Builder Profile: Johnny Scheff
If you’re a sports fan, you’ve no doubt heard the phrase “it’s better to be lucky than good”. But what if you’re both? Five minutes into any conversation with Johnny Scheff, the man behind Motoworks Chicago — your Iron Moto Challenge winner, Calle Maton — and it becomes pretty clear: He’s damn good at what he does, but he’s convinced it has a lot to do with luck.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world. Seriously, I must have horseshoes up my ass!” Johnny’s shop — don’t dare call it a dealership –, Motoworks Chicago, has just celebrated its first decade in business. What started out as an actual bike shop, somewhere riders could go to get some work done and peruse some used bikes, has transformed into one of Chicago’s most successful showrooms. In 2008, when gas prices exploded, Johnny picked up a Vespa franchise and things started to roll. “When gas prices spiked, Americans reacted to it by doing what they (we) do best. They started buying other shit to deal with the problem”. Scooters sales went through the roof. In 2010, a Triumph franchise was added and, within four short years, Motoworks Chicago is among their best. Ducati was next, in 2012, and again, the pattern repeats itself — Ducati is currently enjoying their third consecutive year of substantial sales growth in the U.S. and Triumph North America has been booming for 29 months of sales growth, a 157% increase in revenue and almost doubled the annual volume of new motorcycle sales in North America — Like he said: “lucky”.
Just this last spring, Johnny joined Ernie Vigil and the Icon Raiden team on their entry into the Norra Mexican 1000. In just a few short weeks, he’ll be saddling up again to tackle the 4700 mile trek from Seattle to Anchorage. If you make to the Barber Vintage Festival (and you really should), you’ll find Johnny, racing, on the track. “Bikes are my thing. If the money is there, at that moment, I’ll spend it”. Johnny’s former life was spent as a trader, something he says he did just well enough to open some doors for himself. So when one of those doors led to owning his own motorcycle shop, he jumped in with both feet. “I know plenty of people that wanted to be happy, but kept putting it off until tomorrow. What’s the point in waiting? It didn’t work out for a lot of those guys, but I was able to turn my lifestyle into a way to make a living”.
Again, he’ll claim its luck but theres more to it than that. He knows the value of a team and truly appreciates the contributions of individuals. Johnny’s early experiences with dealerships were never encouraging for him, so when given the chance, he made sure his shop would be different. It started by surrounding himself with some like-minded, talented people. His team focused on their customers, listened to what they wanted and always tried to deliver as best they could. “Our customers were incredibly patient with us in the early days. We made our fair share of mistakes but they stuck with us, gave us the time to fix things and came back”. Part of the reasoning behind that continued trust and success stems from the entire Motoworks Chicago Team’s attitude. They own their mistakes. There’s no hiding from a screw up, “you come clean, fix things and move on. People respect honesty. We all have so much gratitude for the patience of our customers”. That attitude and approach to business has garnered Motoworks Chicago a fivefold increase in value sales — and you can’t do that without being pretty good.
When we asked him about winning the Iron Moto Challenge, Johnny said he was incredibly proud. “The best part about winning with this build is how much of a blast we had doing it. Technicians have a lot of pressure to keep our customers on the road this time of year, so adding things on to that with a short notice deadline can be tricky, but our whole group came together to make things work… for me, the best part was having them all there, being able to do this all together, outside at Motoblot — it was an amazing experience and to notch a win while having that much fun, thats just awesome”.
**Photo Credit to Alex Hawn**