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posted: 1/1/2018 6:00 AM

Best strategic plans are based on logic

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The combination of strategy and logic that have led to success at Elmhurst-based iMotorsports Inc. reflects an approach to business planning that might be worth considering.

Here's the tale:

Co-owned by former Elk Grove High School best friends Tim Walter and Haider Saba, iMotorsports sells motorcycles -- initially pre-owned motorcycles sold both on the web (successfully, thanks to a lower-48 free delivery of bikes costing $5,000 or more) and at a warehouse location in Roselle.

A focus on service and parts was -- and still is -- an important factor.

The business, born in Roselle in 2010, moved to Elmhurst in 2014. The warehouse was in an industrial area that "limited our legitimacy" in many customers' eyes, Walter explains. "The image wasn't helping us, so we moved to a cleaner building in Elmhurst," where the city's auto dealer dominated Grand Avenue corridor was a better fit.

The move was only the first change, however.

Initially, "One location was as big as we wanted," Walter says. Now, however, iMotorsports has stores in St. Petersburg, Florida added in 2016, and Orlando, added late last year.

More stores are likely.

What happened? Logic and strategy met seasonality. Florida has a certain appeal this time of year -- especially if you're selling bikes, ATVs and the like.

If you're reading this in suburban Chicago, take a look around. You'll likely see snow, maybe with new snow falling. Roads could be slick. The weather almost certainly is cold, particularly if you're piloting a motorcycle with little between you and nature but, well, more nature.

In fact, Florida's winter-season weather has an especially strong appeal if you're selling motorcycles. It should surprise no one that motorcycles sell better in Florida in the winter months than they do here.

Certainly, iMotorsports' purchase of St. Pete Powersports, St. Petersburg, and acquisition of Indian Motorcycle Orlando (now branding as iMotorsports Orlando) were a nice blend of strategy and logic.

"They're 1,200 miles away," Walter says of the acquired stores. "The seasonality is the opposite of ours." Although that customer-friendly delivery policy made the Elmhurst business well known in the industry, "The customers are new to us."

In retrospect, the Florida expansions could have been an easy decision. Good decisions, however, take time.

"Before we closed on St. Pete, we game-planned for two years," Walter says. "We looked at staff, the culture of the business. We looked for the right infrastructure. We dug into the data.

"We put in time and effort that would make the purchase work. Then we implemented our processes, the way we do things, the tricks of the trade we learned.

"We initially thought we could run (the new stores) remotely, but our advisers strongly suggested that one of us should be there for the first six months."

Saba and Walter plan to have five stores by 2019. Although Florida is not the only option, seasonality is a factor; ultimately, for every two stores in the South, iMotorsports expects to have one in the North.

• Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Read Jim's Business Owners' Blog at © 2018 Kendall Communications Inc.

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