Every time I go to a new city, I MUST make a pilgrimage to the local motorcycle dealership. Last week while in Scottsdale, Arizona, I needed a little service work on my BMW F800GS. The closest dealership was “GO AZ Motorcycles & Scottsdale Harley-Davidson.” I didn’t know anything about GO AZ, but I was blown away the minute I entered.
First, the “dealership” is a 14-acre campus in a Scottsdale industrial park, abutting the small Scottsdale Airport (used mostly by high-end, private corporate jets). It was unbelievably impressive, with the Harley-Davidson portion occupying more than half the campus. The rest of the complex focused on non-Harley brands like BMW, KTM, Triumph, and so on. As I chatted it up with the service writer (we’ll call him “Ted”), he told me he was also from Wisconsin. I asked, “How do you like it here?” Ted replied, “I will never work for anyone else…. Bob Parsons is the most incredible man I have ever met.”
Who the heck is Bob Parsons and why is he so “incredible?” It’s not something you would hear every day. How many of your employees would say that about you?
Ted went on to tell me the story about how Bob Parsons got into the motorcycle business — he was mistreated while trying to buy a Harley, bought the dealership instead of a motorcycle, and then “corrected” the nasty customer service issues. Ted said the dealership donates all its profits to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. While I couldn’t verify this, the Bob and Rene Parsons Foundation does donate significantly to that hospital, as well as to a variety of other charities. $121 million since 2012 to be exact. www.tbrpf.org
So, who is Bob Parsons?
After creating a software package called “MoneyCounts,” which was eventually sold to Intuit (think Quicken), Bob Parsons founded “GoDaddy.com” (remember the ads with Danica Patrick during the Superbowl?). Bob barely finished high school and then joined the Marines, serving a tour in Vietnam, and received a Purple Heart, Vietnam Gallantry Cross, and the Combat Action Ribbon. He continues to work hard to help other vets today, including providing motorcycles to veterans and offering special armed services-themed paint finishes for veterans’ bikes.
Loud music started blaring as I observed a guy about my age getting a tattoo (yes, this Harley joint has a tattoo parlor with world-class tat artists, PLUS a wedding chapel!). It felt just like the beginning of a Packers Game at Lambeau. Then a huge gong sound came from the floor. A couple had just signed the paperwork on their new Harley. But what happened next was even more cool. Every employee in the store ran over to the couple and gave them a congratulatory hug. EVERY EMPLOYEE. Without a doubt, this was my best retail store experience ever. High-end retailers (or any retailers for that matter) could take a lesson. Even at Nordstrom, I have never gotten a hug after buying a Ralph Lauren jacket!
Uber-engaged employees. A fun, exciting, shopping experience. Fantastic customer service. How do they do it? I want to meet Bob Parsons and ask him…. but, until then, here’s my best guesses.
- Selection. And I’m not talking about inventory here. Clearly GO AZ and Scottsdale Harley-Davidson know how to pick the right people. Every person I encountered was positive and customer focused. I must find out their screening and selection process.
- The Legend. Every business has (or should have) a “Legend.” Jeff Bezos packaging books in his Boston apartment. Hewlett-Packard’s garage. Bob Parsons buying the dealership because of lousy customer service. Embrace your legend and tie it to your purpose.
- Purpose. While I didn’t see any posters about their core values or purpose, clearly GO AZ is a purpose-driven organization. I suspect helping others in need and creating a fun lifestyle are central to their purpose. Knowing their philanthropic values, I would definitely buy my next bike there, and even pay a little more if necessary. (Now let’s be real here, not every business can donate all or even most profits to charity. But every business probably can find their own brand of philanthropy and fun that might inspire their employees and patrons.)
- Bob’s 16 Rules for Entrepreneurs. https://www.bobparsons.com/my-16-rules They come through loud and clear.
OK, so neither you nor I are Bob Parsons – nor have we met him yet. We’re not billionaires and our employees don’t worship us. Despite this, let’s be determined NOT to carry on with business as usual. What to do?
First, associate with the right people – people who are right for you and your business. And it starts with a cultural match. Too often, we’re attracted to folks with the right technical skills, but the wrong culture. That doesn’t work. This is true for customers, vendors, and team members.
Second, understand your purpose and the purpose of your organization. And then communicate it loud and clear and repeatedly. Jim Clifton of Gallup wisely said, “Your customers will never be more engaged than your least engaged employee.” He’s 100% correct.
Third, work on the first two all the time. Improving your hiring practices, strong weekly meetings, effective quarterly offsite meetings, and substantive annual retreats will take you a long way in this endeavor.
Regardless of whether I am in the market for a new bike, I STILL want to meet Bob Parsons!