Lemco Legacy Lives On
Have you heard of Garage Composites? You should if you plan to successfully operate a dealership! How about the name Lemco? Ring any bells? Back in the day, Lemco was the foremost dealer training organization in the nation – and founder Ed Lemco was the dealers’ leading champion.
Garage Composites co-founders Sam Dantzler and Tony Gonzalez are both former Lemco trainers and continue to champion the dealers. In fact, the entire Update 2017 program was offered to dealers free of charge during the January gathering in Denver!
“This event is our way to give something back to you,” Dantzler told the dealers. Personnel from the more than 200 dealerships Garage Composites works with were treated to a full slate of seminars… and we mean FULL. Covering everything from the Psychology Of Selling to Marketing To Millennials, there were four meeting rooms hosting 75 minute sessions from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for three days.
In addition to the training sessions, there were displays from 10 service providers ranging from CDK Global/Lightspeed to Lizzy Dealer Management Software and Statistical Surveys. “We surveyed the dealers and asked them who they wanted to meet with in the breakout areas between seminars,” says Sam.
Aftercare was one of the select group of invited partners. “Our presentation focused on ideas for increasing unit sales, service contracts sales and overall profitability through used motorcycle inventory,” says the service provider. “Our strategy has resulted in used service contract sales increases of up to 300% – Plus, if you are involved in a retro or reinsurance program, you have even greater earnings potential.”
Free information to make your dealership more profitable? What a concept!
The function’s formatting was rather unusual as well, with the keynote presentation for Sam and Tony taking place early in the morning on the second day of the event. However, like most of the mysteries revealed in the training sessions, the method to the madness makes sense once the Garage Composites guys explain it… well, most of it – reaching the millennials still has some of us graybeards scratching our heads.
“All 20 of the Saturday sessions feature a parts & service focus and are geared for the parts and service managers,” explained our host, Neil Pascale, director of marketing and business development for Garage Composites. “Sunday kicks off with the Keynote so that the GMs and owners can join the department managers and the day has a general management and marketing focus, while Monday features a sales and F&I focus.”
“Things have changed since the first Update when there were only four guys in the room,” Dantzler pointed out to the 500+ people packed in for Sunday’s keynote. “One thing remains the same, though. Our jobs exist and this Update is possible because of what Ed Lemco started (see “Roots” sidebar). He had a great ability to cut to the chase and make you think. I call these ‘Edisms’ – he would say things like: ‘Sounds like you are trying to rotate a bald tire,’ or “that is like putting screen doors on a submarine.’”
And then came a surprise guest appearance by Ed’s wife, Connie. “Ed always said Sam and Tony were students of the industry,” she added. Things have come full circle as the students have become the teachers. “Now I have to get off the stage before I get emotional.”
“Humans make ridiculous decisions… we are emotional creatures,” Sam acknowledged. “As emotions come into play, logic goes away.” To prove his point, eight-year old daughter Abi joined Sam on the stage saying she wanted a motorcycle. “How can logic match that?”
“I get emotional about our clientele – you are not clients, you are family,” added Tony, almost breaking down. As the “numbers guy” rolling out latest data capabilities for the composites, he proved Sam’s point about the importance of emotions and what happens to logic sometimes!
At the end of the three days, emotions and logic, education and training, learning and leading came together. From the industry veteran who was a member of KG#1 (Kawasaki Group) and attended all of the Updates in years past to first-timer Andy Kent from Beach Blvd. Motorsports, the dealer response was an over the top,
“WOW! Thanks for a GREAT UPDATE! The first year in this 20-Group has been spectacular to say the least. With all the help, training and information here at Update, I really look forward to another huge year and the future growth seems ENDLESS,” exclaimed Andy.
But the bottom line was expressed by another satisfied dealer, George Gatto. “By joining Garage Composites GC2 Import Powersports 20-Group , we earned a $200,000+ increase to our bottom line net, in one year. The good news is there is way more opportunity. Big thanks to my group for pushing and making me uncomfortable.
Being comfortable = complacency! So my humble advice is join a Garage Composites 20-Group where the members respect each other enough to call each other out, so you get outside your comfort zone, and make those tough calls.”
Now that you know who and what Garage Composites is and what a 20-Club membership can do for your dealership, make the easy call to Garage Composites!
Garage Composite Roots
(Left to right) Sam Dantzler, Connie Lemco and Tony GonzalezThrough equal parts of genius, charisma and unmitigated gall, Ed Lemco revolutionized the powersports industry with the creation of “20-Clubs” back in 1980. Dealers shared all their sales data, established baseline measurements and created best practices, while being coached, cajoled or bullied by Ed… whatever it took to elevate the dealership’s performance. Over the years, the industry has evolved considerably, but the Garage Composites mission remains to educate and elevate the dealers’ game.
