A powersports retailer carrying 10 brands of vehicles in a 60,000 sq. ft. store with 61 employees runs the risk of devolving into being just another bland “big-box” behemoth.
But what if that store is packing 60-plus years of history as a major contributor to the local — and national — powersports community, and features a management team intent on keeping the product mix interesting, employees well trained, customer satisfaction high and its events chock-full of energy?
What you might get is a store like Fay Myers Motorcycle World, a Top 100 dealer whose presence has dominated its market just south of Denver since its namesake owner founded the business back in 1948. Over the years the store has grown and evolved, hitting a few roadblocks along the way — a fire that gutted the store in 2002 and a snow-caused roof cave-in a year later — but has emerged as the kind of destination point that attracts people from surrounding counties and even out of state.
“The history of the store is very strong, and we do a good job of trying to keep the mystique alive,” says Jason White, Fay Myers’ GM. “There are a lot of multiline stores, a lot of big-box stores, and we get categorized as being one at times. But we’re pretty unique because we carry some unique brands.”
Among those brands: Ducati and MV Agusta. Many of Ducati’s models are strong sellers this season, especially the Diavel — not the typical commodity product associated with bigger stores, especially one that sells more than 2,000 units a year (4,000 a year before the recession hit).
“It’s called Fay Myers Motorcycle World for a reason. We attract and bring traffic through the door. Guys want to come in here and see the newest, greatest motorcycling piece. That’s what’s cool,” White says.
What are the logistics of running a store with 10 brands — and representing them well? It’s not easy, White explains; it requires a well-thought out execution and a broad and diverse sales staff.
For example, the showroom’s “Euro-land” keeps the European brands segregated from the others. Motorcycles are spaced further apart (“It gives it more of a comfy, Euro feel,” White says), and the area is staffed by sales employees who know more about the European marques.
The knowledge diversity of the staff is key to the dealership’s success, White says, given that its customer base is so broad and varied. In addition to geographic variances, the staff can relate to riders of all ages. One salesman is 75. Another is 22. Passions are different. Customer relations skills vary. All these differences combine for a strong employee mix.
“We try really hard to not be a normal big-box store,” White says. “We try to do volume, but we also try to do more of a boutique, friendly feel. It’s just different.”
About six years ago, Fay Myers Motorcycle World was sold to the Ralph Schomp Automotive group, one of the highest-volume BMW, Honda and Mini dealers in Colorado, and one of the Denver area’s oldest family-owned firms. The ownership change caused barely a ripple; indeed, the new owners opted to keep the Myers name.
“We decided to leave it Fay Myers because it had been there so long and it was established,” says Mark Wallace, who co-owns the dealership with his wife, Lisa Schomp. “The store has always tried to [take care of customers] and has always tried to maintain a good name. All we tried to do was keep it that way.”
The dealership maintains its long history of community involvement by sponsoring race teams and individual riders, local youth sports leagues, and the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition, a statewide OHV access advocacy group. White says that staying involved with so many different aspects of motorcycling keeps the business close to its customers and the sport.
Fay Myers was an early sponsor of professional stunter Jason Britton. It also works with the Denver Broncos — the team’s mascot, for example, rides a Fay Myers-wrapped ATV, as do workers at the Broncos training camp.
The dealership is also well-known for its wide range of events, especially its annual open house, which is more of a big giant party than a big “sales event,” White notes.
“We [also] do Kids’ Day where we bring in tons of dirt and build a dirt track out front. Danny Walker from American Supercamp comes out and trains kids all day long on how to ride bikes,” White says. “You can bring a 2-year-old or a 12-year-old. He has them riding out front in a few minutes. We’ve got face painters, balloon makers, the Broncos’ mascot, dunk tanks, rock climbing walls, pop-up slides and bounce houses.”
The dealership also maintains a large meeting room open for use, free of charge, for any group involved in motorcycling. The room has a separate access so it’s available even if the dealership is closed. The concept was something started by the Myers’ family.
