One of the most famous slogans in the history of advertising is the tagline for the Yellow Pages telephone directory: “Let your fingers do the walking.” Nowadays, many prospective customers still start their search for a motorcycle, parts or service by letting their fingers do the walking on the keyboard of a computer, as they search the Internet for what they need.
A customer’s fingers often cease forward motion as the customer looks at the entertaining and informative MotoSport Hillsboro website. Colorful cartoons enhance the homepage, which is well-organized and constantly updated. “I have an awesome in-house web guy that is fast and is good at taking directions,” says Scott Russell, president of MotoSport Hillsboro, a multiline dealership near the Portland, Ore., airport.
Many dealers worry about Internet sales siphoning off business, but Russell sees the Internet as a partner, not a problem. “People research online, but they buy from us,” he says. “The dealership is designed to be an inviting place to go to. MotoSport Hillsboro is decorated to give the look of a sports bar, with lots of memorabilia and vintage motorcycles hanging on the wall.” Russell continues, “We sell service and instant gratification. All our parts guys are experienced riders, able to advise the customers. Parts sales continue to grow each year. I stock as much as I can and sell as much as I can.”
Russell got into motorcycle sales through a circuitous route, during which he picked up a variety of skills that have helped Hillsboro become the highest earning dealership per square foot of floor space in the country. His father farmed and owned a tractor dealership. As a child, Russell helped out in the dealership, and, while he didn’t like tractors very much, he learned a lot that has come in useful at Hillsboro.
When he was 10 years old, Russell saw a chopper movie and dreamed of growing his hair long and riding through the California desert. Soon after, he picked up a copy of “Motocross Action” magazine, and his dream shifted — Russell now wanted to grow his hair long, go to California and race moto. California was not in the cards, but motocrossing was, and Russell started racing: “Motorcycles were my escape.” He had a unique funding source: selling the cartoons he drew to other racers and their families.
Russell got involved in restaurant management and, later, a graphics art business. He became convinced that he could make money selling motorcycles. Russell started Cycle Sports of Salem in 1985, selling out and leaving in 2003. His next venture, Hillsboro, opened its doors in September of 2004, in partnership with Bill Butcher, the founder of Motosport.com. Russell supplies Motosport.com with OEM parts, but MotoSport Hillsboro is a completely separate entity from Motosport.com.
Russell’s specialty is used motorcycles, and from onset, he stocked Hillsboro with clean, used motorcycles and non-current stock. At the time, most dealers were concentrating on new bikes. “We cleaned up in ‘06, ‘07, ‘08 and ‘09. The well is now dry — everyone else caught on. Our challenge now is finding non-current inventory to sell.”
Between the website and the excellent used bikes in stock, Russell draws customers from a wide area. “We only get 20 percent of our customers from the county. Our customer base is spread out from southwest Washington to Medford in central Oregon, along the I-5 corridor.”
The average MotoSport Hillsboro customer is middle-aged with motocross-crazy kids. “We have a lot of dirt bike families,” says Russell. A lot of sport ATVs go to the families that play together, as well. “The sand around here is huge for sport ATVs,” he says. Year-round riding possibilities also don’t hurt.
Many people who work in the high tech industry in the area ride to work, providing a market for sport bikes and mid-range cruisers, but dirt bikes are the mainstay of Russell’s business. MotoSport Hillsboro is No. 1 in the country for KTM and Honda dirt sales, as well as second on the West Coast for Kawasaki.
Russell believes his success is largely due to hard work. “I say my prayers and work my ass off. One thing I tell people getting into motorcycle dealership ownership or management: You are really in the accounts receivable business. It’s all about collecting on contracts, on rebates and on warranties.”
“This business is hard to be in and harder to be away from. I love to buy, market and sell motorcycles.”
Number of Employees: 15
Year Established: 2004
OEMs: KTM, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki
Parts Unlimited, Western Power Sports ATV, Tucker Rocky, Helmet House, Fox Racing, Moose Racing, Shift MX, Shift Street, Ogio, Teknic, Rapid Transit, Baron Custom Accessories, Drag Specialties, Biker’s Choice