Breaking New Ground

Lessons Learned From A Lifetime On The Trail

By Scot Harden

If we were out on a ride, this would be the part where we crossed over into a new unexplored area, where the terrain suddenly became all new and unfamiliar, and getting rougher by the moment. Not only are familiar reference points long gone, we are also past the point of turning back, we must continue forward. In situations like these, it’s normal to feel mild to severely anxious. The events of the past few weeks feel just like we’ve ridden into some unchartered territory only this time without a map or a GPS. The Covid-19 virus and the ensuing changes to our way of life and our economy have everyone worried about what the future holds, unsure of what lies around the corner. I have to admit it raises all sorts of concerns, especially what it may mean for the Powersports industry. Let's face it many Powersports businesses have been living on a razor’s edge already when it comes to profitability and financial well-being. Dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 virus is the last thing most Powersports businesses can afford to do, but here we are. 

The best words of encouragement and advice I can offer come from my trailriding and racing experience. In the process of competing in events like Dakar, the Baja 1000, remote places in Africa, the Andes, all over Europe, Baja, and North America, I've faced similar challenges.  On trail and adventure rides with buddies and by myself, I have gotten into some pretty harrowing situations exploring new routes and new country. Before the era of GPS and satellite imagery, it really was quite daunting. Some of these experiences led to some of the most challenging moments of my life. Do or die, seriously. And since these situations are similar in many respects to what we are facing now with the Covid-19 virus, the same strategies and decision-making processes from the trail can be applied to business as well.  Here is my advice:

  1. Don’t make quick or rash decisions. At moments like these, it's best to stop and give a long hard second thought to what your next move should be. Instead of charging off in every direction, burning fuel (and in this case, financial resources), analyze the situation and look before you leap. Think calmly and rationally, now is not the time for acting out on raw emotion. The best advice I ever got in times like these was from Dick Burleson. He once told me before the start of what turned out to be one of the toughest ISDE’s ever to “Never give up. You will experience some of the toughest conditions you have ever faced; you will want to quit a thousand times each day, just remember it’s never as bad as you think it is”. He was right. By calmly putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how tough the sledding got, by staying in the moment, I managed to finish and finish well.
  2. Follow your own path. At times like these, your riding buddy/fellow racer, or in the business world, your competitor, may fly by you wide open out of sheer panic or fright. Decisions made out of scarcity or fear never turns out well. Now is the time to follow your own path no matter what. If you follow Step 1, you have an extra measure of confidence because you’ve evaluated the situation and made smart, calculated decisions to help lead you to the best result. 
  3. Once you’ve made your decision on how to proceed, regularly check your progress. Be ready to adapt and to modify your business plan as new information presents itself. After all, you are in new, unchartered territory. As the reality of the new business environment reveals itself be ready to adapt your plan. Take advantage of new opportunities and information as they present themselves. Don’t be afraid to cut losses if the path you’ve chosen isn’t working out as planned. Those that recognize their mistakes early on and aren’t afraid to change direction usually have the best result. 
  4. Look for markers of others who may have gone before you. There's a good chance someone else has been this way before, or at least has greater insight regarding the current sitiuation, look for signs of their progress.  In the case of the Powersports industry, guys like Jared Burt have looked ahead and provided sound advice and direction. You can find it elsewhere in Dealernews along with plenty of other helpful information from people who are used to breaking trail.  Jared’s article is about as good as it gets when looking for direction and advice on how to get through this new land. If you are a member of a dealer management group, look for support and advice on what is working for them. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
  5. Lastly, keep your friends, and more importantly, your competitors close by.  To be able to survive tough situations, it’s good to have a good team around you, a team that can work together for everyone's good. In Rallyes like Dakar, I experienced special tests that were almost impassable, dune crossings so challenging you were constantly getting stuck, navigation so tough you were continually getting lost. In times like this, riders would always work together to help each other through. An unwritten code existed whereby you knew you were all in this together and needed each other if any were to see the finish line.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to look at the team around you, to pull together, to remain committed to a common goal even if it means having to work with your toughest competitor. There is something to be said for subverting one's own self-interest to ensure that collectively you live to fight another day. 

The Covid-19 virus has created a whole new business landscape. It is truly uncharterted territory. Applying best practices from the sport itself is the best advice I can give right now. We will make it through this. We always have. Motorcyclists are some of the toughest and most resilient people I know. And we are even tougher when we stick together.



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