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Nov. 8, 2010 – On this crucial topic, you’re in or you’re out

November 8, 2010
Filed under Columns

Perhaps because of the nonstop information flow that consumes all of us, it is really quite a challenge to find a moment to pause and really chew on something of note. To stop and examine it, and its relevance on our lives and our industry.
So let me try to do that right now. Last week, while I was undergoing my own data dump of information, I came across an earnings report on a significant retailer. That retailer had eclipsed its year-ago sales by nearly 39 percent. Can you imagine? Almost a 40 percent increase in this economy?
And we’re talking a multi-billion dollar company here. That retailer? Amazon, the largest online retailer in the world.
That news brought to mind an interesting point raised by the keynote speaker at the recent Profit Xcelerator, Powersports Business’ annual dealer educational conference & expo. Dave Mitchell, founder of the Leadership Difference, gave an insightful and downright hilarious talk on different personality traits and how knowing those and successfully handling those can lead to improved retail sales and of course, improved market share.
But Mitchell also brought up an item of note, a theory if you will, that should really be chewed on for awhile to consider its importance. That theory: For the first time in our history, riding the technology bandwagon that is transforming our lives is not an option. It’s a requirement.
Think about that.
It’s probably much easier to digest if you’re a parent and you’re seeing how technology is changing us. Last night, for example, I walked into my daughter’s room to do the “homework check” — for nonparents, that means tracking that the amount of texts per minute received and delivered don’t equal the child’s pulse rate. Turns out, she was reading “Huckleberry Finn.” Being a highly observant parent, I also noticed she was wearing headphones, which happened to be plugged into her iPod. Having spent my own childhood being lectured on proper homework etiquette, I of course spent the next five minutes sternly stating the dos and don’ts of homework time.
Turns out her teacher had assigned her to download an audio version of the Mark Twain classic from the Internet, which she was listening to as she followed along in the book. “You can follow the different dialects better,” my daughter tells me.
Really?
The technology transformation is equally apparent in the workplace.
A few weeks back, David Roosevelt of Ducati Seattle was discussing his dealership’s social media campaigns as we prepared for ProfitX. Roosevelt was one of four dealers who discussed different business initiatives they had undertaken in response to the challenging retail environment during the recent Vegas dealer education conference & expo. In preparation for that panel discussion, Roosevelt and I spoke on the phone about different social networking outreaches Ducati Seattle has been a part of. At one point, Roosevelt mentioned a social networking relationship with a soon-to-be-opened Seattle restaurant. The restaurant has quite a following on Facebook, some of which actually came to Roosevelt’s Seattle dealership as part of a social networking event.
“Wait,” I said at one point, “did you say this restaurant, which hasn’t even opened yet, already has a Facebook following of hundreds?”
Yep, I had heard correctly. It turns out, a number of these Facebook followers of an as-yet unopened Italian restaurant found another Italian pastime — Ducati motorcycles — just as intriguing. So Roosevelt had a dealership full of these folks on a Saturday morning. Most of them were not riders, but how valuable is it to attract nonriders in a time when riders are keeping their bikes for a longer period of time?
By the way, all of this marketing, Roosevelt reminded me, did not cost him a penny.
Really?
Those of us asking the “really?” question and struggling to stay abreast of how quickly technology is changing consumer habits and life itself should really heed Mitchell’s words: There is no opt out on this technology ride. You’re in, or you’re out (of business).
If you need further proof, check out Amazon’s third-quarter earnings report. The company’s net sales in North America rose
45 percent to more than $4 billion. In a quarter.
Think about that and ask yourself how your business is adapting to the technology transformation occurring around you. Can you, right now, name two or three things that you’ve done to become part of that?
Stop, and really chew on that for awhile. It’s worth your time.
Smaller operators
The diversity of readership that Powersports Business enjoys — in terms of size of dealership operation — is both a blessing and a challenge. Our readership spans the industry, from multi-store operators to small metric or independent shops to large Harley-Davidson dealers. It’s a smorgasbord if there ever was one.
However it can be challenging as a staff to address these different-sized dealership needs and perspectives. In fact, I’ve had a couple
of smaller operators approach me at recent industry events asking us to focus more on the smaller-staffed stores (those under six employees).
So here’s my challenge back to you, the small operator. If your store fits that staff-size description, e-mail me the following:?a description of your business’ biggest challenge, your name and title, and a good time to contact you.
Addressing your needs, Mr. Small Operator, starts with understanding them, something only you can help us achieve.
Neil Pascale is editor-in-chief of Powersports Business. He can be reached at npascale@affinitygroup.com.

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