50 years of business at Buddy Stubbs H-D

With this month being the kickoff to the Dealernews 50th anniversary in 2015, I felt it fitting to interview Jack Stubbs, one of the owners at Buddy Stubbs Harley-Davidson in Arizona. After all, both Dealernews and Buddy Stubbs H-D share a 50th anniversary within months of each other.

The dealership began with 3,600 sq. ft. of space, one-third of which was devoted to service. Today, the two dealerships employ 55. The Phoenix shop, which includes a 1.5-acre rider training range, is more than 50,000 sq. ft., with 14,000 sq. ft. devoted to service. The Anthem shop has more than 25,000 sq. ft., with 10,000 sq. ft. devoted to service.

Koshollek: Who in the Stubbs family works at the dealership?

Jack Stubbs: Our father/founder Buddy, my brother, Frank, and I manage the business. Each of us has different responsibilities but we always collaborate on daily decisions and future business strategies.

What do customers like about your service departments?

Stubbs: They like the personalized attention. They trust our technicians because they’re factory-trained and pride themselves on a job well done. They like that our service consultants keep them informed. If our techs discover maintenance or safety-related issues, we provide the customer with all the information they need to make informed decisions on how to proceed and ensure their bike is 100 percent roadworthy.

How has your customer base changed?

Stubbs: There’s been a substantial increase in female riders across the entire H-D model lineup. Also, with the addition of the Tri-Glide in 2009, H-D opened up a whole new market for us. Our Tri-Glide sales and service are remarkable. We are very happy to welcome the model to the H-D family.

What service amenities do you offer?

Stubbs: Pickup and delivery are always complimentary, as well as a full detail after the bike has been serviced. We also offer a free tire pressure check without having to bring your bike in for service, and we urge riders to stop at our service write-up entrance and get their tires checked prior to any ride.

What type of employee training do you offer?

Stubbs: Nothing beats hands-on training, and with different levels of technicians working side by side, newer techs get to see how real world situations are handled by seasoned staff. All technicians are H-D PHD certified, and their education continues at the dealership with Harley-Davidson University’s online courses. We keep staff engaged in instructor-led training that’s offered in Milwaukee or right here in Phoenix at the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute.

Note: When Buddy Stubbs opened the dealership, Harley-Davidson offered one 11-day technical course only in Milwaukee. Today HDU provides more than 100 online and instructor-led courses on service topics ranging from technical to service sales and management in dozens of locations around the country.

What are the top five challenges to running a service department?

Stubbs: With today’s modern technology, a service department must be well aware of what the competition is offering. Adapting, matching or beating an offer is routine as consumers are increasingly better informed. [The challenges are]:

  1. Attracting experienced staff with great attitudes and maintaining their continuous improvement.
  2. Wait time for parts needed. The parts department is working to develop a better inventory and techs are working to identify parts needed more efficiently. Twenty years ago, it was easier because there were fewer models and more parts fit a greater number of vehicles.
  3. Exceptional customer service at every touchpoint from each and every employee.
  4. Maintaining a reputation of dependability. Customers must be able to trust your service  department. That's where we shine. We do it right, the first time, on time.
  5. Enhancing the perceived value. Service consultants must be knowledgeable about the benefits of each accessory and how it answers the customer’s needs. Having these items installed by our factory trained technicians instills value in knowing it was done right.

What work earns the highest profit margin?

Stubbs: Pre-recession dealerships were hitting big numbers with over-the-top customization. Today, customers are more cautious with their spending. Routine maintenance is our primary focus now, and our talented technicians ensure the service department is profitable with their high efficiency.

How do you deliver a family-inspired experience with the company growing larger every year?

Stubbs: We, the owners, are on site every day, which is very important to customers. And it shows employees that we care and that we, too, work hard to keep the business running on all cylinders.

How do you orient new hires to your company culture and operations?

Stubbs: I have to thank the department managers for this - they coach new employees to be an integral part of the Buddy Stubbs family, starting day one.

What type of events attract customers to your dealership today versus 10 years ago?

Stubbs: In 2004 we put together customer appreciation events that were essentially BBQ socials with free food and drinks. Today, we have numerous events from our Bike Week Bash that attracts over 6,000 attendees to our monthly Hogs and Dogs gathering. The last Saturday of each month, we put on a woman’s garage party, a boot camp, a riding clinic, a chili or salsa contest or a car and bike show.

What recommendations do you have for family-owned dealerships?

Stubbs: Families need to stick together and listen to what each other has to say. It’s not easy, takes a lot of work and you are never really off the clock. Smart phones have revolutionized communication and there is always an email, text or social media post that needs attention.

There's a saying: If you’re not growing, you're shrinking. We try to keep that in mind and take advantage of any business opportunity that allows us to grow our business. It can be programs offered by the Motor Company, joint marketing efforts with local dealers or the addition of a rider training range.