“We started supporting youth sports groups,” White adds. “We say, ‘Bring your baseball and football teams in here for meetings.’ We used to only focus on motorsports, but from a grassroots marketing perspective we’re now bringing in kids with their parents who are going to walk through our store.”
Supporting so many vehicle brands means the dealership has to make a big effort to make sure employees stay up-to-date on products. In an industry where employee education is essential but seldom pursued on a grand scale, Fay Myers takes great pains to make sure its workers are trained. This philosophy stretches from the service department all the way to the front of the store, and is a key marketing point for attracting customers near and far.
The dealership, for example, employs a large crew of factory-trained service techs, probably one of the strongest in the state. The service department, which is a Honda Red Level service center, also includes multiple Gold Level-trained Suzuki service techs, two KTM Orange Level techs and two Ducati Master Techs.
White recalls that when he started at the dealership (in 1994 in the finance department), the back shop wasn’t much to speak of. “It was horrendous,” he says. Management then made a concerted effort to get the service department back up to speed by putting everyone through training, from OEM classes to those offered by such companies as Dynojet.
The training philosophy eventually expanded to include all employees, with spiffs tied to training to encourage participation. Winter months are reserved for the big learning push.
“Service techs can get an extra dollar an hour for every certification they achieve, [and] we’ll tie spiffs to sales staff that complete training,” White says. “We really push, but we do miss some stuff. Having 10 brands it’s extremely difficult, but it’s been our push.
“I have the opinion that you invest in your people and they invest back in you. That’s really worked out for us. They are really, really solid.”
White has heard the argument from other dealers who balk at educating employees who, they maintain, will just leave and take that training with them. But he wonders: If they’re going to leave, do you really want them? And why are they leaving in the first place?
“If they want to leave, then you’re doing something wrong. You need to figure out what’s wrong with your dealership. What’s wrong with your processes. What’s wrong with your management team,” he explains. “Because if people want to leave than there’s something fundamentally not correct.”
Admittedly, it’s not always easy. It took Fay Myers roughly four or five years to filter out the bad seeds. They go through a weeding-out exercise every year.
“The key is the people. This is a brick-and-mortar business. We’ve been lucky that Fay Myers has a great name and the Myers family did a great job of being a big part of motorcycling, not just in Colorado, but in the country,” White says. “I believe we’ve taken it to the next level. We’ve not just said, ‘OK, we’re the best.’ We’ve fought to continue to stay the best around.”
F&I: LONG-TERM LENDER RELATIONSHIPS ARE ESSENTIAL
Back when F&I was in its infancy, Fay Myers Motorcycle World was implementing cutting-edge processes like automatic approvals and direct log-ins to banks. Now that these are common practices, the store is pushing to be progressive in how it writes paper.
“We try to be the one-stop shop. We try and be everything the customer needs to get handled while they’re here,” says GM Jason White. He has a background in credit unions and currently serves on the board of a local one. “We can write the insurance, do your financing and sell you a motorcycle. We try to make it easy.”
When it comes to financing customers, the dealership’s goal is to develop and maintain a strong, long customer relationship. The same goes for its partnerships with local lenders.
This is an approach that served them well in the credit crunch that had such a devastating impact on the business.
“We really build long-term relationship with our local lenders. We stay in tune with what’s going on,” White says. “We try to take care of our financing sources as much as they take care of us.
“It’s not that challenging, but you have to build it in the good times. To bridge that gap now is very difficult. We take special interest in the profitability of our lenders.” It’s a give and take partnership that needs to be nurtured. He discourages others from taking the short-term approach just to maximize profits. White notes that the dealership event has tried to talk customers out using revolving credit programs because they don’t want to burn a residual customer. If the customer insisted, they’d go through the transaction, but try to educate the customer in the process.
“You try to do what’s best for your customers,” he says. “We’re looking for customers for a lifetime. We’re not looking for customers for the short term.”
This story originally appeared in the Dealernews July 2011 issue.