I have been sitting back watching how our community has changed and I finally found the parallels that explain some of what I see out there.
Do you remember when everyone and his dog was a bike builder.
You could throw a stone and hit someone who thought they were going to get rich and famous from building bikes. That was the 2000’s.
Then came the big crash of 2007/8 and in a heartbeat we went from 80-100 shops you heard about all the time, to a small handful who are still here to this day. It sure weeded out those who were just in it for the money and truly had no skill and those who were downright dangerous.
Tim Lajambe of Trickfactory Customs is still out there, Roger Goldammer is still bashing tin, Fitto is still painting bikes but what has changed is they have all grown and evolved into doing something else, something more than just motorcycles.
For them its about doing what they love, what they know, what they are good at and doing other things that feed them.
Sometimes, like in the case with Trickfactory, they are lucky to be able to do both, find a side hustle that is soul filling and a daytime job that is also soul filling. They host the West Coast Tattoo & Culture Show, they build hotrods, motorcycles and paint guitars, bikes, rods and anything else interesting.
Roger too has shifted his talents to other things that pay well but still bangs away on motorcycles, racing them, competing with them, riding them for enjoyment. Fitto has his own clothing line to augment his living. Eyecandy Customs is still in the game and we have other solid small shops that have hung in there. Out in the east shops like Chopper Rods are still going strong. These are names that have been around a long, long time.
They have earned their stripes, they have fought the fight and come out victorious by virtue of still being in business.
Only those who are flexible and willing to open their minds to opportunity to stay in the game are still in the game.
That’s the evolution of trends.
Very few in Canada have had the success that Jeff VanderZalm has had with Konquer Motorcycles, but even he has expanded what they offer into Konquer Rides and Rods.
Over the years I have watched people come and go in this community, lots of them.
People who thought “I am going to have the best motorcycle “X”, whatever that X was and in a few years they fail and wonder why.
It happens with Bed and Breakfasts, it happens with RV and Campgrounds, it happens everywhere in motorcycling.
People who discover the motorcycle community and have a passion for riding think they are going to make their mark the motorcycle business industry.
Some do, but truly, very few do.
Take for example leather shops. Those who are successful do not rely solely on the motorcycle community because they understand one thing.
In Canada, there are just barely 1 million for highway use motorcycles registered. In western Canada that number is roughly a ¼ million.
I have been wearing my leather jacket for 20+ years. My jacket is thick, full hide, custom built for me in an era where everywhere you turned there was another gal building custom riding gear. Why were so many women's riding garments custom made? Stuff in dealerships didn’t fit us.
Today, dealerships are selling decent gear, in many cases the gear they make today fits far better than it used to and so, the demand for the craft of leather work has gone down.
Today, you are hard pressed to find anyone doing great leatherwork and when you find one, you’d best be prepared to wait as they are in big demand.
Here’s the truth folks.
Only the truly passionate and relentless survive and thrive.
No one thrives doing work they dislike!
The motorcycle business community is like any other, they are all fighting for their chunk of real estate and they are not going to go down or give any up without a fight.
Then there is the rider community that is filled with so many “A” type personalities who don’t play well with others, that if you are going to get into business, you’d best be prepared.
The business and rider community will EAT you alive unless you are prepared.
Be prepared to lose people you thought were your friends.
Be prepared to work for hours like a slave for seemingly no reward.
Be prepared to have people tell you that your idea is foolish, talk behind your back and disparage you..
Be prepared to learn, and learn, and learn.
Be prepared for people to use you and then crap all over you.
Be prepared to have people try to destroy you out of power hungriness or envy.
Be prepared to be hungry. Literally hungry, because people don’t pay their bills and don’t honour their word.
Be prepared to NOT be surprised by anything.
Be prepared for Inspiration to come from unexpected sources.
Be prepared for CHANGE - it is in fact the only constant in this world. CHANGE!
Why endure all of that?
The failures, the challenges, why endure them?
Why go through all of that?
Because if you are prepared, if you are passionate, persistent and relentless there are many, many rewards to owning your own business in the motorcycle industry or any industry for that matter.
When you find a need this industry/community has and fill it with passion, enthusiasm, temerity, knowledge and talent, you can survive and thrive.
If you have those qualities, don’t let anyone try to deter you.
REMEMBER that in business as in all things life, your motorcycle has taught you the one life lesson that is the most important - FOCUS - LOOK TO WHERE YOU WANT TO GO. Focus on what you want, the outcome, not where you are today.
If you look down at where you are on your motorcycle for any length of time, what is the outcome?
You go down.
If you focus continually on where you want to go, what happens?
You get to your destination.
Be open minded. You just never know where the inspiration for opportunity is going to come from.
Take as an example, Ashlee from One Broken Biker.
She has taken her father’s crash and turned it into its own industry.
She parlayed that crash and what she learned doing the work they did after the crash to help her father financially, into an organization that has helped 73 riders who have crashed in 2019 alone, and has secured herself a job as the marketing manager for Grover Law Firm.
The Lemon that was her father’s crash became a Lemon Meringue Pie.
She has made sure that the law firm she works for is the only law firm that riders who have had a crash get information on.
At 30% of the settlement that a rider gets in a crash going to the law firm the rider uses, she has helped make sure the law firm she works for is getting all of the injury cases that she can. They in turn fund much of what OBB does.
She found the need the riding community had and she found the business who could help her fill that need and help her live the life she wants; using her motorcycle as an avenue for community, personal and financial growth.
It’s a win win for everyone except other injury law firms!
She is focused, works hard, is passionate about what she does and she’s sharp and that my friends is a recipe for success.
She has followed in the steps of McNeney & McNeney Law Firm in BC, who founded B.C.C.O.M. and put in place as their Executive Director, Adele Tompkins. They advocated for the riding community, and Adele made sure every rider knew it was McNeney and McNeney that was the champion of the community and there to help in the event of a crash. It was a marriage made in heaven for the riding community and McNeney and McNeney.
Today Tara is the gal doing the job and to this day B.C.O.M.M. is a powerful lobby group in BC and McNeney & McNeney Spiker LLP is the firm helping the community in BC.
Another success story in the Canadian Motorcycle Industry is Liz Jansen.
Liz’s inspiration came from emotional pain and a soul that didn’t feel fulfilled.
A yearning that wouldn’t shut up.
She left a marriage and a career that was sucking the soul right out of her and parlayed that pain, that uncertainty, that challenge into a living and a life that many envy. Liz lives on her motorcycle much of the year and in the off season has written a number of great books. She is her own marketing and promotions person and pursues her dreams with joy and abandon. It’s gruelling work, its emotional soulful work that can drain you one day and fill you up the next.
As a healer and an author she has taken her passion for riding and melded the two into an incredible career. How blessed is she?
Success, whatever you define it as is possible for you.
The first lesson and the most vital lesson in life and motorcycling is “FOCUS on WHERE YOU WANT TO GO”.
Don’t focus on the obstacles or the detours, life suckers and crud you are dealing with today, those things are the product of old thinking, old focus.
Focus on where you want to go and put your passion and energy on what you want and your chance of success goes up immeasurably.
It’s the only thing that works.
It’s the only thing that has ever worked.
If you really want to succeed in business blogging, travelling, being an influencer, being a photographer, owning a bar, a restaurant, a repair shop, you need to learn how to market, manage and grow your business.
The true formula for success?
Find a need, educate yourself, surround yourself with people who can support and train you and then FOCUS your passion, tenacity, and efforts on your outcomes, your dreams, your goals, keep your eye on the prize.
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Belt Drive Betty, Editor & Rider