I was lucky enough to have the company reach out and suggest an interview with Ken Murphy the CEO. Murphy is relatively new to the company. He came from a non-motorcycle background, but his success as a CEO is undeniable. He’s been CEO of Comoto for about six months now, so I was excited to talk to him about how things were going and the move to take on J&P Cycles.
Ken Murphy’s Time So Far With Comoto
Ken told me that the shift for him definitely came with some challenges but they were challenges that he somewhat expected and challenges that people have been able to help him overcome.
“Obviously, I’ve asked a ton of questions and will continue to ask a ton of questions and read as much as I can,” Murphy said. “I’m certainly a novice in the industry, but I’m really encouraged by what I see as opportunities not just for our business but the industry at large.”
He said that right now it’s just about trying to ascertain what is working really well and identifying what things the company can do better.
Murphy comes to the business without being a motorcyclist. Some of our readers expressed concerns about that. I myself was a bit concerned, but Murphy said he has his motorcycle license now and is actively shopping for a bike.
“I’ve been received relatively warmly by folks in the industry and I’m grateful for that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to riding more.”
It will be interesting to see if Murphy is active at company events or industry events and how involved he becomes with riding and riders. I got the impression he was genuinely interested in doing more riding.
While he probably didn’t have much of a choice as to whether or not he was going to get the license and bike from a PR standpoint, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Revzilla publicize the fact that he’s out there on two wheels in the future.
The Move to Aquire J&P Cycles
When it comes to the J&P Cycles acquisition Muphy said that the move to acquire the company made a lot of sense for Comoto as a supplement to Revzilla and CycleGear.
“First and foremost is strategically we look at J&P Cycles as very complementary to what we’re doing in the Revzilla business and the CycleGear business,” Murphy said. “There is some overlap between companies, but in J&P Cycles we see the clear market leader in the very important V-twin segment.”
He said that J&P Cycles has such deep market penetration into the V-twin segment that it just made sense. He said Revzilla and CycleGear could have invested heavily into that portion of the market, but there was no guarantee they would have achieved the same success that J&P Cycles has seen.
Speaking of Comoto as a whole, Murphy said he wants to dominate the space. “I want to be in first place in all of the segments, and we’re not there yet but this goes a long way towards helping us expand that market leadership.”
The idea behind Comoto is for the parent company to operate more or less behind the scenes. Murphy said he wants the brands to operate as they have for the most part, though there will be changes on the back end from an operational standpoint as needed.
“There’s such an appreciation and loyalty and passion in each of these brands and for each of these brands,” Murphy said. “To me, however many brands we end up having, I want to make sure we can protect and preserve the legacy attributes of those brands.”
Murphy did say he wants to offer improvements to customers whenever possible. One thing he pointed to was the fact that J&P Cycles distributes currently from a central location in Kentucky. Revzilla and CycleGear have warehouses in multiple areas of the country. By allowing J&P Cycles products to ship from those other warehouses, the customer can reap the benefits of having a distribution center close to them. This could mean shorter shipping times and other benefits for the end customer.
J&P Cycles sounded like it was a really natural fit. Murphy said the CEO of J&P Cycles wants to stay on with the business and that the company’s commitment to customer service is what drew Comoto to J&P in the first place.
Murphy also talked about expanding the brick and mortar side of the business. He said stores for CycleGear are an important part of the business and J&P Cycles has a few locations as well.
“If we can be where riders are, and they have a need that we can fulfill, we think that’s an opportunity,” he said. “The rumors of the brick and mortar apocalypse are probably a little overplayed.
Murphy said that with the integration of all three brands, Comoto will likely work towards directing Revzilla customers to a CycleGear store or a J&P Cycle store when that could be advantageous. He said having all of the brands under one roof allows for some cross operation benefits there as well.
“As I look at the future of Comoto, we’re certainly going to invest digitally and in our technology and backend logistics, but we’re going to continue growing in brick and mortar as well because I’ve seen firsthand the value that can come from that when you put the customer at the front of that decision.”
The Future for Comoto and Its Brands
In the short term, the future is fairly clear for Murphy, Comoto, and its various brands. The company will be working to make everything work well from an operations standpoint. When I asked if Comoto would acquire more companies, Murphy said he would like to approach acquisitions opportunistically.
Basically, if the right company came up and the timing was right and all the details made sense then Comoto might buy other companies. However, he didn’t say Comoto was looking at any other businesses at the moment.
“Probably what you’ll see unfold is some combination of building out segments and maybe buying our way into others as well,” Murphy said.
I also asked Murphy what he thinks of the technological changes happening in the industry with smart gear and electric bikes. While Murphy didn’t say much concrete here about Comoto’s plans he did say that the changes in the industry are on his and his team’s radar. “I think as a general rule of thumb, any new advance in technology is a win for the industry,” he said.
He went on to say that there may be some room for partnerships down the road, but right now the company will focus on its key competencies, which are gear and accessories.
It will be interesting to see if there are any notable changes for the customer-facing side of the business as things progress. I think Murphy sounds like a smart guy. He knows Comoto has three powerful brands and wants to let them flourish. My gut tells me that customers will only see improved service and better prices, but time will tell where things go.
If any new developments happen with Comoto or any of its brands, I’ll be there to report on it, and I’ll probably be bugging Mr. Murphy for another interview.