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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 19, 2018 9 months ago

Fresh Cycle

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Motorcycle entrepreneur Scott Fischer has spent three decades pounding on operational excellence for here-and-now. His best move: Saving time for the future.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Scott Fischer shudders at the R-word: retirement.

But that doesn't mean the 58-year-old entrepreneur hasn't given a significant amount of thought to life after he no longer runs his Harley-Davidson empire that encompasses three states and 265 employees. The company, Fort Myers-based Scott Fischer Enterprises, once one of the largest groups of Harley-Davidson stores nationwide, had $96.6 million in revenue in 2016.

Fischer even took the somewhat unusual step, more than a decade ago — in his career prime — of hiring a consultant who got him to focus on what's next. “Part of that was thinking about how long I want to stay in the business,” says Fischer.

While business books and leaders preach the value of a well thought out succession plan, not many hard-charging business owners take the time to do it. But Fischer always has been keen to hire consultants, from executive coaches to training pros to strategic planners. Iain Macfarlane, an executive coach with Madison, Wis.- based Action Coach, talked exit strategy with Fischer as far back as 2008. “He pushed me real hard on a succession plan,” says Fischer. “That pushed me to get a high-level estate attorney.”

That plan recently shifted to a higher gear. Fischer, along with business partner and Scott Fischer Enterprises Chief Branding Officer John Greene, 50, sold Fischer's Six Bends Harley-Davidson and Naples Harley-Davidson, in a deal that closed Jan. 10. The Motorcycle Co., run by the Veracka family, which operates six other Harley-Davidson dealerships nationwide, bought Fischer's pair of Southwest Florida dealerships, in conjunction with their managing partner, Robert Huguet. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

“The stores couldn't be better positioned for their kind of company, which is a big volume, big marketing company,” Greene says.

David Veracka, a spokesman for the Veracka family and The Motorcycle Co., with holdings that include Harley-Davidson of Palm Beach, says the new owners will build on Fischer's success. “We're excited to start the next chapter of The Motorcycle Co.,” Veracka says in a statement.

The acquisitions follow two other recent deals: Fischer sold the Huntsville, Ala., Harley-Davidson in 2016 and the Hickory, N.C., dealership in 2017.

Which brings Fischer and Greene back to what's next.

For one, three other Harley-Davidson dealerships remain in the Scott Fischer Enterprises portfolio, two in New Mexico and one in California. Fischer says those dealerships represent about $50 million a year in sales. They also plan to devote more time to Top Rocker Field and Events in Fort Myers, an event facility next to Six Bends they've been behind for several years. “The vision is to create a destination that will draw local, regional and national visitors,” says Greene. “Something for riders and non-riders.”

Outside those interests, Fischer, in the motorcycle business since he was 16 in Ohio, plans to devote time to charitable ventures. That includes work with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, particularly its entrepreneurial hub. A 2012 inductee into the Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida Business Hall of Fame, Fischer also plans to do more with the JA board.

Fischer adds another passion is to help businesses and startups grow, and hire the right teams. He plans to do that at “Shark Tank”-like events and by hosting informal meetings with other area business leaders.

While Greene says there will be time for boating and golf in between these pursuits, there's one more item on the to-do list. That would be to ride a motorcycle. The day before The Motorcycle Co. acquisition closed, each motorcycle executive did something he hadn't done in years: bought a new ride. “It's amazing being in this business,” says Greene, “how little we actually get to enjoy riding motorcycles.”

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