make sure that team members feel safe. That they feel they have job security and that they can trust the management. For example, if someone is not doing well in one position, I will try to move them to a spot where their skills will be better used.”
The next step is to put in place processes that make sense and facilitate business efficiency without making team members feel stressed to get their tasks done and as though they are a cog in a machine.
The final step is choosing product and selling items people want to buy. Tisch believes that, with his five very different brands, he has something for anyone interested in a motorcycle. He posts the brochures of all his current models on the MOD website and does comparison videos, pointing out the pluses and minuses of somewhat similar models made by two of his OEMs. Whether customers pick out one bike or the other, “I can’t lose either way,” he notes. “Multiline ensures the survivability of the business and its team members.”
The mechanics of Tisch’s business model can be illustrated by the reaction of the dealership to supply chain issues. If a part is on back order, the parts manager (“I have an exceptional parts manager and management team,” he says) will apologize to the customer and immediately start calling around to see if the part is available at another dealership.
If no one has the part, the service department will try to manage a safe workaround and assure the customer that he or she will not incur additional charges over and above normal repair costs when bringing the bike back to install the part when it appears.
“Great customer service happens when a team member cares and goes the extra yard to show the customer they care,” he says.
Creating a social atmosphere around a dealership is a proven way to ensure success. MOD sponsors monthly rides and “Bikes and Breakfast” events and gives away gift cards to the dealership at these events — a great way to thank the riding community for supporting MOD. Tisch also does demo rides a couple of times each month with two or more different bikes.
“We call them, ‘faceoffs’ — you ride, you decide,” he says. “Every once in a while, we do a cook-off.” He also sends out an online weekly newsletter that goes to over 15,000 recipients.
With great reviews and the large number of people in touch with the dealership, Motorcycles of Dulles doesn’t do much advertising. “We rely on Cycle Trader and word of mouth,” Tisch points out.
The shop also gets priority for shipment of on-demand bikes, due to its history of higher than average sales. The shop is off the main drag, and Tisch feels that his location has benefits. “Everyone who comes here has a reason to be here,” he says. “We don’t get people who just drop in to look at the bikes. You have to look up our location, so people come in with a purpose.”
There are a lot of new riders at present, and Tisch ensures that they continue to ride happily. “We believe in safe, responsible riding,” he says. “We support closed-course racing, which is where people should be racing.” The MOD website features new and advanced rider classes and courses on the website home page, which includes five different local providers with classes ranging from beginner to advanced, and in addition, courses for riders in the military at Fort Belvior.
Tisch is the first to point out that there is always room for improvement. However, it is obvious that MOD is on the right track. “In five years, we plan to provide the same level or better of product, service and parts and accessories,” he says. “We will continue to support the motorcycle industry in all aspects.”
Motorcycles of Dulles
22890 Quicksilver Dr Suite 189, Dulles, VA 20166
Contact: (703) 330-1200 or www.motorcyclesofdulles.com
Employees: 24 full-time and four part-time
OEMs: Triumph, BMW, Royal Enfield, Zero and Indian
Aftermarket: Klim, Arai, HJC, Shoei, Sena Intercom components, Denali and FirstGear