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Shelly Sproule – A women’s view from the top

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Winning the Harley-Davidson Australasian Dealer of the Year award for three of the last five years is so special to Road and Sport H-D joint owner and Dealer Principal Shelley Sproule, that she’s made a rare public contribution. Coming out of the background for a moment, Shelley has shared her thoughts on the reasons for Road and Sport’s success.

Shelley uses the word ‘trust’ repeatedly as she describes the business; trust from customers in the Harley Dealership, and trust by the business of its staff, customers, and associated entities and individuals.

“To be successful and receive these awards there’s a wider team working in the background – accountants, lawyers, banks, suppliers including, of course, Harley-Davidson and in earlier years Morgan & Wacker. All of them stand beside us, many have been with us for 40 years, or for the 32 years we’ve been with Harley. We can’t do it without them, they’re actually partners in the business.”

Shelley whole-heartedly believes that the store’s staff plays a massive role in the success of the business. “They’re our partners too. My ethos, and Barry’s, has always been about caring for our Road and Sport ‘family’, and by extension their families. During the lockdowns it was important to us that our staff’s home life could continue as normally as possible.”

As a woman in the male-dominated motorcycle industry, there have been challenges along the way but, Shelley says, Harley-Davidson was different.

“NEVER for one second have I seen or felt any gender bias from anyone at H-D. From day-dot, I was never discriminated against as a female Dealer Principal. Harley’s attitude has always been brilliant… it’s encompassing, respectful, inclusive, and all of that continues to this day.”   

If you’ve ever taken notice of Harley-Davidson’s marketing, you’ll see – or can feel – the connections which lead to ‘one big world-wide family’, and women are very much a part of every aspect of Harley-Davidson. The passion of Harley owners and customers for the brand is unique and powerful. Shelley knows that the closeness which develops between herself, Barry and the staff, and their customers, is heartfelt.

“Our customer base is huge and extremely diverse and I’m incredibly fortunate to have had the career I’ve had with our customers and suppliers.  I feel extremely privileged!” she says.

A highlight was taking groups of 12 or 13 customers on trips to Australia – three trips over the years – and riding through the outback of Australia. Shelley organised these trips, took care of everything on the itinerary, and oversaw the container loads of customer bikes and their own bikes for the journey. And, not one to miss out on a ride, Shelley rode every kilometer on her own Harley.

“The best part of that was being able to give those customers a life experience in the H-D lifestyle we all love.”

Shelley has ridden her own bikes all over the world and cherishes the amazing experiences she has had thanks to the H-D lifestyle.

In her early years with Harley-Davidson, Shelley is grateful the lessons from H-D that helped build the Road and Sport business to what it is today.

In the early days, Harley was distributed in New Zealand, Queensland and the South Pacific by Australian dealers Morgan and Wacker, which started life as a family-owned business.

In 1990, Barry and Shelley were accepted as authorised H-D dealers by Bruce Wacker and Shelley says the Wacker family has had a huge influence on the business and that still stands true today.

“We learned not just about the motorcycles and the products, from Bruce, his wife Joan, their sons Mark and Brad, and their international staff, they also taught us greater levels of professionalism, higher standards and better customer service. They showed us the Harley worldwide family in the big picture was real, not just talk. It still is an honor and a delight to be a part of this.”

Being a woman in a traditionally male dominated business, Shelley was lucky to have the quiet, wise, and experienced Joan Wacker to guide her along the way.

Soon after taking on the dealership, the Harley Company began a program to modernise every dealer in the world. The spaces were transformed into ‘Designer Stores’ and became exciting and beautiful destinations for customers and enthusiasts to gather.  Shelley says the ‘Designer Stores’ changed the focus of motorcycles world-wide.

“There were huge displays of then-new MotorClothes casual and riding Apparel, along with stylish and new ways of displaying the bikes and Accessories. Our shop was gutted and re-built.”

Returning to Shelley’s belief in ‘trust’ as a guiding principle of the business, she trusted her research and knowledge of Harley-Davidson, and had enormous trust in Bruce and Mark Wacker who explained how it would all work in the future.

“The transformation to a ‘Designer Store’ really did work.”

Becoming a single-brand Harley-only dealership in 2008, was another major change for the business.

“It was a lifestyle choice for ourselves, for the staff, and for our customers. We loved what we did with H-D, we wanted to be better at what we did, we wanted to enjoy it more, and we wanted our Harley customers… our big family… to enjoy it as much as we did.”

Still motivated by the Harley-Davidson brand, Shelley says it’s always moving forward which makes being in business for as long as they have still new and exciting.

“There are so many new models being released that the factory online and in-person training remains vital.

Motivating the staff with an expectation of success and completion of all the training, it’s very important to Shelley.

“Our expectations and standards are high but our customer feedback gives us outstandingly high reviews and comments about our team.”

“My journey with Road and Sport and Harley-Davidson has been so fulfilling… the dealer shows in America, the travel, the rides all over the world, the people we’ve met from around the globe, the experiences, the memories. I’m a lucky girl, and I want our customers and staff to share it too.”

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