It's late morning and the crew from Southern California Motorcycles is slowly arriving at the wide, cold stretch of desert just outside of Anza, Ca.
The scene is Gary LaPlante's 300-acre MotoVentures spread, just across U.S. Highway 371 from the Cahuilla Creek Motocross track and about two hours southeast of Los Angeles. The event is a Day in the Dirt for the employees of the Ducati, Polaris, Triumph and Victory dealership in Brea, Ca. — a late Christmas present from owner Tom Hicks.
(Disclosure time: LaPlante invited Dealernews out to attend the Day in the Dirt along with Hicks and his staff. He supplied us with a Yamaha WR450 to ride —and crash several times — for the morning.)
The air is still cold enough to make a person's hands hurt while doing such manual labor as helping unload a fleet of Yamaha WR450s and WR250s from a long trailer. Out they come as they're rolled around and parked in a long, fairly even lineup.
LaPlante is already into his normal routine with the crowd as they suit up for a day of off-road riding, a routine that has him giving them a good-natured ribbing about everything from crashing his bikes to their levels of fitness. While joking around, he does make it a point to stress techniques and safety.
Once everyone has their gear on, it's a quick lesson with LaPlante about the rules of the off-road and a rundown about the day's agenda. The group is then split up into beginners — who head off for some riding lessons with a couple of LaPlante's instructors — and everyone else. The latter group follows LaPlante for a trail-blasting ride around the edges of the property.
MotoVentures is LaPlante's 12-year old training and touring business focused on dirt riding, trials riding and off-road tours. The operation has options for everyone from the beginning rider who wants to learn the basics to the advanced off-roader looking to develop extreme terrain riding skills. The main training center in features single-track trails, rocky trials sections and a long, deep sand wash.
In addition to training and tours, MotoVentures offers programs for business groups and corporate team building that can be tailored to fit the crowd. LaPlante also has a number of ways powersports dealers can benefit from the services.
"We can take an office full of people who have never ridden or even driven a car with a stick shift and get them out on bikes," says LaPlante, whose long industry career includes trials riding championships, R&D work for Kawasaki, engineering for American Honda's product development department and a stint with the Motorcycle Industry Council.
On this particular day back in early February, Hicks had arranged for a little off-road recreation for his employees as a Christmas gift. With 2009's year of dismal motorcycle sales out of the picture, Hicks says he wanted to do something to lift his store out of a funk. "I just believe that you have to share the wealth," he says. "You have to take care of the people who take care of you."
This is the third time that Hicks — an accomplished trials rider himself — has set up a Day in the Dirt for the store and each time it instills in everyone an energy and excitement that everybody takes back to work with them. "It does so many things for a reasonable price," he explains. "Stuff like this gets people willing to work more cohesively."
LaPlante says that not only can dealer personnel benefit from his school's offerings, dealers can also promote it in their stores to help beginning riders hone their skills. There is even a way they can purchase MotoVentures' services at a discount and resell them at a profit or use them as perks in lieu of discounting. "We can provide a valuable service they can use to generate sales," he says.
Some of the ways LaPlante says dealers can benefit:
- Dealers can build a sales finance package that includes the cost of attending MotoVentures' training programs
- Stores can use the services as incentives for high performing employees
- Dealers can use the business to organize a store ride or club ride
- Invite MotoVentures to attend an open house or parking lot event
- MotoVentures can partner with a dealership for exclusive offers and programs
LaPlante works exclusively with Yamaha on his fleet of vehicles, and has even negotiated a deal with the OEM to offer MotoVentures customers a coupon good for up to $200 Factory Cash Back on any new Yamaha vehicle purchased from an authorized dealer for $4,999 or more.
"I put butts in seats," he says, adding that the beginners he teaches are the very customers dealers want in their stores. "They're the one who need bikes, gear, everything."
For some of the employees from So. Cal. Motorcycles, those were sore behinds by the time everybody rounded up for a break and some grilled hot dogs and hamburgers. With everyone gathered in a group, LaPlante was able to offer some advice and suggestions based on what he saw during the couple hours of riding.
For Roy Gaertig, a salesman at the store, it was his first time riding off-road and he thought the day was an excellent team building exercise for the staff. "I've never ridden in the dirt before and it's a lot of fun," he says. "I told Tom it's almost the most fun I've ever had on a motorcycle."
To find out more about MotoVentures, contact Gary LaPlante at 877-260-6686 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.