Interview with Reno Cycles & Gear on the Secret to Effective Dealership Management
Managing a powersports dealership is a tough responsibility – you need to keep an eye on your profitability, employee efficiency, customer satisfaction, inventory levels and a number of other variables. And the job only gets tougher as you grow bigger. It’s not something everyone can do.
However, given the continuous success of Reno Cycles & Gear, a powersports dealership started in 1999, we’d have to say that its founder, Bill Hermant, is the right man for the job.
As any good manager, he understands that it’s just as important to get the bird’s-eye view of the entire business as it is to zoom in on the details, particularly on the individual needs of employees and customers. After all, keeping everything in balance is the key.
Hermant shares the secret to successful business management in our interview with him below. Check it out!
Tell us a little about the history of the dealership and how you got involved.
Bill: “I’ve been in the business since I was 17 years old. I opened my first powersports shop in 1971, while I was still in the San Francisco Bay area, where I was selling accessories, making repairs and doing things of that nature. I was also a professional motorcycle racer on the side.
I moved to Nevada with my wife and children in 1995, though I still had my shop back in the San Francisco area, so I was going back and forth for a few years. Finally, in 1999, I moved the business to Nevada completely, calling it Reno Cycles & Gear.”
What do you think separates your dealership from other businesses in your area?
Bill: “Probably two things. First of all, everyone at our dealership is an enthusiast. For instance, I’m in my 60s, and I still race desert cars and ride motorcycles. Everyone that works here is involved in some way in the motorsports business, so we definitely care about what we do.
And the second thing is that we treat people the same way we want to be treated. At the end of the day, it’s more important for us to make our customers happy than close a lot of big deals.”
What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to managing a powersports dealership?
Bill: “Staying in this business is getting more and more expensive with prices that are starting to match those in the automotive industry. Due to their complexity, units cost more, and as a result, it costs more to hire the right people to service them. This in turn makes it harder to make a profit.
On the flipside, you can’t keep your customers satisfied unless you have money. For instance, to ensure your employees know how to do their job – particularly those in the service and accounting departments – you have to send them to school, and that’s not cheap.
So, walking the tightrope between keeping customers happy and maintaining profitability is a big challenge in our industry.”
What skills does a person in your position need to have to do a good job?
Bill: “The biggest one is patience – because you have this constant struggle between you, the OEM and the customer.
You always want to do the best for your customer, but sometimes, the OEM’s extreme pricing demands can get in the way of that. On the other hand, customers can sometimes be overconfident in their knowledge because of the Internet, yet they come in with a lot of misinformation and mispricing, which makes it tough to tactfully tell them that they’re wrong.
So, you need to have enough patience to manage both sides without upsetting either one of them.”
What do you think makes great customer service?
Bill: “You have to treat customers the way you’d like to be treated. It’s important to understand where they are coming from and set realistic expectations. For example, if a customer spends $30,000 on a RZR and then breaks something or gets a flat tire, you have to clearly explain to them what’s covered by their warranty and what isn’t. I find that most people are fairly reasonable as long as you explain everything they need to know to them properly.”
How do you handle hiring new employees?
Bill: “Finding employees in the powersports industry is actually a problem. The reason for that is the fact that our profits are lower than in the automotive industry, yet our expenses often approach their level. For instance, we generally need techs who have the same level of education as those in the auto industry, yet our wages have to be lower, so we’re in a pretty tough spot.
The best way to tackle this problem is to keep looking for new employees at all times – and hire those who have the passion for our industry and the drive to work hard. It’s okay if they’re inexperienced, because we can always train them.”
You have a very nice website. Why did you decide that your dealership needs one?
Bill: “It’s just the way shopping is these days – 65% of the customers who walk into our dealership have already researched online what they want, which means that they already know what they want or they’re close to figuring it out. So, you need a website as a means to introduce your business to them or risk losing their business. In fact, our website, I believe, delivers about 20% of our sales.”
When did you implement Ideal and what was the original reason for that?
Bill: “We implemented Ideal in January of 2016. The main reason we wanted a system like Ideal was because our growth was getting out of hand, so we needed something to gain a better understanding of what we were doing.
Originally, however, we went with Lightspeed EVO, but it turned out to be way too complicated for us to use. We couldn’t keep our inventory straight and it was hard to make a deal within the program, so we decided that it wasn’t for us.
We did some more searching and eventually found Ideal. After testing it out, we discovered that it was much more user-friendly for our people, and a lot of the things that we couldn’t do in Lightspeed, such as creating a deal, were very easy in Ideal.”
What was the transition process like?
Bill: “It was actually pretty smooth – definitely much smoother than Lightspeed. We had Lightspeed for about a year and a half, and we still couldn’t figure out anything. We had Ideal for just a little over year now, and though we’re still learning how to use some of its deeper features, we know enough to manage everything effectively.
Everything else that we’re learning about the system is just additional information that provides us with more value.”
What was the training process like?
Bill: “Really good. The Ideal training team showed how to use the system to everyone in each department. Personally, I’m not very well-versed in computers, but after my team showed me how to use the system, I got the hang of it fairly quickly. So, if I could learn it, then so can everyone else.”
What’s the learning curve like overall?
Bill: “The whole system is pretty self-explanatory, so you don’t need to try hard to figure things out – at least, not the basics. It usually takes our employees about a day or two to start using the system.”
What’s your favorite Ideal feature?
Bill: “Right now, I’m loving the reports that each department can give me. They allow me to clearly see where I need to make adjustments, so that I can make the dealership more profitable and give better customer service.”
Are using the Ideal mobile app?
Bill: “We’re just getting into that right now. It’s convenient to have all the information you need on your tablet or phone, while you’re out on the parking lot with your customers. In general, consumers are getting much more tech-savvy, so businesses that want to remain successful have to go in that direction in order to keep up.”
What do you think was Ideal’s biggest contribution to your dealership?
Bill: “Inventory control. Prior to Ideal, our inventory was out of hand. We have a pretty big building, with accessories and other products, in each corner. We were able to save a lot of money by pulling all this information together and starting to order only as many items as we need.”
How has Ideal changed your life as an owner?
Bill: “It’s made it a lot less hectic. We have a much better grasp on what we have and what we need than we used to. Tracing work orders, monitoring our inventory and finding special orders for our customers are all easier now because Ideal provides all this information in just a few clicks.”