The Truth about Master Mind Groups

For years, The Mann Group has been helping the veterans of the specialty retail industry and titans of the manufacturing industry across the country. Together, we’ve helped mold the new future of the industries. More than ten years ago, a great idea dawned: what if we got those industry leaders together to help each other?
Well, maybe it wasn’t quite such a dramatic revelation as that. It was an idea that had been on the mind of retailers and manufacturers alike for as long as such sectors had existed. Other industries, like the National Auto Dealer Association, had already fortified the trend with their own “20 Groups.” As friction between retailers and manufacturers in the bike, outdoor, run and fish industries mounted, a new generation of dealer panels, or “mastermind groups,” facilitated by The Mann Group, fell into place.
It began in 2006 with the NBDA (National Bicycle Dealer’s Association). At that time, we helped bring non-competing dealers together to learn from each other—to compare experiences and data, and build a network of like-minded allies to help and support each other. Meeting twice a year, the dealers would exchange notes on business operation and strategy, crafting a symbiotic exchange that benefitted all parties involved.

Since then, we’ve continued to help build dealer panels and retail panels and, in effect, threads of relationships between retailers and manufacturers. 

Who we have influenced thus far:
NBDA-P2
Grassroots Outdoor Alliance-Engage
Running-C2
ADIDAS adimaster
Shimano-Dealer Panel

Our dealer panels now are different; we made the transition to work directly with manufacturers and retailers to bridge the gap between the groups and build sustainable relationships.

The Mann Group’s role in these situations is a little different from our traditional experiences; rather than using our own experience and knowledge to teach, we simply facilitate the teaching between peers. “We create topics that the group needs to work through in their businesses,” explains Leslie. “Facilitating allows the group to participate and ultimately take over.”
It’s a concept best represented in the words of Lao Tzu:
A leader is best
When people barely know he exists
Of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled.
They will say, “We did this ourselves.”
And it’s true. The Mann Group merely provides the tools for these retailers and manufacturers to create their own successes. In a room full of leaders, the potential for strife is evident, but the subtle guidance of The Mann Group steers the ship away from rough waters. 
You might remember the concept from our previous article on The 20 Collective. In that Collective, a group of 20 bike retailers from across the country came together to buoy the entire industry, working out solutions to problems the entire industry was facing when public participation in cycling was at an all-time low.
For the past two years, The Mann Group has brought together new generations of bike retailers with the Shimano Dealer Panel. Shimano America is one of the greatest bike manufacturers in the country; with billions in annual sales, their bikes dominate the market, and their brand is a household name. Bringing together the manufacturer’s retailers to exchange well-earned knowledge was a natural next step.
“We had worked with the Mann Group for a year or so before embarking on the Dealer Panel,” remembers Nolan Moser, Corporation Manager, Retail Services of Shimano America. “We chose to use The Mann Group for our dealer panel as we wanted to create a dealer panel with focus on adding value to our dealers in the way they conduct business. As a brand, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to push your own agenda. By having an independent monitor, we’re assured that we can add value to the dealers and use this as a learning process for Shimano.”
The Panel brings together different Shimano dealers from across the country to answer questions, settle qualms, and address queries. As Moser points out, it’s easy for manufacturers to prioritize selling their products, rather than the overall success of their retailers, in regular manufacturer training programs. By utilizing a third party like The Mann Group in facilitating the panel, Shimano guarantees the exchange between retailers is broadly applicable. Being able to sell Shimano’s products well is one step to success, but without a strong base of excellent customer service and successful retail strategies, the retailer would be doomed before they even had the change to sell those bikes. The dealer panel amends those foundational errors.
It’s an exchange of lessons learned and applicable notes, as evidenced by the concomitant success of participants. ““The Shimano Dealer panel has been a great influence on me,” says Steve Donahue of Recycled Cycles. “It’s a great opportunity to pick the brains of other retailers and learn their best practices.” By encouraging the success of one retailer, we’re making success for all of us a possibility.
Resources like the dealer panel also help retailers remember they’re not alone. “It’s refreshing to see that things are different yet the same in every corner of North America. We are all in this together and having this group of peers has been a big help,” Donahue points out. Our community is an asset; such panels confirm it’s not about competition, but community.
It’s not just the retailers who benefit from dealer panels, but the manufacturers themselves. “Since starting the dealer panel, our internal team has a better understanding of bicycle retail in general,” says Moser. “The surprising part was our first sales meeting where we initially started working with Dan and Leslie and they were able to completely engage our sales team, which is not an easy task.” Manufacturers and retailers alike can gain insight from such panels.
“We have also been able to apply learnings from this group to the other retailers that we work with,” Moser adds. “The most rewarding part of the experience has been seeing businesses on our panel take some of the learnings and apply them to their business to make their businesses much stronger.”
The dealer panels provide a specific type of community exchange that will become even more invaluable in the future. “Going forward, retail will continue to evolve and channel lines will continue to be blurred,” says Moser. “As a manufacturer, we have to continue to evolve our business to support the various channels and work to make them as seamless and easy for our end consumers to support our brands and feel good doing so.” As brick and mortar retail shifts, we have to be willing to change and grow to adapt to a new marketplace. Communities like the Shimano Dealer Panel enable us to do so, together

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Dan Mann and retailers from the Shimano Dealer Panel and the NBDA's P2 panel shared some of their experiences in their respective 20 groups in a podcast that I produced. You can listen to that here: https://soundcloud.com/shimanotec/episode-1707-20-group-retailer-training.

Shuji Sakai
Shimano North America Bicycle, Inc

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