LEARN …ENGAGE…CONNECT. Three little words that have a big impact on whether you’re going to be in business this time next year.
LEARN. Running any business in this day and age — let alone a recreation-based retail operation — requires quick thinking and intelligent strategy. Yes, you “shoot from the hip” every day, but the quality of your marksmanship is based on years of experience, study and training.
I’m not going to sit here in front of my computer and tell you how to run your business — but history strongly suggests that if you and your team don’t take the time to learn how to “do” or “re-do” your mostly-local business in this mostly global economy, someone else is going to come into your market and “do” it to you.
ENGAGE. It means to secure, to attract, to get involved. It means taking control of your destiny by going and getting what you need to move forward. Many of you (OK, many of us) have spent the last several years in survival mode, and it’s put us in a major rut. It’s hard to look up when you’re slogging to the monthly P&L statement. Well, let’s just get over ourselves. We have to regain our strength, do a little strategizing and engage our futures.
CONNECT. Oh, there are so many ways to connect these days. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Online forums. Emails. Texts. Heck, now we can just bump phones. (It all seems slightly surreal for an industry built on the notion of checking out and going for a ride.) But are you talking to someone, or with someone? Are you having a productive dialogue with a person that matters, or are you throwing two sentences to the wall hoping someone will notice? Are your requests for information and advice being heard by the right people? And what about that “secret weapon” you haven’t yet met?
When I came to this industry 13 years ago, I was stunned to see a dealer/retail body, thousands strong, with no central organization or national association. Sure, you have a Chamber of Commerce, maybe a state association and certainly a dealer performance or 20 group. But unlike the medical, hospitality, automotive and other industries, there is no single national assembly of the members of the most important and the most vulnerable link in the powersports sales chain.
Oh wait. Yes there is. It’s called Dealer Expo.
The Dealernews International Powersports Dealer Expo, by its very nature, is the one event where you can LEARN new ways to conduct business, ENGAGE opportunity, and CONNECT with the industry, all in one weekend and in one venue. It is the one event where you can receive a certification-based, high-level continuing education from industry experts — for free. It is where you can browse through literally hundreds of new products and determine their sales viability (and probably get a deal on ordering), or watch a demo of a business service that just may save your bottom line. It is the one weekend of the year where the entire industry gathers for the benefit of the retailer. And it is the one weekend where thousands of said-retailers come together.
There’s power in numbers.
The issues that will be discussed next February 15 through 17 will be weighty, indeed. The evolution not only of the U.S. economy but the global condition has forever changed the relationship between dealer and supplier. Realigned priorities for global businesses mean dealers must re-determine their role as the critical link between manufacturer and end user. And the global Internet means buying power rests firmly in the hands of that customer, or at least in his smart phone. You, as a retailer, are getting it from both sides.
So take control. Get ready to learn something new. Come to Indy ready to engage. And make as many personal connections as you possibly can during those three days. You will return home better informed, better networked, better energized, and ready to execute that “one great idea” that will make a difference to your business — and the industry — in 2013.