Anthony Bucci

I’m a founder, CEO, brand builder, investor, tech geek, family man and juggernaut. I’m most known for RevZilla. Expect a bit of storytelling, inspiration and insight as my different roles and perspective continue to evolve. I won’t settle and neither should you.

  • Lee Anne Fischl was my Executive Assistant and then Chief of Staff at RevZilla from 2011 through my operational departure in 2017. She was a force multiplier who added tremendous value to my work, other team members’ work and the company at large. She has since taken a new role as the right hand of another executive leader, but still works with me here and there. She also graciously offers her time and insight to other execs and EAs in an effort to help them unlock higher levels of productivity together.

    This picture is missing Lee Anne’s notepad, which never left her side and never lost a todo

    She was open to the idea of me making some editor’s note-style comments inline, which illustrate my perspective from the other side of the table. Read them as you go, or read her portion first and then go back and read my italicized comments. 

    Guest Post By Lee Anne Fischl

    Over the years, I have read many articles with tips for CEOs and leaders on how to be more productive and how to work smarter. The one thing that is missing from 99% of these articles is hiring a killer right-hand person and working with them in a way that maximizes their impact. Anthony and I turned our working style into an art form and it did more to accelerate his workflow and increase his bandwidth than any other productivity hack I have ever read about.

    I once sat down and figured out that I was taking about two full days of work off Anthony’s plate each week. And I am not talking about scheduling meetings and booking travel – I am talking about operational Co-founder/CEO work that was foundational to running a successful business. I am talking about prepping important work so that he could step in only at the point that decisions needed to be made or strategies formulated. I am talking about meetings that were taken off his schedule and put onto mine. I am talking about taking the outline of an idea he had and doing a proof-of-concept and fleshing out the process before passing the work back over to him. My work also allowed him to easily launch into his most valuable focus work more regularly by reducing or eliminating time spent filtering, prioritizing and prepping the daily frayed edge of things on his plate.

    The way we worked allowed him to focus on the most important, most meaningful tasks in the most efficient way every day. It allowed him to increase his reach and expedite his workflow so he accomplished more while still feeling responsive to his direct reports and the business. And while we did a lot of juggling, only a very few balls were dropped in our years working together.

    AB – First, someone like Lee Anne is a game changer as soon as you can afford them. Lee Anne was RevZilla employee 26 in 2011 and she took a step back in compensation to work with us because we seemed like a mix of fun, upside and challenge. We were at about a $17M run rate and growing quickly at the time of hire, but the truth is if I had known the value she would bring, I could have brought her in as much as 18 months sooner. Lee Anne started as my EA focusing 50% on calendar and email and a mixed bag of operational stuff. Once we developed deeper trust and her knowledge of me and the business matured (~12-18 months), her role and impact changed as she was able to grow into an extension of me. Her title ultimately became Chief of Staff and we even brought in a part-time junior person for Lee Anne to delegate to as her cycles became very valuable in their own right.

    What did it take? A real commitment on Anthony’s part to letting me behind the curtain, relinquishing control and spending time with me daily. It did not happen overnight. We had the advantage of building our process over the years as RevZilla grew, but I believe a working style like ours can be achieved in months if you dive in at the deep end and both parties commit.

    Some things he enthusiastically threw on my plate but sometimes I had to pry his hands off the steering wheel one finger at a time.  He also had to be ok when things were not 100% the way he would have done them. 85% and done beats 100% and languishing every time. A good example is the relationship with our PR firm. Anthony chose them but I took over the bi-weekly meetings and handled most decisions. I was also able to jump on quick response opportunities in a way Anthony could not, given his schedule. When a segment is needed for the evening news, you need decisions immediately..

    AB – I let Lee Anne see everything, warts and all. When she started the goal was for her to be fully behind the curtain. I set out to find someone as trustworthy as they were detail-oriented and committed to the role.  I felt a bit embarrassed here and there when something private came in, but I accepted it as a small price to pay for the leverage Lee Anne created. She recouped founder bandwidth — in my eyes the most valuable company asset.

    So, if you’re convinced you want to take this approach, how do you start? Job one is to choose the right person.

    Traits to look for

    Look for a person who likes being behind the scenes. Someone who thrives on the thrill of your success and prefers staying in the background to starring in their own rodeo is the #1 requirement for this job. Anthony sometimes referred to me as a project manager where he was my only project and that is a great analogy.

