Tell us a little about your history and your past relationship with the show?
I have been coming to the show for over 15 years now. We first started attending the annual show when it was in Cincinnati. However, I have been in business since 1972 and prior to Cinci the show used to travel around and we were lucky enough to have a nice show in Houston conjoined with the Supercross. They stopped touring the show and when they did we stopped going to the show. Times were different then and we just didn’t have the means to travel. After some years of it being in one location another dealer I knew from a 20 group who had also not been since it was touring decided to return. He came back that year and encouraged us to reconsider after his experience. We took his advice, found out about some education Lemco was offering at the show and ever since that time at the show we haven’t had any reason not to come.
Who do you generally bring to the show and why?
This year I plan on brining my wife, my three managers and my son who is getting involved in the day to day operations. I have always brought my staff to the show; I think it’s important they get a chance to experience it. A must bring for me are my department managers and in some cases I have tried to provide some long term employees a means of getting them to the show by offering to pay for part of their expenses if they have any interested in attending the show. I feel if anybody besides my managers is doing a good job and wants to attend we’ll do our part to share the expenses with them.
I bring my managers for two reasons. The first is Dealer Expo always has great educational opportunities. I feel the offered education they give our staff the support they need to help us determine how we can make more money. I think it’s important that my managers take time to attend any education the show offers. Second, I think the show gives them the face-to-face time they need to keep themselves up to speed. The show is very informative when it comes to good information, that’s key, but having a chance to meet with people first hand, not just over the phone, helps my team form better relationships with supplies. Meet those people in person versus just talking to them over the phone makes a huge difference at the end of the day.
I also think that the show is a lot of fun and I think it’s important that we have a good time when we are there. Dealer Expo is a reward for my staff and me, so if there is any chance that I can help us to attend the show I do that to reward everybody for their efforts.
How many days do you general spend at the show and what does your plan look like?
We always spend at least 2 ½ days minimum at the show. Of course, being a Top 100 dealer we arrive on Friday. The first thing we do before we arrive is sit down and look over all the seminars. Free education should not be passed up, and my staff and I review the options then determine who could benefit most from each seminar. I personally look for operations, management, internet and retail sales seminars. I want to find out what I can do to help us sell additional retail product and my managers look for seminars that are specific to their jobs and use those opportunities to help better educate them on what they are doing. I don’t think people realize how little educational opportunity our industry offers, especially Market specific knowledge from people who actually work in the powersports business. Dealer Expo’s seminars are industry/market specific. The speakers and the people I meet with understand my business as it relates to powersports, not just retail.
Of course, we try to balance seminars with our time on the floor. We have found that attending educational seminars in between our time on the floor helps break things up. That allows us to get refreshed or rethink a process after learning something new. This way our time spent on the floor isn’t 8 hours of feeling like we are seeing the same stuff because we are tired. Not everything in the show is going to be relevant to us; we have unique business needs as does any dealership. So our time spent on the floor has to be maximized to allow us to find exactly what we are looking for, whether that is new product or negotiating the right deal. Every year we find something we didn’t know about or wouldn’t have known about if we didn’t attend. That combined with the education make Dealer Expo a must attend and why we come back every year.
How do you take advantage of what the show has to offer? Aare there any tricks to use that might help others?
Absolutely, my managers have an opportunity to guarantee orders while we are at the show. We look at what we do as a business and determine how we can leverage that at the show. For example, my parts manager knows we do a high volume of tires, more than most. So he takes time to make sure we visit ever supply, let them know what we are capable of (or how valuable our business is) and we use the chance to meet with all of them at the show to see who is most interested in our business. You may think you can do this from home but we have had the best success negotiating this at the show because we can meet them face-to-face and see exactly what our options are all in one day. This goes for any product we feel we can succeed on. More importantly we find ways to incorporate those deals back into savings for our customers, it helping us to better satisfy their needs and helping us to stand ahead of our competition. You can’t do that at any other show and more importantly you don’t have all the options like Dealer Expo provides.
I don’t think people realize just how many suppliers’ offer show only discounts. There are many who offer them regardless, but there are more who leverage that opportunity only at the show (you have to look and ask). Think about a simple thing like free shipping on expensive equipment. The cost to ship something of that weight can save you enough to pay for your trip to the show. Even little savings or discounts on free shipping can be negotiating while at Dealer Expo. You get free shipping on 4 or 5 major items and 10 smaller items because you’re willing to secure an order while you are there, that’s adds up in your favor quickly. You know, we spend $250-$300 on tickets to fly out, you make a couple of good purchases and save $200-$300 in shipping… well I can afford to bring more people with me to the show and in the end it didn’t cost me anything.
There is too much information that you just don’t have access to if you just don’t go. The show always introduces possible trends or new products that are available and gives you knowledge that always calculates in money. Our cost to go is always made up in products we find or deals we make, it’s just common sense to go because it really doesn’t cost us anything.
What kind of advice might you offer to others who attend or those who have never attended?
I know it’s tough out there right now, we are feeling the results of the current economy too. But I encourage Dealer Principals and think it’s very important for them to do the best you can to at least go even if it’s just them. Somebody needs to go, so if you can only afford to send yourself, don’t short change that opportunity. Here is a great chance to take advantage of what’s going on, get in on the action and see what it is all about. I’m personally am confident things will pick back up for us this year and when they do you can bring additional staff again.
You know, I don’t think anybody who came out would ever think this show was a waste of money. I don’t work in each department ever day so I know it’s important I give my staff access to good information, the kind offered at Dealer Expo. My managers know their departments better than I do. I don’t want to have to worry about what decisions they are making, I just want to give them the resources to make the best decisions possible. So even in these hard times I’m making an effort to send my staff, but if you can’t send them as an owner it’s your responsibility to be at the show!
I am sure there are dealers out there that think Dealer Expo is a waste of time, just as much as I think there are dealers who find it to help them succeed. So if you have the desire to do more for your business or make things better then you have no reason not to attend. If I could make one recommendation, I would say if you have never been to Dealer Expo or have not been back for quite some time you have no idea what you are missing, so take the time to go and find out whether it’s really worth your time. I did that 15 years ago and we are still going because we know its worth out time. If you want to continue to be a student of the business and develop your business you have an obligation to be at the show. Plus, it’s a chance to see old friends and make some new friends. It’s not just a party it’s about staying connected and having fun while you are doing it…. This business is fun and it’s been fun for me for a long time.
Many dealers didn’t get that chance this year to interact because the OEM’s didn’t have their shows. Well, you can come to Indy to get that interaction without the same pressures of those shows. If you want an opportunity in 2010 I encourage you to come out, visit with other dealers and take advantage of the free education. If you’re smart about your time, the show will pay for itself.