What a HOG

I love finding historical stories that relate to topics I’m writing about. My last two messages were about teamwork. This is about the power of enthusiasm. Every team needs enthusiasm to succeed.

Treasure team members who are enthusiastic, for it stimulates others’ thinking.

William Harley and Arthur Davidson started promoting their motorized cycle in 1903. A strong contender in many races, its reputation flourished in 1915 after winning a race covering 15 miles in 19:02 minutes.

The military saw potential for this speedy, dependable two-wheeler. Harley-Davidson became a tremendous asset during World War I, providing most of the 20,000 motorcycles used by the U.S. Army. “After the armistice was signed, the first American to enter Germany did so on a Harley Davidson.”*

Police departments all over the U.S. relied on them as the trusted brand. The company continued to grow with enthusiastic support for the family-owned business. More than 90,000 were produced during World War II, plus variations for Canada, UK and other allied military, plus spare parts.

During the 60’s, H-D needed to modernize its plant to stay competitive with Japanese manufacturers, so the decision was made to become a public company. A few years later it was bought, and the new owners moved headquarters from its birthplace in Milwaukee to New York City. The finishing plant was moved to Pennsylvania.

As you can imagine, employee morale plummeted. So did the quality of output from the new plant. Police departments started buying Japanese brands because they were cheaper and more reliable. By 1980, H-D lost money for the first time.

But, enthusiasm for Harleys was strong. In 1981, thirteen senior executives who loved the company teamed together with a vision to bring it home. They bought it, improved manufacturing processes by listening to employees in quality circles (among other newly adopted approaches), and introduced new products.

To celebrate its 95th anniversary in 1998, more than 140,000 proudly rode their beloved Harleys through the streets of Milwaukee.

The original mascot was a little pig the early H-D racers carried around the track when they won. It was the genesis for HOG (Harley Owners Group). Intentional marketing connected freedom and the open road with owners and potential owners.

The Enthusiast was their aptly-named magazine for more than 90 years. Now, HOG Magazine is a favorite benefit among members, published quarterly for enthusiasts around the world.

Enthusiasm has been a key ingredient since H-D’s beginning. When teams are enthusiastic, it’s contagious. And that energy produces power.

What can you do to nurture the power of enthusiasm with your teams?

*17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player, by John Maxwell

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