Aaron Smith | Building an American Dream
In a small corner office – adjacent to an immense showroom – Aaron Smith, an entrepreneur at heart, displayed his unmistakable passion for anything power sports, as he retold his journey from passionate teenager to successful owner of multiple power sports stores.
“I don’t think I’m anything special. I think I’ve just stuck with something long enough that I’ve gotten there,” the 35-year-old said. “It hasn’t been easy. I’ve been down as much as I’ve been up over the last 17 years.”
Directly after high school graduation, Aaron started his first business venture: purchasing and renting out personal watercraft for the summer and selling them after the season ended.
“I felt like the biggest success story ever,” Aaron said.
Around the same time, Aaron was hired as a salesman at the local shop in Ogden, Utah. Although he had very little experience, Aaron found a lot of success during those early years. He sold thousands of dollars worth of personal watercraft at his first boat show, and later won a contest hosted by Honda naming him as one of the top eight salesmen in the United States.
“I was eighteen at the time,” Aaron said. “I kind of figured out this was for me, between the passion, the success I was seeing at the boat show, and the Race to Convention Contest.”
In 2003, a power sports store in St. George hired Aaron as a sale manager. Aaron recognized the market was undervalued and jumped at the opportunity.
Combining passion, enthusiasm, and perfect market conditions, Aaron and his team soared sales and quickly became the company’s highest producing store.
As his success mounted, Aaron dreamt of purchasing a store of his own. His dream turned to reality when he was given the chance to buy a store in Cedar City. After a lot of hard work Aaron paid for the store in Cedar in seven months.
Within a year and a half, the store’s success caught the attention of an auto group. They bought the store at the height of the economy, before the recession hit hard.
Aaron then bought two stores in Idaho while remaining an absentee owner in Southern Utah.
“And the wheels came off,” Aaron recalled. “The market fell apart. I probably should have stayed out of the business, but I got back into the business in Idaho.”
After watching the stores flounder for some time, Aaron knew he had to do something drastic to bounce back.
“I felt like I had hit the reset button and was starting from zero,” he said. “The companies weren’t doing well. The market wasn’t good.”
One day he realized the boat show was coming to Salt Lake City.
Aaron said he thought, “I’ve got to go back to my roots. Got to go back to the boat show. Got to get back to what brought this passion and what got me into the industry.”
So he took a risk. He bought dozens of personal watercraft and asked old managers and staff to come up and sell for a week working from 4 a.m. to midnight the entire show. By the end of the week, Aaron and his team sold 106 personal watercraft, setting a boat show record.
“It was there we turned the corner as a company,” Aaron said. “We got a really great reputation. The people who bought personal watercraft from us started buying motorcycles from us and we expanded.”
After selling the Idaho stores, Aaron returned to St. George. “In the back of my mind the St. George market was really important … to me,” he said.
In fall 2010, he bought a local power sports store in St. George, expending most of his financial resources. “I’ve always been on this rollercoaster of reinvesting. I’m shoving my chips in all the time,” he said.
Although he has experienced phenomenal success, Aaron realized that success is usually accompanied by times of discouragement and even failure.
“It’s easy to get down and give up,” Aaron said. “I think maybe that’s what separated me from other people: … when the industry was down and the market was down, I decided I was going to find a different way to do it than everybody else.”