Business (And Highway) 101 – Skip The MBA And Buy A Motorcycle

1.) Soichiro Honda – Lesson: Find your own way

The son of a village blacksmith, watin-p Honda was exposed to bicycles when they were brought into his father’s shop for repair. He had only a primary school education, but showed a striking aptitude for both engineering and business. Before starting the Honda Motor Company to make motorized bicycles in postwar Japan, he had already built up two successful businesses, one supplying piston rings to Toyota, and another making propellers for the Japanese air force.

Mr. Honda was anything but a typical Japanese businessman. A rugged individualist, he refused to participate in the “keiretsu” alliances between companies, forbes which typically gave big banks a strong influence in business decisions. When virtually all Japanese motorbikes had noisy, smelly two-stroke motors he decided to make a four-stroke. That typified a willingness to plan and invest for long-term success even if it meant ignoring prevailing “wisdom.” One of the motorcycles that benefited from that insight was the Super Cub step-through. It was introduced in 1958 and is still produced almost unmodified today. Honda recently sold the 50 millionth Super Cub, making it the best selling vehicle of all time.

2.) George Hendee – Lesson: You don’t need to know, you need to know what you need to know

Hendee was one of the most successful bicycle racers in Massachusetts at the turn of the century – at one point, he won 302 races out of 309! He started a company making his own bicycles, which sold well, thanks to his racing reputation.

Many of the very first motorcycles were “pacers” used to train bicycle racers. They were typically unreliable but Hendee noticed that Oscar Hedstrom’s ran very well. In 1901, eshop development Hendee approached Hedstrom and told him that his dream was to start a company devoted to making motorized bicycles. They called their company Indian, and in short order it was America’s leading motorcycle manufacturer. In 1912, Indian sold over 20,000 units.

3.) Arthur Davidson – Lesson: Support your product after the sale

While his friend Bill Harley and to a lesser extent the other Davidson brothers provided the technical know-how, the early business success of Harley-Davidson was largely due to Arthur Davidson. In 1910 he set out to enroll a national network of dealers. He also recognized the importance of factory-training for dealer service staff, and the importance of advertising if H-D was ever to surpass Indian in annual sales.

4.) Vaughn Beals – Lesson: Quality-control rules

By the mid-’70s after years of AMF mismanagement, Harley-Davidson had lost almost all customer loyalty and profits were in freefall. When a group of company executives led by Vaughn Beals offered to buy the division for $75 million, AMF quickly agreed.

After the 1981 leveraged buyout, Beals led an amazing corporate turnaround. He funded new product development and implemented world-class quality control. It’s impossible to know what would have happened to the H-D brand if Beals had not risen up to save it, but it’s certain that no one else could have done a better job at rehabilitating it.

5.) John Bloor – Lesson: Never underestimate the value of your brand, never take it for granted

Like Harley-Davidson, Triumph was a company that had fallen on hard times – more than once. In the 1920s the company made an ill-fated move to produce cars as well and in 1936 an entrepreneur named Jack Sangster drove a hard bargain, acquiring the motorcycle business at a good price. Sangster’s business instincts nearly make him worthy of a place on this list, too. He hired the brilliant Edward Turner and after turning a handsome profit on sales, sold the company to BSA for another big payday in 1951.

From the mid-’70s through the mid-’80s Triumph died an agonizingly slow death. The brand would have vanished altogether had John Bloor, a real estate developer, not bought the old factory in Meriden. Against all advice, Bloor decided to build a new factory in nearby Hinckley. He spent millions designing new motorcycles that were unveiled at the Cologne Motorcycle Show in 1990. While those first “new” Triumphs got mixed reviews, the company has shown a remarkable willingness to go its own way, producing a line of unique machines that once again have earned it a devoted fan base.j

6.) Count Domenico Agusta – Lesson: Follow your passion

This Italian Count ran MV Agusta during its heyday between the end of WWII and the early ’70s. During that time, the company was really a helicopter manufacturer with a small motorcycle subsidiary. The road-going motorcycles they made would never warrant including the Count on this list, retroandclassicflixs but thanks to his own fierce pride and competitive streak, the company also funded the greatest Grand Prix racing team of all time.

When the Japanese factories began to dominate in the late ’60s, they drove out most of the Italian marques. By lavishing funds from the helicopter business on his racing team, Agusta single-handedly preserved Italian racing honor.

7.) Malcolm Forbes – Lesson: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

Forbes was the son of America’s toalla playa first business magazine publisher. After heroic service in WWII, he came home to work at Forbes Magazine, although he nearly became the Governor of New Jersey – he won the Republican nomination but lost the election. So what does running Forbes Magazine have to do with motorcycles? Nothing.

Forbes discovered motorcycling in the 1960s. He bought a motorcycle dealership in New Jersey, VPS Hosting which became one of the biggest shops in the country. Using his high-level business connections, he worked tirelessly to establish motorcycle riding as a respectable pastime. He was an extremely effective political lobbyist always ready to defend motorcycling from legal assault. With his media-savvy background, he managed to plant scores of motorcycle stories in the mainstream media. The social acceptability of motorcycles today owes much to Malcolm Forbes.

8.) Floyd Clymer – Lesson: If at first you do succeed, try again anyway

Clymer was already famous as a young teenager – at 13 (in 1909) usdtocad he was the youngest Ford dealer in the country! He went on to become a winning motorcycle racer and soon had a dealership for Harley-Davidson and Excelsior motorcycles in his home state of Colorado. He was an innovative marketer and one of the first people to sell motorcycles to police departments and delivery businesses. In his early 20s he began publishing his first motorcycle magazine. simplyrobo

His career was put on hold when he served a year in federal prison for mail fraud. He had been offered a chance to plead guilty and avoid prison altogether but he always claimed he was innocent and refused to admit a crime he didn’t commit. When he got out of prison he took over the distribution of Indian motorcycles on the west coast. Here again, he had marketing savvy, arranging for Indian motorcycles to appear in films and lending them to Hollywood stars. When Indian faltered in the ’50s, mrtmediagmbh Clymer desperately tried to save the brand but failed. He also was briefly the importer of the eyebrow-raising Munch Mammoth motorcycle.

Last but not least, he was the publisher of Cycle Magazine from the early ’50s to the mid-’60s and ran a very successful business publishing motorcycle repair manuals.

9.) George Barber – Lesson: Always remember where you came from

Barber was a sports car racer who gave up the track to take over the family business, Barber Dairies, based in Birmingham Alabama. He built it into the largest privately-owned dairy in the southeast and then, late in life, assembled the world’s most important collection of vintage motorcycles.

When the collection outgrew its original home in one of the old dairy warehouses, he built Barber Motorsports Park on the outskirts of Birmingham. The park includes one of the best race-tracks in the U.S., and the best motorcycle museum in the world. The track and museum are set in a manicured landscape that puts every other U.S. race-track to shame. After spending $60 million of his own money on the park, Barber essentially gave it to the city of Birmingham and the state of Alabama.

10.) “Big” Bill France – Lesson: If you build it, they will come

France is best known as the father of NASCAR the builder of Daytona International Speedway, France was also a motorcycle racer. The city of Daytona Beach convinced the AMA to hold the 200-mile national championship race there in 1937. After a few lackluster years, it seemed Daytona would lose the race, until France was convinced to become the promoter. He continued to promote the race until, realizing that it could not continue on the beach, he built the speedway. He opened his track in 1959 and the AMA saw the light and moved the race there two years later. Under France’s control, the race became an international sensation.


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