John Galvin, Contributing Writer
July 9, 2014
Filed under Features, In this issue, Top Stories
Southern Thunder H-D starts anew under Parsons’ ownership
“Motorcycles have that edge to them; they add excitement to your life, and that’s the type of thing people want to share. When you sell a motorcycle, the customer becomes part of a community, and then they start interacting within that community.”
That’s how Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale and Go AZ Motorcycles, described the most rewarding aspect of owning a motorcycle dealership. Best known for founding GoDaddy.com, Parsons and his organization YAM Worldwide finalized acquisition of Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson (STHD) last November and immediately set out to change the philosophy, appearance and overall operations of the Southaven, Miss.-based dealership, while also reaching out to surrounding communities in a huge way.
The dealership’s Grand Re-Opening Party on June 7, which was free to anyone with a motorcycle endorsement, was part of that “reaching out” process. Parsons and crew delivered a full day dedicated to the community, motorcyclists and the Boys & Girls Club of North Mississippi. Non-motorcycle-endorsed attendees were admitted to the all-day celebration for a $20 donation, which, along with all monies raised from T-shirt sales, went to the youth organization. There were raffles and live music all afternoon, with headlining performances by Black Oak Arkansas and Molly Hatchet, a handful of vendors, and plenty of libations to keep attendees hydrated in the smothering Southern humidity.
Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson plans to use an
emphasis on customer service to grow the business.
Parsons’ introduction to customers and attendees was made in the dealership’s showroom after a severe storm interrupted his scheduled appearance on the main stage. The U.S. Marines veteran took advantage of the intimate and impromptu setting by kicking things off with Madison Rising’s rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” followed by a patriotic salute to all military personnel and veterans. The highlight of the event was the announcement of an additional $100,000 donation to the Boys & Girls Club of North Mississippi on behalf of the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation, followed by Parsons revealing plans to underwrite renovations on three of their locations that annually serve more than 2,000 children.
“The most important thing to us is the community and helping to make it a better place,” said Parsons. “The prior owner was open to selling, but ultimately wanted to make sure the employees and community were going to be served the way she intended. The thing that really interested us is that Southaven is growing and is a pretty good place to be, and we always wanted to see what it’s like to reach out and be involved in another community.”
There’s no doubt that Parsons’ philosophy revolves around giving the customer the best experience possible, whether buying a new bike, adding performance upgrades or simply buying a T-shirt. “That’s what I’ve done my whole life,” said Parsons. “Number one is you dazzle the customer and give them something they don’t expect. The rest takes care of itself.”
General manager Jason Severson started working for Parsons in April 2012 at H-D of Scottsdale before transferring to STHD in February of this year. According to Severson, Parsons has always made a point to empower his employees and equip them with the necessary tools to provide superior customer service.
“We have every avenue — from Grant Cardone to Powersports Marketing, Dealership University, H-D U, Sam’s Powersports Garage. All of those are affluent trainers and have been at the disposal of our employees,” explained Severson. “Before an employee hits the floor, they understand the core of what we’re trying to do here. I think that a lot of dealerships don’t do enough training in customer service. That’s really the core of the business, and if you do that right they’ll keep coming back.”
The most notable physical upgrade to STHD is the complete overhaul of the service department, which was also one of the first moves Parsons made when he purchased H-D of Scottsdale in 2008. The STHD transformation includes new computers and overhead doors, revamped lighting, stress-reducing fatigue matting, new toolboxes and two lifts per service technician, as well as new service counters that bring employees up to eye level with the customer for, as Severson put it, “a more personal experience.”
According to Severson, the service department was the most underperforming piece of the dealership, yet it is already seeing considerable increases in efficiency and profitability since the renovation. “We’re hoping to see growth across the board,” said Severson. “Once you increase production in the sales department, the rest follows, and you get increases in all departments.”
|“One of the biggest changes they’ve made in our service department is just paying attention to our employees’ needs as far as support, tooling and education to further their skills,” said Steve Blake, STHD service manager. “That’s definitely one of the biggest changes and biggest surprises for the guys in the service department who aren’t used to having that kind of support. And to have it coming from the top is absolutely incredible.”||Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson owner Bob Parsons (center) with Boys & Girls Club of North Mississippi director of operations Tonny Oliver (left) and Evie Boyd, director or marketing and special events. In addition to the funds raised at the grand re-opening event, Parsons donated $100,000 to the community rganization.|
Blake also said that while they offer technicians the education and training to further their skills and be efficient, the bottom line is that it’s also for the customer. Parsons goes against industry standards of staffing technicians based on demand, and instead keeps his service department overstaffed at all times in order to provide same-day service for customers. Also going against the grain is Parsons’ decision to pay technicians during their downtime.
“The industry standard is that when techs don’t have work, they don’t get paid,” Parsons said. “With us, we pay downtime. When someone is earning downtime, they’re studying their Harley guides and getting better at what they do.”
