I realize I am late on this post, but your mama always said I was better late than I was early… Bada bing!
Seriously though, the H.A.M.B. Alliance passed the one-year mark on July 1. In that year, we’ve seen Alliance memberships grow at a good rate and we’ve seen the number of vendors offering discounts expand from 11 to over 40. By all accounts, it has been a tremendous success and I’ve never been more excited about what I am doing and the future.
Yeah, the future… But first, I thought it would be fun to tell an important story that I’ve never written about – the birth of the H.A.M.B. Alliance.
It was in the fall of 2001 and the H.A.M.B. was growing at a rate that just scared the hell out of me. I was never concerned about the community out growing itself, but I was VERY concerned about how to pay for it all. As a college student, my dispensable income was pretty minimal and my vision for the future wasn’t as clear as I would have liked it to be. Around that time, I got to meet someone that I’ve always looked up to – Wally Parks. I was a stuttering mess of nervousness, but I managed to blurt out a few cohesive questions. One answer stuck with me:
“Don’t sell your editorial. Stay true to your audience…”
I knew exactly what Wally was getting at… Any business that relies on advertising as a large percentage of their revenue base is bound to be influenced one way or another. If “Billy Bob’s Speed Shop” is my best customer and puts the most food on my table, then it is only natural to make sure Billy Bob gets preferential treatment in the community, right? At that point, my editorial is sold. I’m cooked. My readers are screwed.
I thought about this problem for years – literally. And then while on the beach in Mexico, I had an idea. Our community is made up of some of the most important people in the automotive world, our traffic numbers are unmatched, and we are constantly courted by companies looking for a way to take advantage. Why not turn the tables? Don’t sell the editorial. Instead, use the power of the community to leverage good deals from companies that stand for the right things.
Honestly, I thought I just had one too many margaritas. Fleeting idea. Never work. Ryan is stupid… and drunk.
I forgot about it until a good pal (and hero #2) asked me about my plans for the future. Steve Hendrickson sounded shocked when I told him I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do. In an effort to salvage some kind of self respect, I mentioned my idea. Steve loved it and his approval breathed new life into the idea.
For the next few months I crunched numbers, did research, thought, thought some more, and then finally – over thought.
“This will never work. We are just a bunch of hoodlums…”
Steve persisted. Almost every month he would send me an email asking about progress and how the software side was shaping up. All the while, he was getting sicker and sicker – lymphoma. A few months before he passed, he sent the email that launched the Alliance.
“Ryan, I’d rather do something and fail miserably than not do anything at all and wonder what if…”
I’m not a religious guy, but I guess I am spiritual in a sense. The day Steve died, Coker Tire agreed to join the Alliance with an incredibly aggressive discount. At that point, I knew we were headed in the right direction.
“This just might work…”
So far, so good… I know a lot of members don’t care about the timing tag or the discounts that come with a membership. They sign up just to support the community. I’m proud of that, but I am even more proud that we have created something with value. A guy that uses his Alliance membership gets more than what he paid for. I never really knew that would happen, but I knew it would have to for this to work.
This first year was dedicated to the Alliance’s first member – Steve Hendrickson. Obviously I owe him more than I can type, but I also owe all of the Alliance members and vendors. You guys go above and beyond and I couldn’t be more appreciative.