    Find someone with the life experience you need, not just experience in the job title you pick for the role. What is most important to you? Organization? Intelligence? Creative thinking? Operational experience? It doesn’t matter where they earned their stripes as long as they possess the experience and qualities you need. Look for skills and accomplishments, not title history. A smart person with the right qualities can learn your business regardless of what their past titles were. I know this is hard when you get 500 resumes, but right-hand kinds of people have had all sorts of titles, from the community volunteer to the poorly regarded Administrative Assistant to the newly popular Chief of Staff to a variety of managerial titles. And if your candidate has the skills and the values you need, don’t worry about the “stage of life” part so much – I am a pretty straight-laced suburban mother type who is 20 years older than Anthony and yet we are perfectly suited to work together because we intersect on core values surrounding work and people.  

    AB – I initially didn’t hire Lee Anne after her interview although I thought she had excellent experience. I thought our life stage mismatch, coupled with our often colorful language (tech can be profane), would not allow either of us to be comfortable. I mistakenly hired another person who let us down after a month, only to quickly circle back to Lee Anne. Lee Anne and I lined up on work ethic, attitude and value system, which covered the big bases. She also relishes the challenge of figuring things out on any level. We were pleasantly surprised to discover we had similar interests, but that was a bonus we figured out later.

    You also need someone who is not afraid of you, your direct reports or outside business people you deal with. Yes, the relationship is boss to direct report, but if your right-hand is afraid to say “I think you are wrong and here is what you need to consider,” they are not the right person. And if they don’t have the gumption to deal firmly but nicely with people from all levels of your world, they will never be able to represent you and move your agenda forward. It is a fine balance – it is like a good teacher the kids love but who can control the classroom with a glance. Some people have it and some people don’t.

    AB – This speaks to the level of an excellent EA+ / Chief of Staff vs other scopes of support. Lee Anne fought for the greater good regularly. She was not scared to challenge me or carefully manage others’ expectations. I always valued and respected her for it.

    Trust is crucial and the only way to determine if the candidate is worthy of your trust is to interview carefully. It is easy to find out if they have dealt with confidential information before – but did it stay confidential? When you ask them to describe the kinds of information they have handled in the past, do they stay high level or do they tell you details that would make you uncomfortable if they were your own? Do they release details when pressed or if they have an ax to grind? Are they a bit too chatty? Some people are good with secrets and some are not. And it is not just about keeping their mouth shut. You need someone who can deal with sensitive information and topics in a mature way because there will be days where never-to-be-repeated issues will need to be met head-on and they will be the first line of defense. Skip reference checking at your own peril.

    AB – Over 6+ years together, we were sued, flamed, almost bought, and ransomed for Bitcoin collectively more than once. Lee Anne saw the emails before I did and never flinched or let on to anyone. 

    A lifelong learner is another must have. Especially if you are picking someone who is changing industries. I am a reader. I read business books, articles and blogs. You want someone who is always considering new ideas and new ways of doing things. Someone who will always experiment with the way things are done to optimize workflow and operations. This is hugely important if you don’t want your business to stagnate. One of the worst statements in the world is “this is the way we have always done it”. I was also a student of Anthony Bucci. I read every email he wrote or received. I also read every book, article or blog Anthony read (and mostly I still do). Many times I could see what was coming down the pike and what was influencing his thoughts and that allowed me to be in step with him without explanation on his part.

    AB – Many times LAF was able to offer a counterpoint or a staff-level perspective to help balance my approach to something new that could have unintentionally imparted a level unproductive disruption to the team. Sometimes she just flat out headed me off at #badidea pass. LPT: Even award-winning workplaces will never need to find an elephant rental guy.

    What you need to do to ensure success

    You can have success with three easy steps! (Easy for me to say, that is . . .)

    Step one. Let your right-hand behind the curtain or you will never get beyond a task-based relationship. If you want someone who can see around corners and relieve some of the decision-making, you need to share 98% of what crosses your desk and good chunks of what crosses your mind. Allow access to all your email. Bring them to meetings and let them sit in on phone calls. Share your goals for the business and your personal goals for the year, quarter, week and day. Explain your thoughts and actions so they can learn to think like you and understand your processes and preferences. Initially, it will be a huge brain dump over time but it will morph into a manageable maintenance level.

