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Mike’s sells the rumble, not the Harley

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in Leaders & Managers

In 1992, Mike Schwartz walked into a Harley-Davidson dealership in Delaware … and learned that he’d have to wait a year and half for his bike.

Convinced that he could do better, Schwartz told his wife: “I’m going to buy that place.” She knew he meant it.

When Schwartz did buy the dealership in 1994, it was selling 153 bikes a year and losing money. It was really a club, another dealer explains, and not even friendly to new members.

Here’s how Schwartz turned it into the No. 1 Harley dealership in the world:
  1. With the help of themed attraction designer Jack Rouse, he turned it into a tourist destination, including a restaurant and museum, renaming it Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson and relocating it near an interstate highway.

  2. He uses plenty of billboards, hype and humor to bring people in the door. Then, he delivers the goods: He’ll deliver you a Harley in 45 minutes.

  3. To stop phone calls from interrupting salespeople with customers, Schwartz created a business-development center to take all calls and set up appointments. Employees there have an inventory of every bike and can recite chapter and verse about financing and warranties. Every prospect goes into the database. Of those with appointments, 80 percent show up; and of those who come in, half buy.

  4. He started a free sales-training program for potential hires. Schwartz hires about a third of the graduates.

  5. The delivery department treats you to a meal at Mike’s Warehouse Grill if you don’t receive your bike right away. Harley-Davidson filmed the process to use as a training tool.

  6. A group of six employees from various departments, dubbed “Famous for Service,” meets weekly to hash out problems and ideas.
Mike’s Famous now sells 1,700 motorcycles a year, pulling in $53 million in revenue. That’s how you get your shirt embroidered “World’s No. 1 Harley Dealer.”

—Adapted from “(Re)born to Be Wild,” Donna Fenn, Inc.

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