American Motorcycle Dealer AMD 236 March 2019 - Page 20

not having the right kind of inventory, we have lost a lot of dealers’ confidence. “So, we have to be very thoughtful about the products we push through Tucker, or elsewhere, or offer dealer direct. Key to this will be building up the team, adding established market knowledge and understanding. In the past 90 days we’ve already brought in the likes of Greg Blackwell, a well- known and respected industry veteran, we’ve brought back John Potts who was very well known on the Vance & Hines and Performance Machine side of the business. We’ve also just announced two further admirable in the face of adversity, this year it felt like a weight had been lifted. Not one to bury himself in spreadsheets or stay cloistered and anonymous, Charvat is clearly a natural born leader of men and women who wants to be visible and accessible to the employees he leads. His own enthusiasm and passion is infectious. In a very short period of time it appears to have filtered through the company and injected a new lease of life into a team that, let’s be honest, has certainly been up against it in a variety of ways in recent years. “vertical integration may have looked good on a white board” appointments at Tucker - an internal promotion to the new VP Sales post, Jason Potter, former Western Region Sales Manager, and brought back another well thought of team member as VP Marketing, Jim Barker. “Taken with other hires such as Greg Heichelbech at Kuryakyn and Mustang, the team already looks very different to the one the business had a year ago. I think this speaks well to the start we have made, to our preparedness to make the necessary changes and our determination to meet the challenges.” Indeed, seeing MAG alumni Terry Vance being embraced by a new management culture that sees a former industry leader and legend such as him as an invaluable asset also speaks to that determination. Charvat is a very engaging character. He is obviously enthused about the “these are just the first steps” position he’s taken on, and highly motivated by the passion of the employees he has met, and they by his. Compared to the ‘vibe’ at the past few Tucker shows, while the professionalism and positivity of the Tucker team has always been 20 As the conversation continued, we got to discussing the relationship between the MAG brands and LeMans/Drag Specialties, their primary distributor prior to the LDI acquisition in 2014, and the somewhat uncertain or at least apparently confusing evolution of those relationships since the association with Tucker was established. For Charvat the key word there was “relationships”. He told us that, moving forward, the MAG brands would indeed seek to sustain and develop their relationships with other distribution channels “on a selective basis”. He accepts that the suggestion, in the months following the acquisition, that an organization such as Drag Specialties, which had significant history with the brands and significant ‘skin’ in that game, would now buy its Vance & Hines inventory (for example) through its primary competitor, from this new ‘vertical’, rather than direct from V&H as it had been doing was naïve at best. Charvat sees that assumption as exactly the kind of mistake that he would now seek to correct. “This was another example of the lack of understanding of the relationships that already existed at the time and their importance in the powersports industry,” Charvat said. “There was the mistaken belief that an organization like LeMans, a player like Fred Fox, would simply roll over and think that buying from their primary competitor was fine. “That was never going to be the case. That was quite justifiably perceived as a threat and could only destabilize the very valuable brand relationships that had been so carefully built, and that AMERICAN MOTORCYCLE DEALER - MARCH 2019 had already existed for so long. So while I can’t go into all the details yet, in part because some of that still needs to be worked out, I can tell you that we will be working on unwinding some of those decisions and looking to restore a platform for relationships that are better for all concerned - better for the other distributor and therefore better too for the brands, and above all better for the market’s dealers too. “We will need to approach each of the issues we are faced with, each of the challenges and each of the prior decisions on an individual basis, on their specific merits. Since those decisions were made the market itself, the retail environment, has continued to evolve and we have to be realistic and cognisant of that, as all distributors and businesses have to be. But for sure there can and will be changes and better ways of building better relationships and, as I have indicated, where that involves unwinding prior decisions, we’ll do that if there is a better outcome available. “Our path to market, our channel strategies need to be based on what is best for all concerned, including the end consumer. But Tucker is not going to be selling on Amazon, for example, and we are going to be as rigorous as possible in enforcing a MAP policy. If a dealer insists on buying brand direct and wants to have an online business of their own, then fine, but they are going to have to play by the same rules that the big boys do. “Above all, Tucker has to focus on doing what is essentially a simple task, and doing it well. Tucker is in the box moving business. While there is subtlety and nuance surrounding doing that well we have to recognize the reality that dealers no longer run deep inventory and look to their distributor of choice to absolve them from the need to do so. “Our job is to make sure that the inventory is where the dealer needs it to be, when he needs it there, and that it is the right kind of inventory. Simple. Fred Fox has been the past master and our job is to be the best possible competitor he can have. If the powersports industry has two or more great distributors doing a great job then everybody wins - the consumer, the brick and mortar shops, the vendors, the brands and, as a result, the distributors themselves. “The secret sauce, if there is one, is how do you help your dealers to be as successful as they can be, in an evolving marketplace. If we can figure out that recipe, if we can help them to want to do business with us, to be able to do business with us, then that is how we earn their business, respect and loyalty. Our job is to make sure our dealers want to buy from us rather than another guy by being a better partner. That is the secret ingredient, “inherently flawed decisions” but the objective itself is actually pretty simple. “A big part of that is the value we can add to the simplicity of the logistics. The differentiators that enable the dealer, in turn, to make the sale, and do so more often. Logistics is such a straightforward proposition these days that pretty much anybody should be able to do it well. The added value that will make the dealer want to choose us as his supplier of choice will be the sales support that we can deploy at scale to help them make that sale. “That value proposition is incredibly important and that will be our differentiator. Vendors could do it themselves, but they cannot be geared to do so. They can’t have a sales force of 120 or more people, but we can, on their behalf, on a shared resource basis for all our vendors, and that means our class-leading independent vendors just as much as the MAG brands. The dealer then can draw on the kind of resources that make the difference in making the sale. Resources that the vendor simply can’t deliver, but that can make all the difference to the dealer’s ability to prosper.”