    Step two. Talk regularly and spend time together in the office. Not email. Not texts. There IS time for this to happen – scheduled meetings, bringing them along on the drive to get lunch, phone calls as you commute, while you are working out, stopping by every time you pass your right-hand’s desk. Once a week, Anthony and I sat down for an hour of face-to-face conversation (and the occasional debate) where I set the agenda and we discussed the business, our thoughts on any given topic and questions were raised and answered. Other than that, we grabbed minutes where we could but always touched base however briefly every morning and every end of the day. We were trying for 15 minutes morning and night, but sometimes that had to be tossed. That being said, there was not a day that I did not know what Anthony’s top priorities were for the day and he did not know mine. Talking allowed us to calibrate priorities constantly.

    AB – The things you are delegating to your person are important, they are just not as important as the things you hope to use the recouped bandwidth for. Regular time to quickly chat, prioritize and keep your right-hand person moving is both the magic ingredient and sometimes the hardest time to focus on. The weekly one-on-ones are easy, but give your person the ability to hound, grab you between meetings, drive you somewhere so you can talk and, when all else fails, ask to interrupt you to quickly powwow. The 15 minutes a day was the hardest to find when I was in the flow of other things. I agreed it was super valuable, so I delegated to her the ability to ensure we found that daily time, painful as it was in some cases.

    Step three. Put the weight of your position behind this person. Let people know that when they are dealing with your right-hand they are dealing with you. This is a hurdle you will need to clear. Anthony initially got quite a bit of pushback when he added me to the mix, but people got on board as things that were languishing were accomplished and questions were answered on the spot or in a timely manner.  Your power, responsibly wielded by your right-hand, is a valuable tool.

    I will end by mentioning two articles I have seen over the years that addressed my role and showed a good understanding of the value it can play in a company. They are worth checking out. One is from the Harvard Business Review and the other was from First Round Capital. They do a good job advocating for a right-hand person as an accelerator and wise business investment. I hope all you Anthonys have the opportunity to work with a Lee Anne and every Lee Anne has the opportunity to work with an Anthony. It can be a real game changer.

    Final commentary from Anthony:

    People (including my wife!) were initially concerned about a gatekeeper or assistant principal feel to having a support person. There can be a stigma around having an EA. Concerns about the gatekeeper controlling access evaporated nearly immediately. Concerns about the “assistant principal” were typically from folks who were more close-minded toward changes in relationship dynamics, but usually, because they were less secure in their roles, in general. I spent time explaining that the position is an extension of me through the lens of a facilitator to ensure that things kept moving and I could be in two places at once. The most effective people quickly realized that Lee Anne was the best starting place to ensure the quickest resolution to an issue or need in real time.

    Some people still complained about her sitting in a meeting instead of me, but when I asked for examples on “How did she overstep her boundaries? How did she undermine you? Did she challenge your authority at all? What was missing or jarringly different without me?” I typically got crickets. The pattern was that people were being nostalgic or sometimes missing some opportunities to “manage up”. Those who were confident and optimizing for company outcomes spoke up when they felt less connected to me, but always saw the improved speed of communication and support from the change as a net positive. My wife grew to love that she could call Lee Anne to get me at any time, again. Long gone were the days where calling the batphone was a sure thing.

    After six years with me, Lee Anne had become an indispensable contributor in how I ran my desk AND the company. She touched and improved so many things and helped so many senior people be more productive and have more successful interactions with me. Company presentations, management presentations, feedback loops with senior staff, executive operations, a real-time lifeline for my wife and family.

    I also personally liked that over time there became an extra level of accountability to someone I respected who was working so hard, so close to me. Previously, I would have a list of priorities and I was only accountable to myself for completing them. I’m human and I’ll occasionally procrastinate on important stuff that I don’t like doing, just like the next person. Fewer procrastinatables fell through my cracks as I now had more time and a person who felt like another partner behind the curtain who I just couldn’t let down. I know that sounds funny, but it was a real feeling as we jointly managed three todo lists: my list, her list and the macro company list.

    I could go on an on, but the two articles Lee Anne mentioned above are excellent. My favorite concept from them likens running a company to tap dancing on stage every day. It also says a great EA makes sure you are always good enough to get a standing ovation. So true.

