Free beer is great, but it won't keep you in business

Publish Date: 
Feb 13, 2012
By Tory Hornsby

"YOU GUYS GOT FREE BEER IN THERE?"  I was asked this question by a dealer while standing outside the door to a training seminar. My reply was, “No beer this time, but we’ve actually got something much better. We’re looking at specific triggers that drive customers to your dealership and how to increase your sales and gross profit. Come on in!”

He replied, “Uhhh no, that’s alright, man. But if you have free beer next year, we may join you.”

I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Next year? You likely won’t be in business next year.” That may sound harsh, but it is realistic.

And to be perfectly frank, if the dealers who care more about getting a free beer than they do increasing their performance and profitability end up closing their doors, the powersports industry will be better off.

As the old cliché goes, “You’re either growing or dying.” We’re all doing either one or the other at any given time. In a business sense, the industry needs more of the “growing” type of dealers who are striving to improve themselves and their teams to create high-performing dealerships.

Growing, or dying? Over the past decade of working with dealers, I’ve learned that most will tell you that they want to grow their businesses, and some of them do mean it. However, actions speak louder than words — and when the rubber meets the road, it seems that to some dealers, a beer is more important than their self-improvement.

One reason for this lack of discipline is due to the nature in which entrepreneurs start their businesses. Regardless of the niche or industry, people start businesses usually because they’re good at their trades. For instance, a plumber starts a plumbing business because he’s a good plumber. An electrician becomes an electrical contractor because he’s a good electrician. In zero of these instances is the owner a knowledgeable or qualified business professional.

This same thing happens in the powersports industry. Dealer principals get into the business of selling motorcycles and their parts and accessories because they’re passionate about motorcycles, not because they’re experienced or even qualified to run a business.

Being an enthusiast may be an integral part of success in this industry, but passion and enthusiasm alone won’t drive traffic to your dealership. It won’t improve your closing ratio and customer service, increase your value per customer, or multiply a customer’s frequency of visits. This is where consistent and ongoing self improvement and training come in — the growing instead of dying. It may seem difficult to mine through mountains of information, but discovering the gold nuggets is well worth the search.