Earlier this morning I delivered the keynote address to a meeting of 1,000 Harley-Davidson dealers. It was an amazing experience. Perhaps the most amazing part was that 1,000 Harley people, who had packed the various hotel bars the previous night, actually showed up to hear an 8am keynote!
As part of my research, I had talked to several of these dealers in the previous few weeks. Among the questions I asked them was, “What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Harley-Davidson dealers today?” Not surprisingly, the economy figured large in their answers. But there were a couple of comments in particular that really got my attention. And what intrigued me was that these comments could apply equally well to any business or association operating today.
Debby Coziahr has a Harley dealership in Forsyth, Illinois. When I asked her what was the biggest challenge facing Harley dealers, she said:
The biggest challenge facing Harley dealers is the absolute necessity to change.
She didn’t say that change was merely “desirable,” or a “nice idea.” She said it was an absolute necessity.
I also spoke with Jim Entenman, whose dealership is in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. When you read what he said, substitute your own business for the word “dealer.”
We will never do business tomorrow like we do it today, and we’ll never do it like we did yesterday. If a dealer isn’t willing to look at new ways to grow his business, and he’s not willing to change, he’d better get out of business, because he’s not going to make it.
I don’t care how good you are at what you do—if you’re not continually looking for ways to grow, evolve, and change, then sooner or later the competition is going to catch up to you.
I’ve talked before about how the Beatles (once they got the first few albums under their belts), grew, evolved, and changed with every album—almost with every song! No wonder the competition couldn’t catch up! In fact, it would probably be fair to say that the Beatles didn’t really have any competition. By making change a fundamental component of their business, they effectively owned the #1 position, while everybody else was competing for #2.
Now, wouldn’t you like to be in that position? Wouldn’t you like your business to be the moving target that the competition can never seem to hit? In that case, you need to take a tip from Debby and recognize—and not just recognize, but fully embrace—the absolute necessity to change.
Jim was right: we will never do business tomorrow like we do it today, and we’ll never do it like we did yesterday. At least, not if we want to stay in business.
Harley-Davidson has the best brand in the motorcycle business. The Beatles have (still!) the best brand in the music business. They are the gold standard. And if the gold standard has to keep changing—as a matter of necessity—then what in the world is holding you back?