    There are many reasons founders, CEOs and execs give for not wanting to work with someone in a support role. I probably have a great rebuttal for all of them. I openly scoff when I hear, “I don’t work with anyone administratively. I don’t see the value”. Regardless of their reasoning, I think it’s short-sighted.  An exec’s job is predicated on delegating everything delegatable to leave larger chunks of pristine time to think, strategize and work on the shortest list of the most important things that actually will move the business forward. How can you make an argument against buying back time?

  • On Negotiating

    A smart guy once told me to remember, “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” I’ve kept that nugget loaded into RAM since the time I first heard it.

    Recently I was working through the details on a biz item and the other party said, “I wasn’t expecting a negotiation.” My reaction to the comment was thinking, “Well then, how would either party end up getting what they needed?”

    Negotiating is a matter of articulating your facts, values and needs and attempting to find if and where your and the other party’s “brackets” overlap.

    Another great stolen nugget I’ve heard is, “Smart people typically make the same decisions, granted they are operating off the same facts”. To me that means, you have to share your supporting arguments. Objective is always better than subjective. It’s hard for another party to quantify or value what you feel.

    Sometimes you get there, and sometimes you don’t, but keeping communication open, sharing facts and maintaining forward momentum are a better strategy than sandbagging, obfuscating, leveraging deadlines or using false time constraints.

    Everything in life is a negotiation and that’s not a bad thing. I’d say I’m neutral on the subject and don’t chase opportunities to be a “deal guy”. I know some who relish the battle, but I get more joy from getting people to engage and help build whatever I’m energized about vs trying to outmaneuver them.

    That said, I especially dislike combative negotiating. I find when it’s adversarial, zero sum or “old school” it drains my energy the most.

    I had this same conversation with a far more deal-experienced friend of mine recently and he agreed with my sentiment, but also acknowledged that combative negotiations are much less painful when you are not emotionally involved or you are working on someone else’s deal. He was a lawyer in his previous life. Makes sense.

    That said, in my own dealings, I’d much rather share a collective win and constructively find the middle. Sometimes, I even find myself skipping a negotiating round to highlight a potential middle in an effort to close more quickly. Sometimes it’s appreciated, but in combative situations, it’s always a waste. I’ve found that it usually results in lost ground and lost leverage.  Be careful about highlighting the middle too soon if you know the other party has no incentive to win together.

    When a deal is lopsided, it’s typically a short-term win at the expense of potential longer-term value or relationship. The best outcomes usually leave both parties feeling good about the mutual upside and the sharing of the value created or captured.

    Lastly, the most important part of any negotiation is knowing what you actually need before you enter the dance. I’ve seen that so many times and have been guilty of it as well. Deals don’t get done (or blow up) until someone says, “No”. Know where your baseline is. Know where your “bracket” ends. Don’t be bashful about saying “No” if you need to. It’s a great tool for getting a deal done or at least saving a ton of wasted time.

    Remember, hope is not a strategy. Things don’t magically happen or work out on their own. For the big things and all the little things as well, you will only get what you negotiate.

  • Cannonball

    At a dinner with extended family this weekend, a conversation with my aunt about sociopaths and black coffee became a bit (more?) existential.

    She asked me point blank, “So do you have a word for 2019? Your uncle and I have decided the word embrace is probably a good anchor for all we have going on in the coming year. As there will be a few known challenges and we’ll be tested more than once. We will attempt to embrace it all.”

    I paraphrased her a bit, but that was the gist.

    While this exercise is certainly simple, it did stop me for a moment to think. I have found that simple can be powerful and I have always loved turning something big into little memorable nugget.

    In less than a minute, a few words popped to mind but I just kept coming back to the word “Cannonball”.  When I finally said it out loud, my wife and a few others nearby chuckled, “I know you’re putting in a pool, but really?”

    Yeah, my word is Cannonball, and it’s slightly ridiculous. Every time I say it, I hear Ron Burgundy – but I’m fine with it.

    Here’s why:

    It’s bold. It takes effort. It’s a commitment. It’s got a dose of fun. It always makes waves. There’s no right way to do it. It can’t be ignored.

