5 Questions: Malcolm Smith

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Brave souls Chris Brady and Corey Maddrix opened Idiot Cycles in September 2009, right smack in the middle of what people are calling the “Great Recession.” So it’s only natural that we’ve paired them with another brave soul, Malcolm Smith (photo, left), a man who’s weathered many of the industry’s storms, to ask the icon what he thinks it will take to keep their nonfranchised Delta, Penn.-dealership thriving.

Idiot Cycles: What advice would you give someone who is starting a dealership during a recession?

Malcolm Smith: Good financial control. Know how you’re doing on a weekly or daily basis. In our store, we’re down to where we know daily how much profit we need in each department for the whole store to break even. You need to monitor it at least weekly so you can correct it when you need to.

IC: When you started your business, what were some of the challenges you had, and how did you work through them?

MS: I learned right away that you need to get rid of open accounts. If you can’t get a customer financed for a bike, he shouldn’t be buying a bike. As soon as customers owe you money, they stop coming in.

IC: How does one stand out from local competitors?

MS: Good service, fair prices — they don’t have to be the lowest prices, but they have to be fair. Do what you say you’re gonna do; don’t bullshit the customer. Choose your words wisely when you talk to people and be honest. Let upset customers rant for a while so they can get everything out. It’s amazing what they’ll say.

Also, you have to appeal to the families — like the ones that have two ATVs they use in the fall, two PWCs for summer and a couple of motorcycles year-round. They’re the customers you don’t want to lose. They’re not discount-oriented, and they’re busy and don’t want to take care of the vehicles themselves. In our store, we don’t have any girly or semi-nude pictures anywhere, so a woman can come into our store and feel comfortable. Women are a big part of the new customer base, 50 percent of the population. We should make them happy and comfortable.

The whole advertising game has changed. People don’t read newspapers — they read the Internet, hear about you through your reputation or word of mouth. My wife currently sends e-mail blasts out. We’re always reminding our customers that we’re here.

IC: What types of resources have you found to be helpful in building your business?

MS: We belong to a 20 group; they’re good to help the flow of ideas. The manufacturers, sales reps and service reps themselves are resources. They’re your partners in business. It’s good to have relationships with them.

IC: Are there any aspects of your business that you feel particularly pleased with, or would like to change?

MS: I wish I could change my fixed overhead. I wish I controlled my spending when I built this [recent] building. I could have been 30 or 40 percent less in fixed overhead. Business was so good back then, and we were all saying what a great job we were doing, but it was just an inflated market. It’s different now. People don’t have the money to spend anymore.

About Malcolm Smith: Canadian-born Malcolm Smith grew up in Southern California, where he spent much of his life racing and riding motorcycles. Among his many accolades are his six Baja 1000 wins, four Baja 500 wins and his role in “On Any Sunday.” Smith opened Malcolm Smith Motorsports in Riverside, Calif., in 1966, and last year was named Dealernews Top 100 Dealer of the Year.

About Idiot Cycles: Corey Maddrix (second photo) and Chris Brady birthed the idea for Idiot Cycles on a drive home from one of their frequent trips to the local KTM store. The negative experiences they recalled led them to talk about what would make for a successful dealership – and Idiot Cycles was born. “The name gets a lot of attention,” Maddrix says. “The only thing we can tell people is that those who ride with us know why we named it that.”

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews June 2010 issue.<?i>