"The shop wasn't being run as it should've been," Sharma says. "It was being managed by car guys and staffed by old-school motorcycle dealership guys who would concentrate on volume and pack as many bikes in a showroom as they could. 'If they're not here to buy a bike, don't even waste your time with them' was the attitude the sales team had.
"It started turning off a lot of people, and [the store] started having a really, really poor reputation."
Brad Tonkin has a reputation for being approachable. Concerned about the future of the dealership, Sharma took the chance to telephone Tonkin and warn him of the disastrous situation brewing. "He asked what I would do to change the situation, and I told him I had a number of ideas, but that things would likely get worse before they improved," Sharma recalls. "That's when he suggested I run the operation."
BACK IN THE SADDLE. Tonkin allowed Sharma to start with a fresh slate. It was February 2002. Sharma fired 14 members of the staff and kept one, a technician. "Half the guys were terrible — just a cancer that needed to go — the other half probably could have been good, but because they had been around bad management for so long, they were already bitter, angry, with bad habits, and customers already saw them as salespeople who had given bad service," Sharma says.
For a time, the crew consisted of only two technicians and Sharma — who served as a salesperson, sales manager, general manager and PR director. He soon added another five employees, hiring a former customer as a service manager, a gearhead friend as a parts manager, and finding a transplant from Santa Cruz, Calif., who had worked in a Buell shop to head the apparel department.
"I then spent the next six months or so calling everyone on our customer list to introduce myself, explain the changes that recently occurred with the dealership, and ask them to please come back and give us another chance," he says. "It worked. Since the sales guy that used to come out to the parking lot to ease tensions now was running the dealership, people came back."
Sharma cut away at the overhead and got rid of "painful" old stock inventory by discounting — "the only thing you can do when you have old-age inventory," he says. As inventory dwindled and demand swelled, the dealership began recovering, eventually placing itself in what Sharma describes as "a very strong position to purchase and be aggressive."
MotoCorsa now operates with a staff of eight, including Sharma, another salesperson, a service manager and two techs, a parts manager, an apparel-and-accessories manager and an accountant. The 30,000 sq. ft. facility, a converted warehouse was renovated by an architect using directives from both Sharma and Tonkin. The result is a stark-yet-brilliantly-lighted show floor, a 180-inch home theater system, an art gallery, and a café with free coffee, snacks and wireless Internet. The floors are concrete, the ceiling features exposed beams.
"Everything is multiuse," Sharma says. "The used bike showroom doubles as a movie theater; the art gallery doubles as a new bike delivery room."
With Sharma as general manager, Tonkin says his main job is to look at sales and growth, and keep a sharp eye on inventory. "We manage by the numbers but are hands-off as far as the operation and give our managers plenty of support yet autonomy," Tonkin says. (story continues)