    The last two years have been filled with countless changes, new experiences and challenges from many directions. Sometimes I was pushed out of my comfort zone and when the fear of the unknown crept in, I did my best to power through and say yes.  I have regretted it zero times.

    So in 2019 I’m going to keep trusting my ability to learn to swim in the deep end. I’m going to jump into all the new meaningful things that my schedule will allow. I’m going to attempt to make a big splash in whatever I do. I might knock you off your floating raft, but please don’t take it personally.

    As a planner, of course I have a list of goals for this new year written down… but now I also have a single word to define it all.

    Cannonball!!!!

    Even better.

    What’s your word?

     

     

  • Yesterday, L2 released what looks to be the last of the Winners and Losers in the Digital Age weekly series on YouTube. The series started in late 2014 and was one of the more fun and interesting weekly tech biz follows. It was sharp, candid and took chances by way of its host, Scott Galloway. I probably shared it as much as I enjoyed it.

    Here is the last video:

    On a personal note, a friend worked for Scott at a few of his startups in the 2000s and randomly invited me to catch a drink with them both in L.A. in September of ’17. (Thanks, Johnny) I’d been watching since the beginning, so it was pretty cool to get to connect.

    We all chatted over a few vodkas and I found Scott to be just as I expected from watching, albeit taller in person (people always say I’m shorter lol). There’s usually no faking it, when half the value of the YouTube series was his personal brand and delivery. I was not surprised, as it followed the pattern of other YouTubers that I had met previously in my other travels. No one is playing a Hollywood character, they are just themselves, but usually amplified. (yelling?)

    Also, I believe that recently before our meeting, L2 had a great exit to Gartner. It hit my radar that Scott bonused his team in a meaningful way and made sizable donations to educational institutions that he believed in. Right on.

    Lastly, I appreciated the part in the final video when he answered the question about what it feels like when people recognize you and tell you they appreciate your work. He said it feels great and then he ended by genuinely thanking the audience.

    I can relate. It always feels great. The medium always depends on the support of a group of people who do care, offer feedback and appreciate what you have created for them. Thanking them is wise.

    We’ll see if I can get Scott as Leia out of memory, though. That image could haunt me.

    Find Scott weekly with Kara Swisher doing the Pivot podcast – which is worthy of the follow but unfortunately lacks the costumes…

  • Earlier this fall, a friend of mine and fellow founder in the moto industry asked if I’d do a Q&A for Dealer News Magazine. It was published surrounding October’s AIME Expo in Las Vegas.

    Thanks for the opportunity to reflect on the current state of business in moto, Eric Anderson.

    We’ll always have that Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Milan in the early twenty-teens. Remember, they stuffed me randomly into 28B next to you? You didn’t fit and neither did I. I still think you are as amazing as you are ridiculous.

    Below is the full interview. It can be found online in its full form here (page 68).

    Also, the views are my own. I’m not representing RevZilla leadership or ownership on this one.

    === BEGIN INTERVIEW ===

    DN: Anthony Bucci says he was always a tech guy with a side hustle. “I have always been a brand and retail geek,” explains the RevZilla founder, serial entrepreneur and king of the online product videos. “There is just something inherently fascinating about the emotions and decision-making of consumers interacting with brands. It’s probably because I’m a sucker for a great story.” We are suckers for a great story, too. We had the opportunity to ask Anthony what he sees happening in the powersports world and just like one of his legendary YouTube videos, he was on point and chock full of insights.

    DN: How has e-commerce affected the powersports industry… and the riding customer?

    AB: Since the mid-1990s, eCommerce has affected customer expectations worldwide. Speed, price and selection have become table stakes in an arms race which, in some industries, has led everyone to the bottom. The customer expects more for less, generally — the benchmark is Amazon, which, unlike nearly every other business, is playing a zero- sum game. They have zero cost of capital and no current need for the healthy economics other companies live by. Good luck differentiating, beating or even competing with the ‘Zon in any category that is a utilitarian or less-considered purchase. Unfortunately other than verticalized brands and specialty categories, the eCommerce game is rapidly approaching maturity, now 20+ years post-dotcom inception.

    All that considered, the US powersports industry is roughly 90% passion and 10% transportation. It’s primarily driven by a love for a sport that also happens to stand on the shoulders of highly considered and often expensive purchases. Bikes, parts, gear and accessories are not cheap and are often emotional purchases, as well. Powersports is specialty or “enthusiast” retail at its finest, which is one of the last defensible bastions against big discount players, including Amazon.

