Why the Dealernews 2012 Top 100 rocks

Publish Date: 
Mar 30, 2012
By Dennis Johnson

ANOTHER YEAR, another round of dealers filling out the lineup of the Top 100.

It’s always neat to see how grateful the dealers and dealership personnel are for being named a Top 100 dealer. And for good reason. The entry process is no small task — there are many questions to answer and lots of opportunities to share photos that highlight their store’s best and brightest marketing efforts, displays and events.

They’re asked to share numbers and demographic information and to hold a magnifying glass up against each department within their dealership. Many dealers go to great lengths to give detailed answers to all the questions, a process that some liken to writing a yearly business plan.

Having gone through the bulk of the 2012 entries, it’s apparent that most dealers had to redouble their efforts during the recession and, in the process, honed their business senses. Nearly every dealer mentioned that employee education is hugely important now — whether it’s a Harley-Davidson dealer praising HDU or a metric using one of the many industry-centric training companies.

Service departments are detailing and gassing up bikes before returning them in addition to offering wide-reaching pick-up service and winter storage. Events are so common among the Top 100 dealerships, it’s rare to read an entry that doesn’t list even a regular customer-appreciation night, let alone a four-day dealer-led ride.

How about dealership bike shows? Some sound like they could be giving some of the more established trophy shows a run for their money. Vintage bikes — of all stripes — seem to be the focus of many of the competitions which often coincide with other big events being held at the stores.

And while “customer service is king” can get kind of cliche after a while, it’s clear that many — if not most — dealers are putting a laser-beam focus on serving their customers. With many OEMs launching programs and specials related to CSI scores, we’re seeing dealers doing more follow-up calls and after-service surveys.

It also seems that employee satisfaction is of growing performance. There’s the aforementioned employee education, but there’s also an effort to ensure that the hard work of dealership personnel is rewarded through spiffs, bonuses, store rides, weekend picnics, in-store competitions, profit-sharing programs, retirement programs, medical benefits, and the chance to ride new models as they’re introduced into the dealerships. Turn to page 14 for some stats on the 2012 class and see that the number of years on average an employee has been with a Top 100 dealer is 5.7 years.

We get a taste of how much pride they take in this process and the attendant results during our Top 100 awards ceremony that’s held each year in Indianapolis during Dealer Expo. Not only do the dealers get to mingle with fellow Top 100 inductees, they also break bread and rub elbows with OEM, aftermarket and industry VIPs and others.

And the program keeps giving throughout the year. Many of the dealers explain in their Top 100 entry how they use the honor in their marketing collateral and in-store displays. Some even send out press releases to their local newspapers and news organizations, often resulting in stories highlighting the Top 100 win of a local business.

As I’m writing this, we’re gearing up for Dealer Expo (We produce the March issue before the show) and the awards event. Working Dealer Expo and producing the Show Daily newspaper we print each day of the show is an exercise in controlled chaos. But for those few hours each show where the Top 100 get their due, it’s super gratifying to honor these retailers. They are the main part of the powersports industry equation that make this business possible.

Congratulations to the 2012 Top 100 dealers.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com