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When Ed Wallace bought a struggling 13-employee Harley shop in 1994, he had high hopes and big plans. He had no clue, however, how successful his dealership would ultimately become. In nine short years, Destination Harley- Davidson grew ten-fold, expanding to 100,000 square feet, 180 employees and annual sales of $40 million. Along the way, it’s been lauded by regional and national business publications for its innovative merchandising, training and marketing practices. Among its Harley peers, Destination has ranked first in new buyer/customer satisfaction for the past five years in a row.
“The desire to be number one in everything we do really drives us,” explains Scott Stempel, Destination’s director of operations and human resources. “We hear it every day.” In fact, employees carry business cards inscribed with the dealership’s motto, values, and expectations, and Wallace awards $50 a week to anyone who can quote the card. The dealership’s Plus One service program empowers staffers to do whatever it takes to delight riders. “If bike maintenance service is slower than expected,” says Stempel, “the responsible employee might buy that customer lunch at our café, offer them hot chili by the fireplace, or give them a $25 gift certificate to say thanks.”
At Destination, everything, down to the dealership’s name, is intentional. “We want to be the destination for our customers,” says Stempel, noting that their exceptional service, incredible BBQs, and tireless PR/events-marketing team led by Gene Cope helped make them Harley Promoter of the Year (2003). Naturally, hiring is done carefully in such a tight-knit environment. Character, heart, and the willingness to learn the business beat technical skill every time. Employee training is plentiful and rigorous. Daily operations run smoothly thanks to a weekly trend report that includes sales, expenses, profit, key departmental numbers, and any pressing business news.
Plenty of fun, short-term, educational games inspire peak performance. Staff members can win lottery tickets for answering phones in a timely manner or making clutch sales. Wallace is known for handing out $250 to everyone when an employee goes above and beyond, like rescuing a stranded biker in distress. Last September, as Destination headed into off-season, the service crew created a game called “Staying Hot in Cool Times” to increase billable hours by 6% in 90 days. The scoreboard—a racing pit—tracked monthly progress. When the technicians won their first two months, they lapped the track and received small gifts like cool Harley pens and mugs. Although they missed the final month’s goal by only eight hours, they ended up with a total gain of 8.5%. Their reward? A field trip to the local go-cart track for a chance to chase Wallace, Stempel and Cope around a real race track.
- Overall: In nine years, sales shot up to $40 million. The shop was expanded from 7K to 100K square feet and now boasts a café and cozy fireplace.
- Harley Awards: Ranked #1 in customer satisfaction for the 5th consecutive year. Also named 2003’s Promoter and Retail Merchandiser of the Year.
- Service hours billed: A quarterly game increased them by 8.5%.
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