Lifestyle of Longevity
It’s hard to believe that Harley-Davidson is celebrating their 105th anniversary. While they’ve hit some speed bumps throughout their storied history, I am glad that they continue to thrive; I just wish some of their competitors had the same longevity. Harley has remained the leader for many reasons, but I feel that one of the main reasons is the amazing brand loyalty they have garnered over the years.
Owning an H-D is more than a status symbol for many; it is a way of life. I would argue that Harley-Davidson has got such incredible staying power because the brand appeals to so many different groups of people. We have all known a doctor or lawyer that dons some leather and plays bad-ass on the weekends; and in reality aren’t most of us doing the same thing?
Most of your customers are law-abiding people who have never even seen the inside of jail cell, and that’s a good thing; people who are locked up don’t buy motorcycles! We all want to feel a little wild, and I for one think it’s great. Harley-Davidson pushes that edgy lifestyle to perfection.
In essence, that’s really what has made H-D such a success; it’s the lifestyle they sell. What other product can you buy that makes you feel as bad as you want to be whether it’s a full blown CVO custom or just your garden-variety black H-D T-shirt?
The only other company that sells a lifestyle as well is that of Jimmy Buffett, and it sells pretty well. Wouldn’t you like your brand be a lifestyle accessory your customer can’t live without? Now that’s some branding power.
Powered by the People
Harley-Davidson isn’t the only company that’s got some sticking power in our industry. I recently visited two industry leaders in one action-packed weekend. I hit J&P Cycle’s 28th annual open house, which was scheduled back-to-back with S&S Cycles’ 50th anniversary.
Passionate employees keep these powerhouse brands successful. Many of their employees are in this business because they’re enthusiasts just like you and me, and this industry fuels their passion! A second and very important characteristic is patience. Without it, passion tends to turn into rage. Companies that have been in business for the long haul have the passion and the patience to understand this is not a quick cash-cow. It needs to be nurtured along and kept on course. Patience also allows you to see your mistakes, learn from them and move forward.
The rewards of these characteristics are two-fold: One, you can see clearly what needs to be done, and do it; and two, employees know you have complete control and trust your direction. If you are not a patient person, step back and let someone that is take control.
A third characteristic is pride. The employees I spoke with at J&P and S&S, as well as shops I have visited that are very successful, have a very high level of pride, and it shows in every department. Take a few hours of your day, visit a few retail establishments and listen to the sales or service people. It doesn’t take rocket science to tell if the employee or the establishment is proud of what they offer. That pride is one of the building blocks of long-term customer relationships.
You set the stage for your own long-term success by having these characteristics; without them even the best accountant in the universe will fail in the retail environment. Don’t be afraid to get out there and find success mentors both in and out of powersports. Their longevity just might be contagious!