    The industry’s moat, online and offline, is that the knowledge of how, what and when to buy things matters a lot in terms of happy and safe riding. Riders can always use a helping hand, online and off, if it eases the pain of not knowing what they really need. Alleviating that customer pain is the service that all retail, including eCom, can provide that creates value for the customer, earns their dollars, pulls the sale from Amazon and keeps customers loyal over time.

    Great eCommerce that will stand the test of time will succeed the same way great dealers will stand the test of time, by being service businesses that facilitate their customers’ joy of riding by supporting them every step of the way. Customers have been trained to expect more generally, but within our industry they also expect knowledge, service, accuracy and customer care. If we don’t provide it, why wouldn’t they just buy from Amazon? I would.

    DN: Have customer “standards in gear” been raised above where brick & mortar dealers had established quality/comfort levels?

    AB: I’d say the customer expectations have greatly increased. Forums, social media, YouTube, customer service, eCommerce companies and brands have generally demystified potential gear purchases through expanded choice and customer education. I’d like to think my work at RevZilla was a part of helping customers evolve their gear thinking from “This one on the rack fits fine for today” to “What product is the right solution for my riding style, climate, budget, fit and safety needs?” and “Who are the reputable brands and why do they do what they do?”

    In short, I think the loftier bar today is one part the evolution of knowledge creation and sharing in moto and one part the same evolution happening in all other categories of researched purchases, online or off. Customers that care are pretty savvy. It’s a virtuous cycle that benefits both the customer and the manufacturer because everyone has more information at their fingertips.

    That brings standards up from both ends of the equation. The brands can’t hide or fake it and will be held accountable if they are not delivering on their promise.

    DN: What’s the next big thing? Amazon? Mobile mechanics? Pre-owned bikes delivered to your doorsteps?

    AB: Amazon is here and may never leave, so it does not qualify as the next big thing.

    I believe the next big things in moto will be continued consolidation of customer attention, where retailers will continue to act like media and media will continue to try to evolve their monetization model to be more like retailers.

    Manufacturers are also going to need to figure out how to provide more bike for the dollar while simultaneously finding a Cupid’s arrow for new riders that will actually stick. I don’t like the negative new bike purchase trends of the past two years and we all know the Boomers are aging out and have been.

    On the tech front, I don’t see a need for a crypto token in moto, but I do see an evolution of customer expectations of buying everything, including bikes, in the most immediate, direct and frictionless way possible. Who’s going to do the Tesla biz model of bikes? I’m sure someone, but I hope it has a motor, not a battery. I still want to feel it, hear it and smell it.

    DN: How can brick & mortar dealers do a better job on PG&A? Is that a never-ending battle?

    AB: Be the best for your local customer. It’s a service business. Offer amazing service. Engage your local riders and become the hub for their continued enjoyment of the sport. Be the center of the local riding community. Listen to your customers’ pain and figure out how to alleviate it. Be the best in all the ways you can control. Know your customers.

    Help your customer find the right product and then incentivize them to order it from you by adding value to the transaction in the form of a future relationship, not just a discount under the cheapest online price. Remember, eCom companies don’t just have websites. They have tech platforms that they enhance and optimize every single day. It’s the backbone of the business. It is the business. The traffic is higher, but the loyalty is lower than what a great brick & mortar dealer can deliver when focused on customer needs and customer pain.

    Don’t play the eCom game, play the game you can win. Deliver joy and help to create love for your PG&A department. It’s the same equation as your dealership. It’s an old-school equation people still appreciate.

    DN: Do brick & mortar chain stores like Cycle Gear raise the bar for “More of the Right Stuff?”

    AB: As an owner of Cycle Gear by way of my stake in Comoto, I hope it continues to evolve in that direction. Before we became part of the same umbrella, the great team at Cycle Gear was working uphill against, in my opinion, mis-optimized inventory and a lack of operational support systems for a long time. My hope is the local Cycle Gear can be more of what I described earlier and less like the model of having the cheapest possible “house” brands stacked wall to wall, which is what we saw 5 years ago.

