My transition from dealer to OEM is coupled by my experience in the Brigham Young University EMBA program. As a capstone project for Dr. Paul Godfrey’s course, “The General Manager’s Role”, my cohorts and I had the opportunity to work towards identifying solutions to the future powersports buying and ownership experience.
Being parts of the powersports industry for almost 20 years in both the dealer and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) roles, I constantly considered what the future of the business would look like and how we could shape it for the most successful outcome for riders, the end user. As a powersports enthusiast myself, I relate to the need for better buying, riding, and ownership experiences.
Although I was the the most familiar with the subject matter, the team and the process with consumers drove an infinitely better outcome than ideas I could have ever produced on my own. The realization that I needed to be and was the most clueless guy in the room was critical to the mission’s successful deliverable.
Great Questions to Combat Personal Bias
Because I am so close to the situation, I am biased. My bias blinds me to realities and possibilities that were discovered by sticking to the process. During our fist group discussion, I realized that my confirmation bias was a tremendous threat to the project. If I espoused a predetermined and favored outcome, the project would never realize the full benefit of the diverse expertise of the team and the strategic process.
Recognizing bias and adjusting for it is key. To do this, I focused on asking the right questions instead of giving answers. Converting my conceived solutions to questions to our group brought out better solutions because five others had insights and angles I never considered. Conversely, when I lacked the discipline to first formulate a questions first, my proposals slowed our progress in some cases.
Team solutions provide much greater outcomes than individual work. To realize the benefits of the team, leadership requires the discipline to identify bias and first pull out the ideas and opinions of others. Breakthrough concepts emerged from the group as we followed this process.
Serve Customers by Understanding Customers
Creating an innovative powersports distribution system was our top priority. We looked closely at the evolving functions of the OEM and dealers. Initially, we were searching for the solution by looking at the inefficiencies and inadequacies of powersports retail distribution and the function and dysfunction of the supply chain. We felt by doing this, we would design a new buying and ownership experience.
There were some interesting trends in other industries that are clearly lagging in the powersports industry. In addition, we identified opportunities to adapt to more innovative methods being deployed in other industries. However, this process was not giving us a deep understanding of powersports enthusiasts pain points and unmet needs.
We realized we needed to gather powersports user preferences. Initially, we decided to email a survey. Dr. Godfrey steered us towards in-depth interviews a variety of powersports users diverse geographies. Working together, we designed a forty-five minute interview. Each of us had some big surprises from the first set of interviews. The second set were all familiar. The subsequent interviews validated the information quickly as we started feeling like Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day”. We could easily predict most of their responses.
The process of identifying the love group and conducting in-depth interviews, or a ZMET analysis, is a powerful way to uncover answers as to what consumers really care about and how important things are and are not to them. We also understand the “why’s” by digging deep.
Even though I am in the powersports “love group” myself, it wasn’t until we performed these interviews that we identified the real problems of the powersports buying and ownership experience. Working from the bottom-up, we were able to discover what is broken in the traditional dealer model based on the perceptions of people that spend tens of thousands of dollars on the products we make and sell.
Three months ago, I started a journey with my incredible team at BYU by bringing them into my world. They came with vast experience in other world-class companies. One of the breakthrough ideas came out of benchmarking one of these companies in the firearms industry.
Our deliverable and final project was full of recommendations for a transformation of the powersports distribution model. The executable strategy could dramatically improve the powersports buying and ownership experience.
However, learning the disciplines of questioning to overcome bias and expand the vision was the most valuable deliverable for me. A disciplined approach to asking the right questions is the key to producing the most successful solutions.