If Bob Parsons walked past you in the street, chances are you wouldn’t chuck him a second glance. An unassuming, smiling older guy, there’s little about him that gives away his passion for bikes, or the work he does for the motorcycle industry in Arizona and the rest of the USA.
Growing up he scratched the biking itch like we all did, Bob’s childhood ride was a 55cc Yamaha. He’s no racer and has never claimed to be, aside from an attempt at Bonneville Speed Week on a BMW. That doesn’t stop him racking up tens of thousands of miles every year on a collection of bikes that would leave anyone green with envy. Now in his mid sixties, but showing no signs of slowing down, Bob stumbled on his buried passion for all things two-wheeled while serving a two-year tour of Vietnam with the United States Marine Corps. While convalescing in Okinawa following an injury, Bob spotted a Honda CB550 and ‘the drooling returned’ (Bob’s words). Bikes have been part of his life ever since.
Bob is a grafter, nobody can deny that. Coming back from Vietnam he made the most of the opportunities offered to ex servicemen and gained an accounting degree from the university of Baltimore. In 1984 Bob founded Parsons Technology and began selling home accounting programmes at a time when home computing was in its infancy. Ten years later, the business sold for $64m. You’d think having millions in the bank by the time you were in your mid forties would be enough for most people, and you’d be right. Bob isn’t most people. In 1997, Bob set up web domain and hosting company GoDaddy, you may have heard of them…
While all this was going on, Bob’s passion for motorbikes grew. By grew, we mean, it really grew. With around 110 bikes currently at his disposal, Bob has clocked up around 150,000 miles in the last six years, on everything from a Kawasaki H2 to a Y2K Turbine bike.
“When I ride, it stops me thinking about everything else. I love just worrying about not getting hit. Sure I’ve bounced off a few bikes along the way, a few of those crashes were all my fault, some not so, like the buddy that rode into me in Hawaii. I love how much bikes have grown over the years. Back in the ‘60s, if you rode a 500cc bike, you were the tallest hog at the trough. Now a 500cc bike is viewed as the place to go to get you started. Of course as bikes have gained extra size and power, ABS, traction control and all of the modern stuff, they’ve gotten so much easier to ride fast. I can remember getting a speeding ticket when I was riding through Tennessee one time. I think the limit was 60 and I was doing 80. I tried every trick in the book to wriggle off the hook, but it didn’t work. The policewoman blew me a kiss when she handed me the ticket.
Speeding tickets and the odd crash aside, I still love riding. I have to ride, it’s like a sickness for me. I try and take in two big trips a year where I’ll cover between two and four thousand miles. It’s a total diversion. There’s few things you can do that require your total focus, that can leave you feeling refreshed and tired at the same time.”
Bob’s business interest with motorcycles started back in 2008. Spotting an opportunity, he opened Go AZ Motorcycles, selling bikes from Ducati, BMW and Vespa. Within four years Go AZ had tripled the number of brands available for sale. Across the street was struggling Harley Davidson dealer ‘Hacienda H-D’. The dealership had a failing reputation, having one of the lowest scored reputations in the country. Within 12 months, Bob had flipped this on its head and had put the newly renamed Harley Davidson of Scottsdale in the top five per cent of dealerships in the country for customer loyalty. Increasing sales and customer relations meant being allocated more bikes from Harley Davidson, allowing the business to grow further still.
Using skills developed at GoDaddy, Bob was able to refocus the business into one of customer experience. Soft selling and educating customers became the order of the day and business picked up because of that. One upside to this that has benefited both customers and local employees is Bob’s guarantee of work to the technicians that he has on the books. They’re guaranteed 40 hours of work a week, even if the job sheets aren’t there to support this. It means that customers are never left waiting for work to be carried out on their bikes and as a result, none of the technicians ever end up being paid to stand around and do nothing as local bikers know they’ll get prompt service whenever they need it. Conventional business methods are great if you want to run a conventional business, as per the norm with Bob, his approach is different. The results and reputation of that dealership in particular are testament to the success of how he runs things. “To be successful in business, both your employees and your customers need to be enthusiastic about what you offer. I did exactly that at GoDaddy. By investing in my mechanics and staff, I’m now able to draw customers from all over the state. People want to come here to do business, that’s a good thing.”
The fact that there’s a ¼ drag strip next to the Harley dealership means that, not only does Bob get to ‘thoroughly evaluate the performance’ of all of his bikes, but he also uses it to host events throughout the year like ‘Bob’s Biker Bash’. Money from these events goes to the Phoenix Children’s hospital.
Not one to hold back on opportunity, Bob is having what is reputed to be the largest Harley Davidson dealership on the planet built. With everything under one roof, from tattoos and burgers to big money custom builds and everything in between, you can be sure that like everything else Bob does, it’ll have the very best chance of success.
We asked Bob if there was a bike he wouldn’t want to own? “There’s no bike I wouldn’t have, though I probably wouldn’t choose a scooter or an automatic trike. Just because I’m getting older, doesn’t mean I’m ready to slow down”. This rings true when you see that Bob has a Panigale R in his fleet, albeit modified with parts fitted from Spooky Fast, a motorcycle custom shop that Bob set up to cater for everything from custom paint to full on one off specials.
Of course we all have people we admire out there in the bike industry. Bob shows us that they don’t always take shape in the form of the fastest racer on TV on a Sunday or that guy at your local bike meet that can hook third gear on the back wheel whenever he feels like it. It’s men like Bob, taking the time to invest in what was once just a passion, and turning it into regular jobs for people in his area that deserve a little recognition every now and then.
Words: Johnatsuperbike Images: Source