Dave and Margaret Readford, proprietors of Readford’s Motorcycles in Dubbo, are the recent winners of the 2015 NSW MTA Motorcycle Dealership of the Year award. Contending for top spot against metropolitan businesses whose numbers are impossible to beat, the couple proved their worth with qualities money just can’t buy.
What has winning this award meant for your business?
Margaret: We’ve won some regional awards over the years, but that’s the first statewide award so we’re quite excited. A lot of awards are done on figures; the number of vehicles you move and whatever. We can’t possibly compete with the city in that sort of an award.
What are the secrets to your success?
Margaret: Probably what brings a lot of people in is that Dave’s been around the industry for so long so his knowledge is huge, but he also enjoys seeing old bikes restored. He will go out his way to try to find old parts for people. If they’re not savvy with computers, he’ll do that side of it for them as well. There’s satisfaction for Dave to be able to give customers satisfaction when he’s able to find hard to get parts.
It’s always about reinventing yourself too. We’ve done all sorts of things, like mowers and chainsaws. We’ve looked at them but decided that there were too many people in Dubbo doing them, particularly with the Chinese products.
Dave: A lot of it is to do with customer satisfaction and customer repeat business. I’m 62 now and I’ve sold bikes to guys that were six and eight years old when they started coming in as customers, and now their grandkids are riding the same bikes.
Margaret: We still have the first bike Dave’s parents ever sold, back in 1967. ‘Round about their 20th year of business, they got it back and at 25 years, Dave’s father made sure it was restored to put on the floor.
What would you say makes yours an award winning business?
Dave: It’s the fact that we’ve been established for a long time. On July 1, it will be our 49th birthday, so on July 2 we’ll be in our 50th year.
One of the things that really impressed the judges apparently was the fact that in a time where there’s a lot staff movements between dealers, and staff retention is a difficult issue between most motorcycle shops, we’ve been fairly lucky in keeping our staff mobility down to next to zero. All the mechanics we have here have been trained by our business.
What are the pros and cons of training in-house?
Margaret: An apprentice if fine, and a mechanic is fine, but mechanics make really good spare parts, they know a lot about bikes and selling bikes. That’s the thing about motorbikes; if the passion’s not there then you may as well not be here.
Before, when we were looking for a motorcycle mechanic, we used to just put an ad in the paper. You’d have 50 applications and everyone would say, “that sounds good” but they weren’t in it for the right reasons.
Anyone we’ve put on is generally passionate about bikes which his why they’re here. We have changed our strategy for employment of people.
The way we found Lincoln Brien (who won Ulyssess Club National Apprentice of the Year) was by putting up a sign inside the business, so it had to be someone who was already walking in here and was here for the motorbikes.
Dave: At the same we put Lincoln on, we put Brian Richardson on as well. Brian’s a senior apprentice, over 50 and he was actually illiterate. The lady from TAFE (who signed us up) knew Brian and asked about what he was doing. I told her he was just doing part time assembling because of his constraints; he knows what he’s doing but he can’t work on other people’s bikes.
She said they could put him through a literacy training course and do an apprenticeship for him too. We brought Brian into the conversation and signed him up for an apprenticeship at the same time we signed Lincoln.
Margaret: Brian got through his TAFE (course). On Saturdays he was doing a literacy and computer course. If he was in Bathurst, he’d go in early and stay late to make sure he got all the
information. He was offered all the information on audio instead of having to read it but his attitude was, “no, I have to learn to read it”.
Dave: He was named most outstanding apprentice for Bathurst TAFE for that year. When I’ve done the business renovations here, Brian’s helped us. He’s been here every Sunday, working alongside us. He was a customer of ours for a long time before he actually joined us.
Margaret: We vowed we’d never have two apprentices at once.
Dave: The problem is they both go to TAFE at the same time. So you have two people out at the same time – it’s really difficult that week.
What’s one of the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry?
Dave: A motorcycle still has two handlebars, two wheels and a seat and you still need a motorcycle license. The technology that goes into the engines is increasing all the time as far as servicing is concerned; the performance of the engines, suspension, all those peripherals that make up the motorcycle as a whole, they’re all changing and becoming more computerised.
Are customers buying a lifestyle when they buy a motorbike?
Dave: The thing about motorbikes is there’s no one reason they buy them. Farmers buy them for work vehicles. The majority of our customers are farmers. That’s core business.
Margaret: Then you have the dirt bike guy who’s just passionate about getting out there and having a bit of fun in the trails. Then you have your road bikes… there’s such a variance. From your little scooter to the guy who travels and doesn’t have a car, to the fellow who likes a weekend away, just to be away from everything. It’s quite varied why they buy them.
How did you enter the business, Margaret?
Margaret: When I married Dave, his parents had the business already. I worked for an accountant who happened to be my father. Then Dave and I got together, so his mother was able to help me out with some of the bookwork and that’s how I started working in the business. I always vowed and declared I would never know a person by the bike they owned, that I’d always remember them as a person. Wrong. It’s been, “remember the guy with the such and such (bike)” – it’s what you remember because everyone will remember that same thing. If you describe their eyes as blue and their hair is back, the boys wouldn’t notice.
The first year we went to the Yamaha factory and to Japan was in 1976. We were married in the May and went to the factory in October.
What are the pros and cons working with one prominent brand?
Margaret: There’s no dealer in Bathurst or Orange now, or Tamworth for Yamaha. We’ve just spent the past 12 months renovating because Yamaha wanted a professional looking premises.
Dave: We’ve been selling Yamaha from 1967. Through those years you have different managers at Yamaha and each of the managers has different ways of doing things. You adapt to each way.
Margeret: We’re getting too old to adapt. Dave: No, no I’m not (laughs). Margaret: They’re trying to make it like car yards but it’s totally different. In car yards you sell a car and a few things. In motorbikes you’re always selling bits and pieces for bikes; there’s helmets, gloves, jackets, boots, goggles. You don’t have any of that stuff with a car. You might have a T-shirt but you don’t need it.
Dave: When you buy a car you register it and you drive out in it. When you sell a motorcycle probably 70 per cent of the ones we have, you load them up on a ute and they go out unregistered.
Margaret: If they do buy a registered bike, we’re the ones who sell the tyres, not the tyre place. We’re the one’s who do all those things.
Do you have plans to retire in the coming years?
We plan on retirement, that’s something we will do but both of us are too active to completely walk away from numbers and parts.
Dave and Margaret Readford with the trophy and signage they can now proudly display in their business after earning the 2015 NSW MTA Motorcycle Dealership of the Year award
The first bike sold from Readfords is on display in the showroom. It was returned 20 years ago and restored.