Dave Sears is the Owner and General Manager of Alamo Cycle Plex, Dave is a thought leader, influencer, visionary, and successful entrepreneur. Dave provides the leadership and energy that has inspired the creation of Alamo Cycle Plex.
Dave Sears joins other leading Bestselling Authors, International Speakers & Entrepreneur, CEOs and Founders taking part in our Leader Roundtable Interview Series. The DotCom Magazine editorial team is delighted to have Dave join us for our Leader Roundtable Interview.
Let us start by telling us about your business.
Alamo Cycle Plex is a powersports retailer. We’re located in San Antonio and are one of the largest motorcycle dealerships in Texas. I’m the owner and general manager. I purchased the dealership two and a half years ago from the Sistrunk family, who started the Alamo Cycle Plex back in the early 1970s. We’re a rarity in the industry in that all under one roof we have six manufacturers – including Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, Polaris and Vanderhall – and it gives us and our customers an extreme advantage with one-stop comparison shopping.
Q: Please tell us how you ensure your customers will become raving fans of your company?
We have the traditional sales, parts and service model that every dealership has, but beyond that we do many things to engage with our customers. I bought the store after a successful career as a financial adviser. I bought it to become my family’s legacy, and we take that family approach very seriously. Not only do I have my family working in the store, but the employees are treated like family, and so are the customers. Sometimes that theme is overstated by a lot of retailers: They want that perception, but they don’t really do the hard work to make it happen. That’s not the case here.
We really go the extra mile by putting together a lot of events that our customers enjoy. One of our taglines is “We Sell Fun.” The other one is “King of Events.” Although our business hours are Tuesday through Saturday, often on Sundays and Mondays we’re either sponsoring a motorcycle ride or a day at the dirt bike or street bike track to provide more opportunities to engage with our customer base after the sale.
Q: What is one thing that separates your business from the competition.
My competitors had their stores for years and they’ve been handed down from their dad or grandad to them. I don’t think they have the same passion that I do. Owning and managing Alamo Cycle Plex is the best thing in life for me right now because it’s my baby. After 20-some years of being in corporate America where you work hard and someone else gets the glory and you just get a paycheck, I’m right where I want to be. I am two years into it, and I can work as hard as I want and see all those rewards. No one outworks us because they don’t have owners that are on site running their stores. They’re at the level of the game where they’ve been there, they’ve done that, now they hire managers to run their stores. But employees just don’t treat it like it’s their baby, and that’s because it’s not. I have so many customers that walk in here after visiting our competitors and they say, “Wow, this store feels different. It feels good.” We have an energetic family environment, and we’re always working.
Q: What has been the major key to your company’s success?
One thing I do on a regular basis is push everything out of my head like I’m going to meditate, and then I walk into each department or into the front of the store or drive onto the parking lot and imagine myself as the customer. The key thing to our success is how we’re viewed by the customers. What does the public think of Alamo Cycle Plex? If you do some research and look at our competitors, we have two to three times as many responses on Google and Facebook. You’d think that might have the potential to be bad, but our numbers are higher than theirs when it comes to the ratings because we really go the extra mile to make sure our customers are happy.
Everyone has “a guy.” Let’s say you needed something, and you called a friend of yours and you said, “Hey, I need a cake recipe. Who’s got this?” And they say, “Call Susan. She will have a good one.” Or you call your dad and say your front door is broken, and he says, “Call Jim. He’s your guy.” I tell my employees that we want to be seen as “the Guy.” So, when someone needs a motorcycle or ATV in San Antonio, Alamo Cycle Plex is “the Guy.” A positive customer perception is key to us.
Q: What advice can you give entrepreneurs just starting out with a new venture?
The best advice I could give would be to have some trusted advisors. They don’t have to be partners or participate in revenue. I joined a peer group of other motorcycle dealership owners from around the country, and we meet four times a year and we share information. We’re not competitors. My buddy that’s in California, and the one that’s in North Carolina, can see my numbers. We can make each other better. This dealership has fifty employees. I spend 12 to 13 hours here every day, and it can become a bubble for me very fast. You need to make sure you’re outside that bubble and staying up to date with trends and that someone besides yourself is looking at your analysis of your business and giving a solid critique.
The first few years for me in this business were very humbling experiences. I had to keep my eyes and ears open and drink it all in, and I had some good people around me that helped me do that.
The last ingredient to that is where many, many, many business owners fail. When you have the “inspect what you expect” process and you see a trend, you now have that valuable information, and you have to implement the change. So many people fall short on that. How many people go to a health seminar and listen to the guy on stage talk about “if you do this exercise and you eat healthy, in 90 days you’ll have rock hard abs.” If a thousand people sat in that auditorium, how many people go home and do the work? Very few. And it’s the same way in business. You can tell lots of business owners what the problem is and how to fix it, but they don’t go do it. Implementation is the last step, and it is critical.
Q: What big piece of advice can you give them when times get a little challenging?
Everybody thinks success means sales, especially in our industry. But sales are a variable; they’re always up and down. The constant in this business is that you have expenses. The key to being a successful entrepreneur is to manage your expenses.
I have all these sales accolades I’ve earned from all over my career but when I came into the powersports industry I was a little starry-eyed when I looked at their stores and how big they were and these numbers they were producing. My one goal when I entered this was to not be called a “great salesperson.” I wanted to be called a “great operator.” An operator knows expenses and manages them. My advice is to have a budget that is expense-focused, to understand your sales cycle, and to keep an eye on expenses even when your sales volume is high because it won’t stay that way. The goal of any company is not to not sell X amount of product each year. The goal is to be profitable. A lot of business owners lose sight of that.
Q: In today’s fast changing business environment, how do you stay abreast of things?
A little bit of everything. An old football saying is you have to have your head on a swivel, so that means you’re constantly looking left, looking right and your eyes are wide open. You listen to feedback from everyone, including customers, dealer manufacturers, industry sources, and your peer group. You never want to get into a routine where you fall into comfort. Comfort is a negative. You always have to be ready to adjust and be listening and watching for those trends.
Q: What is your “Why”? In one sentence, why do you get up in the morning?
This industry is my passion and I love what I do.
Q: In one sentence, what is the most important thing one must do to be a great leader?
“Extreme ownership,” and by that, I mean taking accountability for everything that happens within your business, which leads to people respecting you, following you and working for you.
Q: Describe how important your customers are to your business.
Customers have choices and we want to make sure we’re the choice they make, so they’re everything to us.
Q: In one sentence, describe a positive way that technology can make the world a better place?
One positive to technology is it gives people access to information to bring us together, which helps with things like community events and charity drives.
Q: What is something positive that will motivate our readers?
We are in an industry where families can get together and spend time with each other outside.
Q: How do you start your day?
The first thing I do in the morning is I come in and check on the sales from the previous day to see how things are trending for the month. Then I have a meeting with my managers to talk about what we learned from yesterday and what we’re going to do today.
Q: How do you handle rejection and setback?
Any time we don’t achieve an expectation, we review where we fell short and what needs to be changed to accomplish the goal in the future.
Q: In one sentence, describe what your hiring philosophy is.
I hire powersports enthusiasts who have passion and energy.
Q: How do you keep your sanity in a competitive business environment?
I have a great family and we make sure to take time to work hard and play hard.
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Dave Sears, thank you so much for participating in the DotCom Magazine Leader Roundtable Interview Series. We appreciate you participating in this important roundtable interview series, and helping our readers learn more about what it takes to build a great company and become a great leader. We wish you, your family, and of course Alamo Cycle Plex, nothing but the best.