Dealers: Become the star of your own Empire

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So you want to be a TV star? Well, let me tell you, it’s not what you think it is. Yes, I have been blessed with the opportunity to be on national television several times, but just getting your mug on TV isn’t going to make you successful. You still have to work hard to make it work for you.

Don’t get me wrong, TV exposure is great. Five years ago we were invited to be on the Discovery Channel’s “Great Biker Build-Off.” We ended up appearing on two different episodes and it was great for business. Right after that, we landed our own television series on the Speed Channel called “Texas Hardtails,” which was also great for business. Since then, we have also done a couple of episodes of “American Thunder.” Fast-forward to current times and we are doing another TV show on truTV called “Ma’s Roadhouse,” and you guessed it, business is great.

We have been very fortunate to have this priceless exposure. Television has helped me spread the good Strokers word far and wide. Because of TV exposure, we get visitors from all over the U.S.

I am always glad to meet and greet them, and I usually give them a tour of my Strokers Dallas Empire. Today is a rainy, cold Tuesday and we have already given about six tours to out-of-town visitors. Those groups came from San Francisco; Houston; Liberal, Kan.; Chicago; and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. None of the people I met today are motorcycle enthusiasts either. They are all people who watch our TV show.

Now, having a TV show isn’t the same as winning the lottery. It’s far from it. We don’t get rich from the TV show, but we use it to our advantage by capitalizing on the new customer base it creates. Everyone who comes to see us spends money while they are here. They buy T-shirts, eat burgers and drink some beer. Some even get tattoos.

I use TV as a marketing tool for my business. It’s not TV exposure, but hard work that makes us successful. My company was doing fine and making money long before the TV cameras ever came in, and we’ll be doing fine long after the tourists forget my name (but I bet they remember my ma).

What does any of this have to do with you? Plenty. You may never be the star of your own TV show, but you can be a star in our industry and a star in your neighborhood. I have said for many years that people don’t do business with companies; people do business with people. If you run your own motorcycle shop, don’t be afraid to be the “celebrity” of your shop. Make yourself the face of your business. Make your name and the name of your shop widely known in your city, state or region. Don’t hide behind a desk or a wrench. Get out there in front of your customers, shake their hands and welcome them to your “Empire.”

The key is to make yourself a “character” who people want to meet and do business with. I spend lots of time at my front counter greeting people as they walk in the door with, “Hey, ya’ll. My name is Rick Fairless. Welcome to Strokers Dallas.” I have said that maybe a million times in the last 15 years. People want to do business with the owner of the company. My marketing campaign has always been to let people know who I am. I figure that I’m the owner and I’m gonna be here for the rest of my life, so I need to let people know that I’m just a “good ol’ boy from right here in Dallas.”

When it comes right down to it, what I sell here at Strokers Dallas customers can get anywhere. Big Dog. Victory Motorcycles. Lots of places around the state sell these, and everybody offers service, parts and apparel. So what can’t customers get anywhere else? Me, Rick Fairless. It might sound kinda vain, but it’s not. Sell yourself, man! You’re all you’ve got.

Putting your face with your company name is as easy as passing out business cards. I pass them out everywhere I go — and I mean everywhere. You name it. Restaurants. Grocery stores. I hand them out and invite people to visit my shop. I’ve been doing this trick since I opened 15 years ago and it’s worked beautifully.

Working hard is the easy way to get ahead. Unless I’m out of town at a motorcycle function, I’m here from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., shaking hands and welcoming people to Strokers Dallas. Every waking moment, I’m thinking about how I can make my business bigger and better. Through lots of hard work, I built my company and done the things that have helped me turn this into my “Strokers Empire.” If a dumbass like me can build a successful motorcycle business, then you certainly can, too.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews February 2011 issue.