The service department is already
seeing increased efficiencies and profits.
Parsons admits that his passion for motorcycling can only take his dealerships so far, which is why his ability to find and empower the right people to surround himself with is all part of the success story that propelled the turnaround of H-D of Scottsdale (formerly Hacienda Harley-Davidson) and earned Go AZ Motorcycles the title of Powersports Business’ No. 1 Dealership in North America in 2013.
“It’s the customer service, the presentation, the sales training and the facilities. It’s a total package. That’s what we’re aiming to accomplish at Southern Thunder.” STHD has already implemented a number of changes to align with Parsons’ philosophy of giving the customer the ultimate buying experience. From the full staff introduction and “Gong Ceremony” that stops the dealership in its tracks to congratulate a new Harley owner after purchase, to the plush couches and free popcorn and coffee in the lounge, it’s all about the customer at STHD. Further cosmetic upgrades have been made to better present the product, and a state-of-the-art audio/video system has also been incorporated into the beautiful LEED-certified building that features reclaimed materials from across the U.S.
“You must have an affection to the product,” said Parsons. “With the affection for the product comes affection for the customer.”
John Galvin is managing editor of Thunder Press, a Powersports Business sister publication that covers the American V-twin market.
Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson dealership in Southaven, Mississippi kicked off the 2014 riding season on April 19, 2014 with their Spring Bling event. Crawfish was provided by Billy's Crawfish Catering service. By the look of his trailer he was well prepared for this event. Live entertainment was provided by The Mink Brothers Band, which specialize "Country Music With A Side Of Rock". The band members included Mike Mink-Lead Vocals and Rhythm Guitar, Matt Mink-Lead Guitar and Vocals, Tom Stephens-Bass, Jarrod Bogan-Drums, Dewayne Roaton-Keyboard, Jeremy Easterling, Booking Agent. Check out their Facebook page at Facebook.com/Mink Brothers.
The place was absolutely packed, the dealership's large parking lot was full. In fact a lot of people had to park on the road in front of the dealer. I saw license plates on motorcycles from the following states: Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Alaska!
I wanted to talk to the two bikers from Alaska but by the time they found parking place I lost them in the crowd, sadly I did not find out if they rode their bikes from Alaska or trailered them. If, in fact they did ride from Alaska, what a story that would've made. There were all kinds of different bikes at this event. They were a lots of Harleys there but they was also a lot a metric bikes. There were stock bikes and an awful lot of custom bikes. Some were mild customs and some were rather radical customs. There were young people, middle-aged people and older people (yes older than me) there. All were having a great time at this gala event!
My congratulations to Ms. Heather Bowlin, Marketing & Events Coordinator, for hosting this fantastic successful event. Ms. Bowlin even tried out a seat on one of the awesome motorcycle on display (see front-page picture) at this event.
The crawfish was good, the live entertainment was awesome and everybody appeared to enjoy themselves, looking at the beautiful 2014 Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a great selection of used bikes. What else could anyone wish for on this beautiful sunny Saturday? It was indeed a great day!
Since this was my first event at the dealership I can see why Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson is considered one of the most premier dealership in Mississippi or for that matter in the South Central region of the United States. The service department is second to none, all of the different departments within the dealership has employees that are extremely friendly and courteous. Just looking for a reason to serve you. You have dealers, you have good dealers and then you have awesome dealers. They all have new and used motorcycles for sale, they provide service work for your bike, and they all have a parts department and an apparel department. So what separates the dealers from awesome dealers? In my opinion, it is the people who work there! Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson dealership excels in this department. Therefore, Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson is an awesome dealership which also has awesome events! A winning combination!
Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson’s Grand Re-Opening Party Raises More Than $110K for Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi
Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson, in Partnership with The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, Makes It Clear that Community Comes First
Southaven, MS (June 20, 2014) – In spite of the rain, thousands of riders rallied at Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson Saturday, June 7, for a good cause and a great time. The event, which featured top musical talent including rock legends Molly Hatchet and Black Oak Arkansas, helped raise $110,790 for Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi (BGCNMS).
It’s been less than a year since he bought Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson, but new owner Bob Parsons wanted customers to know just how much he appreciates the riding community and how committed the dealership is to supporting the local area.
“The Grand Re-opening Party at Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson was far more than a daylong celebration of motorcycling – it was about being a good community partner,” said Parsons. “We’re not here to simply sell motorcycles, we are here to help make this community a better place for everyone. By supporting Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi I believe we are doing just that.”
A motorcycle endorsement was good for free concert admission for riders and one passenger. For all others there was a $20 requested donation. One-hundred percent of ticket and event tee-shirt sales and 20 percent of all vendor proceeds were designated to benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi.
Since 1996, BGCNMS has empowered young people to reach their full potential as caring, productive, responsible citizens. Nearly 2,000 children and teens count on five clubhouses after school and during the summer for safety, hot meals, positive friends and countless opportunities to be great.
