Waikato's only franchised Harley-Davidson dealership Road and Sport Motorcycles in Hamilton has just won the Australia and New Zealand Dealer of the Year award for the third time and second year in a row.
The dealership on Te Rapa straight is run by Hamilton couple Barry and Shelley Sproule who opened the business in 1978. Their latest win of the Harley-Davidson Dealer of the Year Australasia 2021 is their third in total with their first one in 2017.
Says Shelley: "The three-time thing is pretty cool. The 2021 win was a surprise for us, because of how tough it has been due to Covid. It has been pretty stressful for everyone in the team."
Barry and Shelley have been in the motorbike business in Hamilton for 44 years starting Road and Sport as a motorcycle repair shop and selling used motorbikes, before opening a Suzuki motorcycle franchise in 1980. Ten years later Road and Sport was awarded the Harley-Davidson franchise for the Waikato as well.
Originally located in Rostrevor St, Barry and Shelley relocated Road and Sport to Te Rapa in 1995 to create a new Harley-Davidson designer store concept.
Barry says he and his wife were both motorcycle enthusiasts.
"We love the freedom and thrill [bikes] give us, I think it's the most legal thrill you can get these days."
He has been riding motorbikes since he was 12 years old.
"As a kid, there were a lot of motorbikes driving past our house and I ran out to watch them as soon as I heard them coming. I think I'm just a born petrolhead and always loved being around anything with an engine."
Barry and Shelley ran the Suzuki franchise until 2008, while also operating the Harley-Davidson dealership at the same time.
"It just got to a stage where we had to decide where to focus and we believed Harley was the way to go. Suzuki is a good product, but Harley-Davidson aligned more with us. They are so committed to freedom and the product innovation they provide is unique," Barry says.
Shelley adds: "The Harley-Davidson brand is more than just a motorbike. The company as a whole appealed to us, they are about freedom, family and individual expression.
"Harley people are cool people. They are extremely diverse, they represent freedom, they are fun, and to ride with them is just incredible."
Barry describes Harleys as motorbikes that "look good, sound good, go good and are reliable" - "What more do you want?"
The services provided at Road and Sport include, apart from the motorcycles themselves, a repair shop, apparel and merchandise, as well as a motorcycle rental fleet and tour guide, a service not every Harley-Davidson dealership offers.
In regards to being a female in a male-dominated field, Shelley says it always had its challenges.
"Being in the business world as a female can be cruel, but I have to say Harley-Davidson truly embrace women.
"People might have the perception that Harley is very male orientated ... but I have been very fortunate to work with [them] as a woman. They always respected me as a business partner and absolutely treated me as an equal."
Out of the 15 staff at Road and Sport, six are women.
For the Dealer of the Year awards, all dealerships are judged and marked over the course of a year according to the same set of criteria which includes customer satisfaction, business reporting, marketing and events, commitment to training, as well as sales, service, parts, accessories, and general merchandise performance.
Barry says when it comes to his dealership, he treats every day like it was his first day in business. "You can't take anything for granted."
What sets them apart from other dealerships is their team and customer base, Shelley says.
"We are all trying to win the award, we all sell the same products. Our customers and our staff have to make the difference."
Barry says their customer base was very diverse in terms of gender and age. "We have a customer who is in his 90s and still rides."
His favourite memory of running the Harley dealership was one from the beginnings.
"When Harleys were difficult to get in the 90s, customers would leave blank cheques with us to secure their next [bike]. That's how big the trust was.
"And just in general, seeing customers with a smile on their face when they come in and when they leave, fulfilling a dream for people."
The ANZ Dealer of the Year receives a contribution of AUD$20,000 (about NZ$21,700) towards their business.
Managing director of Harley-Davidson ANZ, Nigel Keough, said: "Barry and Shelley know how to run a great business, they excel in customer service, and their passion for our brand."