    Great riders who want to help other riders have been the backbone of Cycle Gear for 40+ years. I believe the current owners, including myself, are trying to arm them with the right tools and untie that hand that someone else forced behind their back. If we can do it, everyone should be better off, starting with the riders in those communities and the staffs at those stores.

    DN: Would a universal retailers association of all types of dealers benefit the industry? Should MIC offer a membership category for e-commerce retailers… and if they did, would RevZilla join?

    AB: I think there is a lot of benefit in shared knowledge at all levels done appropriately. I can’t speak for current (RevZilla) management, but I personally see the value in it even if the only output is enhancing the industry’s collective ability to keep people enjoying the sport. I think the eCom guys have always been sidelined and that has been a missed opportunity. We (online players) see customer sentiment nationally, immediately and at scale which in my opinion can act as a powerful leading indicator for the industry.

    DN: How can we — Dealernews, MIC, RevZilla, Comoto — raise the “tide” to oat all retail boats in powersports?

    AB: Riding and bike sales are the beating heart of the industry. If people aren’t riding or buying motorcycles, businesses can do things right and still not be able to overcome that headwind. I believe that more natural consolidation may occur, fortunately, or unfortunately. I also think more of the leading brands that have relationships with their customers apart from the manufacturers need to work together to add value, enhance the customers’ experience and decrease the friction (and potentially cost) of owning a new bike. And that’s most important of all, especially if it’s a first bike.

    DN: Do you see Millennials beginning to riding motorcycles soon… or do we need to wait until the next generation to try again?

    AB: Millennials are a product of many things, but what they are not is the 1950s or 1960s male. They just don’t look at motorcycles the same way. They see life differently and in some cases through an understandably pessimistic lens. Riding needs to become more accessible for them and there will have to be something — a bike, a movement — which makes it more culturally relevant, accessible and cool, in a broader sense.

    I don’t have a crystal ball. I know many, if not all, of the manufacturers, have been trying to crack this for more than a decade. My biggest current fear is what happens if we see another recession in the next 1 to 3 years? We could see an accelerated culling of businesses that have not found stability in the lagging new bike sales of the last 24 months. I hope not.

    I’m an optimist. I think the powersports industry will figure it out, but when it does stabilize, like many things, the norms of then, will not be the norms of today. #fingerscrossed

    DN: Is bigger better in this industry? What’s too big? Parts Unlimited? Tucker? Amazon? Was RevZilla/Cycle Gear the beast that awakened the Amazon mega monster to powersports opportunities?

    Size and scale matter in every business. There is a value to big, just as there is a value to the smaller company’s ability to shift, change and execute more quickly. It’s all tradeoffs. Outside of Amazon, profitable revenue growth can cure many things, but we do run the risk of big companies feeling like they can get away with being “evil” here and there or potentially biting off too much and getting sideways. We’ve seen both in our industry in the past decade. It cycles, no pun intended.

    Regarding Amazon, they have been “woke” (speaking Millennial for a second) for more than a decade, nearly two. Bezos is a terrifying super genius. Motorcycle eCom Anthony fears, hates but respects him. Business Founder Anthony thinks he is amazing in a way that few have ever been. I’d like to think RevZilla’s presence staved Amazon off in a tenuous time, post-recession, when they could have siphoned the lion’s share of online sales very quickly while offering much less service, knowledge and content value add, but probably with the same price. That mass-market online consolidation, which can crush the manufacturing and retail landscape forever, has happened in so many other categories.

    In my heart, I do believe we “did good, by doing good” in the sense that our conversation with all of our brands was always, “How do we do more for the customer together in the medium to long-term and allow riders to get more for their moto-dollar?” I think our model, with the support of so many brands that were willing to think new-school, allowed the industry to raise the bar for what’s expected for online shopping in moto and create avenues for more customer satisfaction and value beyond “Well, it’s cheap and Prime-able.”

    Healthy competition always benefits consumers in the long term and transparency for consumers is only increasing. The same things apply to Comoto and the other larger players at this point. There is nowhere to hide if big guys decide to stray from their brand promises just as the discount mass market of Amazon, Walmart/Jet and the rest is always ready to pounce.

    DN: What are your thoughts on Harley-Davidson’s stock situation, introduction of smaller models like e-bikes, the FXDR street fighter and the Pan American Adventure model?