Never heard of a Garage Composites Update gathering? Over the years, there have been a total of 11 Update training sessions, but the last time one was held was eight years ago, so this year’s gathering in Denver was a first for many of the people representing 200+ dealerships. A bit of history helps
to explain the gap since the last Update was held in Atlanta back in 2009.
Before Ed Lemco introduced his “20-Clubs” most motorcycle dealers couldn’t fathom the concept of sharing a good idea with their rivals, let alone opening the books on their confidential sales data. However, through force of will, aided by a real need for the service, Ed launched Lemco & Associates in 1980. “Ed truly believed in the dealers… the OEMs, not so much,” jokes Sam Dantzler, one of Ed’s protege’s and current president of Garage Composites. “Unlike the old Lemco position, we have reached out to the OEMs and embrace the idea that a rising tide will float all boats.”
The type of kid who hid dog-eared copies of Cycle World under his mattress, Sam was pretty much destined for a career in the industry. He started with selling motorcycles while still in college, and eventually became a retail sales trainer.
He discovered Lemco in 1999, and Ed brought him on full time in 2000. Despite a rather unique introduction trip with Ed in a small airplane (Sam will have to tell you that story himself) Sam became the director of training for Lemco in 2003.
When Ed eventually decided to retire to a tropical island in 2005, he sold the operation to Sam, Mark Tkach and Bill Coulter from the RideNow family of dealerships, which was Lemco’s largest customer and biggest advocate.
In the process, the name was changed from Lemco to the “RPM Group” and Sam was named CEO. “Ed seemed to have as many enemies as he did friends, especially when it came time to form alliances with OEMs, as that was a constant source of friction for many dealers,” says Sam of the name change.
Starting with an exclusive program with Ducati North America CEO Michael Lock, RPMG broke the old Lemco mold. “This was the first genuine attempt by an OEM truly wanting to help it’s dealer base through a private 20-Club group… four of them, actually.”
The OEM affiliation put RPMG on Assurant’s radar and the F&I giant bought the group in 2007, including Sam and Garage Composite co-founder Tony Gonzalez’s contracts. With Assurant’s resources, OEM participation and Lemco’s fundamentals in place, Sam was able to expand, with some 325 dealers participating in 20-Clubs at the height. Then came the crash!
Financial downturns led to Assurant “exiting the space” rather abruptly and turning the entire operation over to a rival company… barely giving the dealers three days notice. “Unit sales this year are down more than 30%,” noted an Assurant exec. “Thousands of dealers will close over the next year. Sam Dantzler, who led the 20-Club division for Assurant, is joining Gart’s team as president of the 20-Club division for Gart Sutton & Associates,” said the Assurant statement in May, 2009.
“Not a good fit,” says Sam. Instead, it became the genesis of the Garage Company. “It was a good opportunity to work with Triumph, Harley-Davidson, Arctic Cat, Polaris, as well as hundreds of independent dealers.” The Lemco lineage continues to branch out to this day. Sam’s Powersports Garage video training modules blossomed March 1, 2012 and there are currently more than 600 video training sessions available.
Sam saved the best news for last: “Given the bumper crop of dealers attending Update 2017, the event is going to become annual again.”
Not For Everyone
Management Training Academy
Although the fundamental mission of Garage Composites remains collating the data and correlating it into real world success for the 20 Group members, training programs don’t end there. Individual department managers can be enrolled in Garage Composites’ Management Training Academy (MTA). But be warned, MTA isn’t for everyone!
“The MTA is an in-depth program that holds managers accountable to learning best practices and implementing those strategies into their shops,” says Neil Pascale, director of marketing and business development for Garage Composites (dealers may also remember Neil as a former trade magazine editor).
Unlike the Update program of free seminars open to all levels of dealership personnel, MTA isn’t for everyone. “To qualify for a MTA, Garage Composite dealer members must pass an application process to ensure these courses include the industry’s top professionals,” notes Neil.
But MTA is just the beginning! Last year, Garage Composites launched intensive, year-long sales and management training for owners and GMs. “Not for everyone, just those dealers who want to survive the major changes the powersports industry is facing,” he adds.
Separate three-day sessions have been devised specifically for the Sales Department, F&I Department, Service Department and Parts Department. “These are multiple training session academies,” he explains. “So when you sign up for an MTA, you have your manager attend at least three separate trainings, each two days long. The actual training takes place over about 8-months, with the three training sessions held on different dates during that period.”
That level of commitment may not be for everyone, but MTA is for the top professionals, not just anyone!