MR Motorcycles, Pukekohe
MR Motorcycles has been in business for 30 years and its been a top dealership for most of those years. Craig Brown is keen to continue that tradition, and the decades of fundraising it has done within the community.
MR Motorcycles has held the title of Kawasaki number one dealership in New Zealand for almost every one of the 30 years it has been in business. It is also one of Suzuki’s top 10 dealerships.
MR Motorcycles was established as Mike Ramsey Kawasaki by Mike and Kay Ramsey back in 1990, with a heavy emphasis on off-road and ATV sales. Within a year it was named the top Kawasaki dealership in the country and continues to stand out among the best of the best. The name was changed to MR Motorcycles in 1999 when the franchise expanded to include Suzuki and ATV motorbikes.
In 2001 Mike let it be known he wanted to move on, so Craig Brown, who was working in another motorbike dealership, and his motocross racing friend Scott Wilkins got together to make an offer. “We could see a real potential for growth within the business.” The company was well known by the off-road and motocross racing world, and also had a strong customer base among the many farms it served in the surrounding productive land of Pukekohe. The new owners built on this and continued Mike Ramsay’s charity legacy, the Trail Ride Series he started in 1991. The annual events include three large trail rides through local farmland that have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Franklin and North Waikato schools and community projects over the last 30 years. Each event can attract hundreds, and sometimes over 1,000 riders and their families.
In 2012 Scott and Craig sat down to review their first 10 years in business together – something they had agreed on in their initial business plan. “For Scott, we had ticked all his boxes, and he wanted to try something different. We were coming out of the recession and I thought the timing was right to go it alone.”
Two years later, Craig took on the KTM franchise and business growth kicked up a notch. “We’ve gone from 12 to 17 staff since then. A lot of effort has gone into growing our road bike sales over the last five years. It was about 15 percent of the business; it’s about double that now.
“We are lucky that we’ve got the biggest city in the country on our doorstep, so we went about making ourselves a destination for riders.” An important element to this was to make sure the workshop quality and responsiveness was valued by those customers. “Once they’re here, with a couple of hours to spare, they start building a relationship with the sales staff”. The other two thirds of sales are fairly evenly split between farm sales and off-road bikes. Nurturing this side of the business is vital.
There is certainly plenty of opportunity for staff to get out on a bike and share the fun with families and riders. “Most of the team come out for the trail rides to do some marshalling and help the kids get up hills or pick up anyone who’s had an accident.” says Craig.
MR Motorcycles’ three annual trail rides raise money for projects within the small Glen Murray, Niake and Wairamarama communities. The biggest is the Glen Murray event which attracts around 1,000 riders to the 35km circuit of hills and track on local farmland.
“We hit a record 1,380 riders at Glen Murray about five years ago.” As a result of the ongoing MR Motorcycles events, Glen Murray now has a beautifully restored community hall, very impressive tennis courts and other valued assets. The company also holds the naming rights to the Pukekohe Motorcycle Club’s famous Harrisville Track which is now known as the MR Motorcycles Raceway.
Being surrounded by farmland means being responsive to the needs of other businesses working to tight, often weather-driven, timetables.
“I grew up on a farm and know how important it is that the equipment is working well, and if it needs fixing, then it needs to be fixed fast.” The workshop side of the business includes a mobile service truck, which visits farm customers every three to four months to service their ATVs and other bikes. “We have one dry stock farmer with 12 side by sides, so we visit him every six weeks. His staff are on those vehicles all day every day, so they need to be really well-maintained.”
Craig has built a strong team over the years and relies heavily on Operations Manager Jan Round, who’s been with MR Motorcycles for 16 years. “She joined us a year after we took over. Brian Leatham has been the Sales Manager since 2012. I try to hire people who want a career, not just a job. Almost everyone on our staff rides, and so they are passionate about what they do.”
Soon after Scott and Craig took over the business, they opened an online store. “We are now a leading supplier of motocross gear and accessories and it makes up a significant part of our income,” says Craig. The pair also expanded the premises in 2008, taking over the adjoining building and opening up the walls to provide one huge retail space. “This doubled the size of our showrooms and meant we could expand into selling road bikes.”
Craig has not yet developed a succession plan for the business, but his 14-year-old son Tyler may be a contender. He’s already following his dad’s motocross exploits and is ranked third in NZ within his age group. “He’s doing really well and it’s good to be able to support him and do things like help set up his bike properly for him.” says Craig who is still an active member of the Pukekohe Motorcyle Club and races competitively occasionally. Craig’s wife Suzy and daughter Stacey are more into horses than horsepower. “So, when you’re working six days a week, our family tends to head to the lake when we get the chance for a day together.”