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Motorcycle Dealerships for Sale: Do They Come with the Staff You'll Need?

Whether you’re buying your first motorcycle dealership or about to add another storefront to your business, congratulations! This is a major step forward in your career and a potentially rewarding opportunity—if you get the right team to support the transition.

In most cases, when you’re looking at motorcycle dealerships for sale, you’re going to be buying more than just a brick-and-mortar building. An existing dealership already has a roster of employees in place, and many of them will probably carry over. There will also be a few roles to fill, and you may find it necessary to make some changes along the way. No matter what, your initial success will be hugely impacted by the team the previous owner assembled, and a lot will depend on finding a great recruiting partner who can fill in the gaps with people who mesh with the existing culture.

While you’ll do your due diligence when investigating motorcycle dealerships for sale, there’s a lot you might not learn until you sign your name on the dotted line if you don’t ask the right questions. We’ll help you figure out if you’ve got the right team in place to succeed and give you some advice on shoring up any gaps.

Examine the Organizational Chart

When considering any motorcycle dealerships for sale, one of the very first things to examine in terms of personnel is not the people—it’s the structure of the dealership’s management and departments. That will give you the context you need to engage in a thoughtful hiring process.

The value of this approach is not so much confirming what should be there, but what’s not. After all, that’s where things can get expensive. Most dealerships will have sales, parts and service, accounting/financing, and administration/clerical departments. But if this is all you see, you already know you’re going to need to expand the business.

Here are some modern departments it would be good to find on the org chart, either separately or built into existing areas:

  • Business Development Center (or BDC): So much more than making appointments, a good BDC department will manage incoming and outgoing customer service calls, stay ahead of customer needs, and follow up on leads for your motorcycle dealership.
  • Training: All skills are perishable, and maintaining a keen edge is all about sharpening your existing team. New hires may need extensive training, and old hands often require reminders and an introduction to current techniques and technologies.
  • Digital Sales: With the rise of the internet, digital sales and marketing channels are extremely important aspects of any business. You’ll want to leverage them to maximize revenue.

Also, depending on the brand, you may need to align your employees with a larger corporate model. Harley-Davidson, for instance, is focusing on giving dealers larger regional footprints and delivering consistent customer experiences across every branch. Make sure you do a little research to understand the dynamics you’ll need to manage, and speak to your recruiting partner to get the inside scoop on the personnel you’ll need to be successful.

Speak with Managers Before Closing

While it’s ideal to have a sit down with the existing management team, it’s far more likely you’ll have to do this informally. Chat with them about their departments in the course of a walk-through, or take the time to get some coffee or lunch.

These meetings will almost certainly be about reading between the lines and getting a rough idea of the health of the dealership from what is both said and not said. This is also when you’ll start thinking through the key business decisions you’ll need to make to be successful in terms of people. An experienced motorcycle industry recruiter can be a big help here—once you know the score, you’ll want to start looking for qualified candidates as soon as possible. Your recruiting partner will know where to begin, and they’ll probably already have some experienced talent in mind.

Meet with Employees After Closing

While there is definitely a screening element to this, what you’re really after is current employees’ opinions on how the dealership is doing, what they need, etc. If the last owner ran a tight ship, the existing team will know their jobs ten times better than you ever will. Leverage that expertise, and listen closely to what they have to say about the local motorcycle culture and environment. Bike enthusiasts are typically highly informed and selective buyers, and you’ll need every ounce of insight you can get on how to court them.

Here are some good tips to get the best information at these meetings and start out on the right foot:

  • The setting should be comfortable and relaxed. Try to avoid across-the-desk conversations, offer refreshments, and buy your team members lunch.
  • Explore the future, don’t litigate the past.
  • Make this about policies and procedures, not their co-workers or bosses (although discussions with managers may be different).
  • Keep notes and write down names. Knowing your people sets a great tone.
  • Act on and reward good ideas and suggestions.
  • Practice active listening. A little discussion of where you want to move things going forward is okay, but make plenty of space to hear their thoughts.
  • Have an open-door policy, and mean it!

All of this is good for developing solid relationships—especially with the managers who will be overseeing the transition—and getting it right comes with a big return on the investment. If you have great communication and a supportive work environment, your people will keep the health of the dealership front and center in their efforts.

Bring in the People You Need

Once you know the lay of the land, you’ll understand exactly what roles need to be filled with talented employees when you’re considering motorcycle dealerships for sale. You’ll want to get it right the first time to avoid hours of headaches and an expensive redo.

A personnel plan will serve you well. When considering current talent, gaps, and growth plans it pays to think through all of the intricacies. This doesn’t mean simply a list of talent and positions you need to fill—it also means the cadence of hiring (best to hire department leaders/managers prior to their direct reports). It also includes aspects like market value for the best talent. When you bring a new hire aboard, what impact will that have on their peers and others within the business? Understand if there will be created pay disparities and plan to handle these issues the way you want to—and need to.

Additionally, the WORST thing you can do is hire under duress. It’s best to foresee what talent you want to go out and get and make changes/additions on your own terms. If you’re caught with a need to hire anyone to fill a role, you’ll do more damage than good in most cases.

This is where a recruiting agency can help. V20 Recruiting is the perfect partner for new dealership owners. We specialize in analyzing and consulting services for the top motorcycle industry employers in the game, and we can set your dealership up for success the moment you pick up the keys. Instead of wading through an ocean of resumes, we have the deep industry connections it takes to find ideal candidates for key management positions quickly and efficiently for your business. Crucially, we have a long history of connecting top talent with great jobs at leading employers like Harley-Davidson, and our leading headhunter Adam Wilke is widely recognized as the top Harley recruiter in the business.

Reach out today to find out how we can help you turn exploring motorcycle dealerships for sale into a lucrative and successful business decision. If you’re ready to move on new hires now, you can speak out directly to one of our elite recruiters servicing your field and get your new dealership firing on all cylinders.