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Lonski finds R&D jobs plentiful in industry

Dave McMahon, Senior Editor
March 12, 2012
Filed under Columns

Henry Lonski only needs to look at the plethora of jobs his company has to fill to know that the industry is moving in the right direction in 2012.

“Our first quarter has been over the top from last year in terms of the number of jobs,” said Lonski, president of the recruiting firm Lonski and Associates, LLC. “Last year in the first quarter our jobs to be filled were about one-third of what I have running right now.”

Lonski said the driver has been in engineering positions, including powertrain, steering, suspension, brake and body.

“In the last two or three years, the only thing moving forward in the industry has been R&D,” Lonski said. “And we’ve seen a major uptick in those jobs already in 2012 — about a 75 percent increase from a year ago. These are real jobs. I could fill them yesterday.”

Lonski expects R&D to maintain growth, with sales, marketing, communications and advertising positions to hold the same flat growth they’ve seen the past two years.

“I detect a really positive attitude for 2012,” Lonski said. “And that’s coming from someone who works with most of the big companies and the wannabes.”

Lonski, a former vice president of Sea-Doo and Ski-Doo who began his consulting and recruiting business in 2005, has seen manufacturers and suppliers turn to highly qualified candidates in their fast-paced environment.

“The criteria for each candidate in today’s times is very specific and detailed,” he said. “They want someone who can come in Monday morning and have something going by 1 o’clock in the afternoon. You can’t blame the companies. They’re playing catch-up and they’ve got to leapfrog forward. They want someone who’s got some years and knows exactly what they’re doing, and is really up to speed on the latest methodologies and programs.”

So anyone who tells Lonski that industry jobs are lacking will likely get an earful.

“I’m excited about 2012,” he said. “I’m not crying the blues. There’s a lot of industry jobs. It bodes well because the powersports industry’s foot is on the gas. We need more candidates now.”

Elite indeed

It’s always interesting to learn from dealers how they use their entrepreneurial spirit to take their businesses to new heights.

Will Stephenson of Team Powersports in North Carolina says the store is coming off its best year ever.

Among other elite dealers you can read about in this edition is Will Stephenson, owner of Team Powersports in Garner, N.C., near Raleigh. We talk to dozens of dealers every week in an effort to present you with proven business practices that have worked. And while what works in Spokane won’t necessarily prove equally true in Saginaw, every dealer we speak with offers some sort of takeaway to his fellow dealers.

In talking with dealers and manufacturers at Dealer Expo in Indianapolis, we always liked to the line: “There’s always something I can use in PSB.” And that’s why we do what we do. We know you’re eager to learn from your fellow dealers.

One area that drove growth for Stephenson in 2011 was more rides on the dealership’s test track, which sits behind the store.

“We didn’t let our customers start going back there until 2010, but last year it paid off big time,” Stephenson said. “We just promote the fun of riding through the track. Since we will let people demo and we have a proper place to do it, it keeps the customer excited during the buying process. It is amazing after a demo ride how many people buy when they were really coming into gather information before making the decision to purchase.”

Stephenson said that demo events — both street and ATV — move more units than any other promotion at the dealership.

“We typically have them on a Wednesday through Saturday schedule,” he said. “Saturday we’ll typically have a cookout with burgers and dogs. We will do a compare-and-contrast demo event, like come and ride an ST versus an FJR or compare the Honda ATV to the Yamaha ATV. We think just doing it one day is not enough. Start it, get the word out, give it time to build and have the climax on Saturday. When we focus demos and a certain segment, it seems to work.”

Events galore

• Wildhorse Harley-Davidson in Bend, Ore., came up with some inventive ways to celebrate its first birthday party.

Reaching its customer database via an email invite on Punchbowl.com, the dealership offered games throughout the day on March 3. In addition to music and a barbeque, Wildhorse offered a variety of games, including darts for discounts, fuzzy dice roll, horseshoes and more. A 6-on-6 tug-of-war contest stole the show, with the winning team receiving a $50 gift card per player.

• Surdyke’s Harley-Davidson in Festus, Mo., is putting on quite an event for St. Patrick’s Day. The dealership’s inaugural Battle of the Brews is for customers who home-brew their beer. An open sampling is set for noon to 4 p.m., with judging for ales, stouts, porters, lagers, ciders and wine. Customers can buy a cup for $5, with proceeds going to Camp Hope.

Welcome aboard

At its first quarter meeting at Dealer Expo, the Motorcycle Industry Council Board of Directors re-elected Larry Little as its chairman for the next year. Mark Blackwell is the MIC’s new vice chair, Eric Anderson returns as secretary/treasurer and Tim Buche was once again named president and chief executive officer.

Little has served as the MIC chair since 2003. In addition to Little, Blackwell and Anderson, the MIC Board includes Ray Blank, Steve Bortolamedi, Russ Brenan, Jon-Erik Burleson, Pieter de Waal, Don Emde, Frank Esposito, Steve Johnson and Dennis McNeal.

Dave McMahon is Senior Editor of Powersports Business. Reach him at dmcmahon@powersportsbusiness.com or 763/383-4411.

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