The largest donation of the evening, $100,000, was presented to BGCNMS by none-other than Bob Parsons himself. In addition to the outright donation, Parsons also announced that The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation will provide funds to remodel three clubhouses that are in dire need of repair.
“By addressing the shortcomings of the clubhouses we are helping to create a safe and happy place for the children who need it most,” Parsons added.
Parsons and his wife Renee have long supported the work of Boys & Girls Clubs in their home state of Arizona, awarding more than $6 million to the organization.
“The announcement Saturday evening exceeded our greatest expectations,” said BGCNMS Chief People Officer Zell Long. “The $110,790 donation and commitment to upgrade three of our facilities will have a tremendous impact on the lives of our Club members, board, staff and community stakeholders. As good stewards of the funds and commitment, the good people at Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson and Mr. Bob Parsons can be assured that all will be targeted toward the highest and best uses for the organization. We are humbled and so pleased to be the recipient of such generosity.”
To learn more about Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson visit, www.SouthernThunderHD.com.
For more information about The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation visit, www.TBRPF.org.
About Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson®
Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson is part of the YAM Worldwide family of businesses owned by serial entrepreneur Bob Parsons. Southern Thunder is passionate about motorcycles, the people who ride them and the community in which they ride. The dealership is powered by a community of riders who, from bike to boots, believe in representing their passion with outstanding customer care. Serving the Mississippi and Tennessee area, the dealership carries an extensive inventory of new and used Harley-Davidson bikes including models such as Sportster, Dyna, Softail, V-rod, Touring, Cvo and Trike.
About YAM Worldwide, Inc.
YAM Worldwide is based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Privately held since its formation, the company employs more than 250 Arizonans and 50 Mississippians. The company is home to the entrepreneurship operations of Bob Parsons, best-known as the founder and executive chairman of GoDaddy, in the fields of powersports, golf, real estate, marketing, innovation and philanthropy.
Core businesses include LZ Delta, L.L.C. which owns Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale, Go AZ Motorcycles and SpookyFast Customs; MS LZ Delta, L.L.C which owns Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson and alternate retail outlets Graceland Harley-Davidson and Blues City Harley-Davidson; Scottsdale National Golf Club; Martz Parsons; YAM Capital; YAM Properties; and The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation.
By ROBERT LEE LONG
Published: Thursday, May 15, 2014 1:05 AM CDT
SOUTHAVEN — Gone but not forgotten, the soldiers who served with Frank Rouse and thousands of others like him who never made it home or were reported missing in action were remembered Tuesday in a simple ceremony at the Southern Thunder Harley Davidson dealership.
Grizzled, gray-haired men wearing bandanas stood shoulder to shoulder with local officials to recognize POWs and MIAs as the "Flame of Freedom" made a stop in Southaven en route to Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day.
Rouse, president of Rolling Thunder's Mississippi Chapter 2 based in Southaven, served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, also known as the "Sky Soldiers," during the Vietnam War. The brigade was the first major United States Army ground formation deployed in Vietnam, serving there from 1965 to 1971 and losing almost 1,800 soldiers.
Rouse is pressing for an accounting of all missing servicemen and women during that war and all subsequent wars.
"You can't find them if you aren't even looking," Rouse said. "Our government wasn't even looking for them until our organization started making some noise. When a million bikes show up at the Pentagon parking lot, people start to take notice."
Rouse said POWs in Korea and Vietnam are probably long dead, even if they survived captivity.
"As far as POWs are concerned, there are some who may have gone over to the other side," Rouse acknowledges. "We really don't think anyone from Vietnam is still being held against their will. It's been so long."
However, one soldier in particular, is fresh in Rouse's mind.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was captured in June 2009 and is believed held by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group affiliated with the Taliban, probably somewhere in Pakistan.
He is the subject of a proposed prisoner swap in which the Obama administration would allow the transfer of up to five Taliban prisoners long held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
While that prisoner's fate remains uncertain, Frank Rouse's wife Nancy proudly recalls the day when she saw her prisoner of war walking to freedom on U.S. television.
She has forgotten his name but wore a POW bracelet in his honor more than 40 years ago as a teenager.
Nancy Rouse is the secretary of the Rolling Thunder Chapter 2 group.
"My dad was in the Army so I was always very patriotic," Nancy Rouse said. "It was something my dad instilled in me. Even as a teenager, I was very patriotic when other teens were protesting the war. I watched my POW step off the plane. It was a happy moment."
The couple say they are doing all they can to promote POW and MIA causes and will return next month when the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall" makes its second return visit to Landers Center.
Another local couple, R.G. and Diane Moore, have been instrumental in promoting veterans' causes.
The couple helped promote the "Flame of Freedom" and helped bring the "Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to DeSoto County.
"If it wasn't for our veterans we wouldn't have the country that we have today," Moore said. "They gave everything to people they didn't even know."
R.G. Moore, who served in the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War era, said supporting veterans' causes is a calling.
"We love our veterans," Moore said. "Some didn't make it back."