    AB: Try new things until you can get your balance sheet healthy and stabilized while still trying to figure out what’s going to get the Millennial off the couch, or iPad for that matter, and riding a new (or used) bike. Not evolving and challenging your accepted norms is giving up, even for the Bar and Shield. I applaud the Live Wire, small cc bikes and other jolts to the expected HD approach.

    DN: Would you share what you are thinking of doing next?

    Right now I’m kissing lots of frogs in an effort to be openminded to what next large opportunity may move me – in or out of moto. No good kisses to report yet. In the interim, I am angel investing and advising a handful of companies while also doing some non-profit work with the Tony Hawk Foundation and pro bono exec coaching. I’m having the most fun helping founders and CEOs grow and intermittently jotting down some of my leadership nuggets on my blog.

    The other half of the time is a prolonged moment to enjoy my wife and young family in a way that was completely foreign while leading RevZilla. The business always came first, until one day it didn’t. Reflecting on one’s lifestyle while transitioning into a very different one generates great perspective. A little bit of space also allows you to finally appreciate what you have created along with all the amazing people who did it with you. The goal is still the same. Always keep moving forward but be able to look back fondly.

    “Anthony’s opinions in this article are his own and he’s made it clear he’s not speaking on behalf of RevZilla management or the board.”

    === END INTERVIEW ===

    That was like giving birth, right? You get a gold star for finishing it.

  • In the war for VC content marketing supremacy, I have to believe First Round Capital is operating near the front of the pack. Between their videos and written word juggernaut, First Round Review, it’s a strong offering.

    From the outside, the VC game looks like a competition of value-add. It’s a service business. FRC is building their brand by giving something away for free (content) to “sell” something related (money), among other things.

    As famed Apple marketer Regis McKenna once said, “The best marketing is education.” I obviously approve.

    I was second screening a few nights ago, on Youtube with the Eagles game on in the background and I stumbled upon this recent FRC upload. It’s a 25-minute talk from their CEO Summit focused on Company Growth Frameworks, given by former Facebooker, Twitterer and current President and head of Growth at Wealthfront, Andy Johns.

    Here are a few things that jumped out at me that make this worth the watch.

    Growth Framework – Andy discusses how to systematically construct the growth framework for any business, using Amazon as an obvious example. It’s something many of us do implicitly, but it was insightful in the way he walked through what most of us would call the “levers”. This goes beyond Conversion Rate, Traffic and Avg. Ticket, although they are expectedly present in the middle of the chain.

    Magic Moment – Beyond marketing channels, he speaks to the “Magic Moment” that wows the customer, creates a real impression and sets the hook for a potential future relationship. For RevZilla, this is when the customer says, “I can’t believe the knowledge, service level and seamlessness of shopping here. How do they do this?” as they compare it to their other eCom experiences. For goPuff, it’s when the customer says, “I placed my order, went to the bathroom and the driver was here when I came out? How does this exist in the world? Game changer.” For Five Below, I’d imagine it’s when a mom and kid walk in and kid says, “All this stuff is awesome” and then mom says, “Umm, all this stuff is awesome”. The point is there has to be something more than memorable for the customer, if you want a chance at making a real impression and your marketing dollars affecting more than a single transaction.

    Value Creation – Andy also speaks to the fact that the business has to create value for the consumer. I’d describe that by saving them time, offering a solution, creating a source of joy, relieving pain, etc. This is about value creation for the customer beyond the transactional of what they need in that moment. Why is the product or service indispensable? Why does the customer actually need the business in their life?

    Testing – This is a loaded topic in so many situations with both junior and senior people often having inappropriate expectations of methodologies and results. There is great insight in this section on the big company compounding approach vs smaller company curveball tossing. He also speaks to the push and pull of “test everything” vs “build what we know is right” cultures in which balance is usually the best dynamic – because you know, the left and right brain people always get along, right?

    Evaluating the Growth Leadership Hire –  In one of the last notables, he talks about the patterns, experience and skill that comprise a great growth leader, coupled with the fact that these hires need to be empathetic product execs at heart, not the run and gun growth hacker archetypes. This is a nice wrapper around the last two points and a great bookend.

    The Eagles won, but I was even happier to make it a more robust use of my time. Thanks for the free milk, FRC.

     

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