Why Do Dealers Become Dealers?

Sometimes, you’re left wondering, why do we do what we do? I’m sure there are varying answers.

Do you remember those days, long ago, when you first founded or purchased your shop? Maybe you kept the first dollar bill you put in the till. Or maybe you took a photo of yourself opening the store that first day. Those were exciting times, and you probably remember them well.

Then, you grew the business and had to hire people to help — salespeople, parts employees, techs, a bookkeeper, etc. You began to expand. Business went from half a million to several million. The place is bustling. You’re driving a nice car or truck, and you have lots of happy employees. Everything is great, right?

Then why are you so stressed? Part of it, I’m sure, is not finding the right people. I know that’s something I’ve always had a problem with. I often feel that I’m babysitting. Sometimes it’s the quality of the employees. Sometimes it’s because I’m not the leader I should be.

In addition, you have to deal with things such as new rules from the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) (oddly never in our favor), insurance problems, political problems, taxation problems, customer problems, service problems and even problem problems. It’s always one thing after another, and it never ends.

Sometimes you’re left wondering, why do we do what we do? I’m sure there are varying answers. For me, I love being around motorcycles. I always knew that I’d be running my own shop one day, and I made it happen. For many of you, it may not matter whether you sell motorcycles or paint or party supplies, but I would imagine that most owners are former racers, salespeople, techs or just loved bikes.

Often, unless you grew up in a family shop, you really had no idea what you were getting into, so once you became the boss, you found out what it’s really like. You soon found that you are often stressed out. However, I’ve also found that it’s usually me who causes myself the most stress. Once, soon after I purchased my shop, I was totally overwhelmed. I had so much to do that I felt I couldn’t possibly get it done. It was one of those “deer in the headlight moments.” I literally froze and was thinking, “How the hell am I going to get all of this done?” Then, I remembered the whole “How do you eat an elephant?” question. One bite at a time!

I did one task. Then another and another. Soon, everything was done, and in less time than the forever I thought it would take. That was when I realized, “I can do this!” That was the moment I knew that all would be well, and it was.

The business became easier to handle each year, and we did well. I’m sure that most of you also do well. We all love the industry, and it will always be in our blood. However, I do find that many of us don’t ride as much as we want to. That is the other side of the coin. We get too busy. We don’t trust the employees to be alone for long. We don’t have enough employees to take time off. The industry that we love became a sort of ball and chain.

Stop it! First of all, if you are always watching your employees, they will realize it. If you trust them, they will also realize it. They will rise to the occasion when it needs to be done. Also, if you’ve built a great team, and they suspect a fellow employee is doing something unethical, they will usually tell their manager or yourself. Secondly, you can’t watch everyone all the time. If someone is going to do something shady, he or she will always find a way.

I try to always assume that everything is going well, and it usually is. We have enough problems in our lives (see the fourth paragraph above) that we don’t need to fabricate more. Most people want do well, and if you are a real leader, they will do the best they are able. Usually better than you think they will.

What does all of this mean? First of all, get out and ride. Go to local rallies and charity rides. I will bet you that you’re the only shop owner who does get out there. Think of it as marketing. This, of course, means you can expense it! Also, people love to meet the owner of the shop they support.

Take Saturdays and Mondays off. Take your family for mini vacations or go for some three-day tours. Your shop will be fine, and now with cellphones, they can reach you at any time. I’ll bet you can remotely handle any problems that occur.   

Go to AIMExpo. Go to EICMA. While you are there, take some time to see the sights. Don’t just see the shows and then fly home the day after. You may not remember that you sold 100 units in a particular month, but you will always remember San Gimignano!

Just get out there. Enjoy the riding that got you into our glorious industry. Have some fun. Let the employees manage the shop without you always being there. They can do it, and so can you!

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