How They Saved Harley Davidson | Listen to Your Customers & Giving Them What They Want

Show Notes

Is your company in need of a turn-around? In 1985 Harley Davidson Motor Company found itself within just hours of bankruptcy. Overwhelmed by the Japanese competition, the recession that had hit America and the onslaught of management missteps the company needed to change something, if it was going to survive. Harley Davidson hired Ken Schmidt to serve as the Chief Communication Officer and to help turn the company around.

In 1985 Ken Schmidt was fired as the company’s Chief Communication Officer and was charged with communicating to both customers and potential investors alike while trying to work with the leadership team to find a new strategy and a path to survival. Ladies and gentlemen without any further ado, it’s my pleasure to introduce to you, my good friend Ken Schmidt

Outline of Ken Schmidt presentation at the December Thrivetime Show workshop:

  1. NOTABLE QUOTABLE – “If you live by the product, you die by the product” – Ken Schmidt
  2. Harley changed the trajectory of the business by accident, They knew the product was great but nobody else knew how great it was. At the time, in the industry, nobody was allowing the customers to do test rides because of fear of liability. We didn’t have anything to lose at the time because the company was so broke so we thought “sue us” if you need to but something has got to change.   
  3. Harley decided to spend everything they would spend on advertising on 2 semi trucks and load them up with bikes and allow anybody with a motorcycle license to take a 15 mile test ride.
  4. As soon as the person finished the ride, they had someone with Harley there to stop and talk with them and actually listen to what they had to say.
  5. They asked one question to everyone. “What would we have to change on this bike to get you to buy it?”
  6. The major turning point for Harley was when they turned their focus away from the product and to the customer.
    1. Some examples of focusing on the customer:
      1. Changing the design of the product according to “wants” of the customer.
      2. Changing the layout and look of the dealerships so that a person’s spouse would WANT to go with the to buy a new bike
  7. Harley then took this same mindset to the internal workings of the company.
    1. They began asking the factory workers what they needed or what ideas they had to make their jobs easier and to help set them up for success.
  8. NOTABLE QUOTABLE – “People do what the boss tells them to do only when the boss is looking. When the boss is not looking the employees will do what the boss does.” Ken Schmidt
  9. NOTABLE QUOTABLE – “People actually like accountability. A lack of accountability leads to chaos.” Ken Schmidt
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