Bob Parsons' contagious spirit

Publish Date: 
Aug 27, 2013
By Genevieve Schmitt

IT'S HARD NOT TO get excited when listening to Bob Parsons talk about his businesses.

The rhythm of his baritone voice, the smile that slips through periodically and the glimmer in his eyes are accents on a conversation that has Parsons hopping out of his chair every so often, hands gesturing in the air, when talking about the success of the two Top 100 motorcycle dealerships he owns in Scottsdale, Ariz. — Go AZ Motorcycles and Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale. He’s practicing what he preaches.

“Our No. 1 job here is to create excitement and take care of our customers and be that special place for them, and after that we think about making money,” he says.

If excitement is part of this 62-year-old’s formula for making money, then he’s never sat still. Forbes lists Parsons’ net worth at $1.5 billion. He could easily sit back and retire — and he did for a short time in the mid-1990s after selling his financial services software company to Intuit for $64 million — but Parsons had too much energy, so he came out of retirement in 1997 to launch GoDaddy, a domain registrar and web hosting business. Today more people have their domain names registered with GoDaddy than any other registrar in the world.

Images by Scooter Grubb

That success, plus Parson’s passion for two wheels, re-ignited seven years ago, fueling new ventures into motorcycling using the business philosophies that propelled him to where he is today.

“You can succeed in anything,” Parsons explains, “if you do this one thing: Give the people what they want. They make the decisions for us. If you are off-base, they will tell you. If you listen and try to make it exciting, they will tell you.”

Parsons and his team at Go AZ Motorcycles, including general manager Gina Marra, are listening well: In the five years Go AZ has been in existence (most of that time with the country in a recession) this nine-line dealership has won multiple industry and manufacturer awards — and boasts annual revenues of $20 million.

“The biggest difference is we are selling the Go AZ experience,” Marra says. “I want customers to feel this is more of an education dealership. It’s not a dealership where they are going to be sold on something, especially with an entry-level rider. It can be intimidating to buy a new motorcycle. It’s a soft sell here. We find out the customer’s wants and needs, and guide him or her along in the process.”

Go AZ Motorcycles launched in 2008 when Parsons saw an opportunity to buy a BMW and a Ducati dealership that was going out of business. Over the next four years Vespa, Honda, KTM, Aprilia, Triumph, Kawasaki and Ural (see timeline, left) were added, with all brands eventually housed in one new location. (Continued)