Bill Berroth Is Mr. Motonation - Feature Review - Dirt Rider

The motorcycle industry has a number of different jobs that require expertise from being a factory rider, to working the parts counter at dealership. Bill Berroth has worn just about every hat in the industry throughout his career. The common denominator throughout his career has been his passion for riding motorcycles.Berroth started out racing motocross, but the short moto format was not enough saddle time to satisfy him. He was soon heavily involved with offroad racing, competing in Hare Scrambles and Enduros. He eventually gained enough support to race fulltime as a professional offroad rider. After a three-year stint of racing professionally, he parlayed some of his contacts into a job within the industry.Berroth worked as a shop mechanic, a factory mechanic for KTM, and marketing manager at Husky before finding a long-term position at Acerbis. When he started helping Acerbis develop their brand in America, they only had about a dozen employees worldwide. When he left 15 years later, the company had grown to a few hundred employees. Satisfied with what he was able to accomplish there, he was ready to try something new. Berroth left without any solid plans for the future, but shortly after leaving, longtime friend Tom Webb called and offered him a position as the Director of Marketing at FMF Racing. Shocked when they met his demands, Berroth took on his next venture. However, shortly after starting at FMF, Berroth heard that Acerbis (the US distributors for SIDI boots) and SIDI of Italy were breaking ties. Right after starting at FMF, he took a leave of absence to jump a flight to Europe in hopes of striking a deal with SIDI of Italy as the US distributor. He made a deal with SIDI Italy, but only had a short amount of time to raise the large sum of money he promised. He rounded up some investors and quickly created Motonation. For the next four years Berroth worked at FMF full-time, while SIDI's image gained strength in America. Four years later, Berroth has developed the SIDI brand into the number one street bike boot in America, and their offroad sales continue to grow exponentially every year.Berroth recently resigned from FMF, because of the building momentum of Motonation. The deciding factor came when he walked out to his workshop, and glanced at his KTM, noticing the top of the air filter was completely dry. It had been so long since his last ride, all the oil had drained to the bottom since he had last serviced it. Right then he new it was time to make a change.Recently we took a trip down to the Motonation headquarters to get a firsthand look at the facility. Having built a solid relationship with Alex Baylon and all the good guys at Motonation, we knew our tour would be filled with surprises. Baylon and the guys reached deep into their bag of tricks to have some fun with Andy Taylor and myself. We opened the front door upon arrival, and the entire staff pelted us with hundreds of rubber bouncy balls mixed with a few firecrackers. Let's just say Motonation isn't just like any other company. After a few good laughs, we broke out the tape recorder and sat down with Berroth to see how he created this monster.MXr - In the past year, SIDI America has gotten very aggressive with their race support, and you now have a motorhome that travels to all the big offroad and street event. Why did you guys suddenly get so serious about making an appearance at the races?BB - SIDI's are developed as racing boots. A lot us here at SIDI are riders, and I got to where I am today by riding motorcycles. We've always had our sole into racing (pun intended.) About a year ago we put together a SIDI Support vehicle that travels around the country trying to hit a little of everything we are part of. One of the philosophies when we started Motonation was to really focus our attention on a few key team riders. We treat these guys like our teammates and partners, and we really try to support and promote them to the fullest. Whether it's a road race or motocross deal, we want pro riders to look at SIDI as one of the cool things to have in their sponsorship portfolio. We have three riders that we virtually have lifetime agreements with. We take their feedback of what they think of the boot, and make changes based off of racer input. We think we have a very strong word of mouth, and people who wear SIDI boots continue to support the brand.MXr - What's your vision of Motonation at it's full potential?BB - We don't aspire to be the next big national distributor. I want to have a nice, fun and profitable company for the owners and employees. There is a certain cap to stay within to sustain those guidelines. I think we have the potential to become a very large distributor with many lines. We certainly get many proposals from people who would like us to take on their brand, but I think as you get big and diverse you start to lose personality and focus. I want to be the best at what we select. We stayed with only SIDI for most of our history. We've since branched out to the Set-Up brand of boots. It's a different brand name under the SIDI and Motonation ownership, so it's not that far from home. It's more of an economy branded boot that offers a good value for the price. Where with the SIDI product, we build it to be the best, and the price is determined when we are finished making the boot. We do our best to make sure they are affordable. A few years ago we also introduced the Wacker hand guards. Long-term, our future lays in a limited number of high-end brands like SIDI.MXr - Are you trying to build the company into more of a hands-off role, or since you are no longer working at FMF, will you get more involved with Motonation?BB - It's not necessarily my plan to take on a bigger role, but it will probably evolve that way. My style is I don't really stop working. I don't punch a clock, and I don't make my employee's punch a clock. My only demands are, here's your job, here's your goal and here's your timeline. If they tell me they will do it by an agreed deadline, as far as I'm concerned they have made me a promise and they've got to do it. If they give me their word I expect them to do it. If they get it done they will be rewarded, and if not that's different. That is how I work also. I'll probably still work the 12 to 14-hour days I always have, but now I'm able to focus all my time on one brand instead of potentially short changing both. One of the reasons I left FMF is because they were both getting big enough it was hard to cover everything. Don Emler is a good friend of mine as well as one of my partners at Motonation, and I don't want to shortchange him or FMF in any way. I felt that if I didn't change something soon I would begin to shortchange FMF, and that isn't right. MXr - What's the most satisfying part of watching Motonation continually evolve?BB - The most satisfying thing personally is seeing the marketing plan for our dealers and riders working. Our dealers are our partners and our friends. We have relationships with our riders that go beyond the normal rider relationship. Some of the riders still don't understand our system. Most of our deals are done with nothing more than a handshake. Alex (Baylon) and I met David Vuillemin for lunch and we made the deal on a handshake. He told his attorney that is the way it is. We build relationships, and seeing that stick with the vendors, dealers and riders is most satisfying.MXr - What was your best experience as a racer?BB - I was racing a Rally one time and we had to cover 700 miles on one particular day. I fell asleep while riding and veered off the road and crashed in a farmer's field. I didn't wake up until I hit the ground. At that point I still had 200 miles left so I teamed up with Heinz Kinigadner, who I had wrenched for, and we rode together the rest of the way

We shot this action photo of Alex Baylon seconds before this Border Patrol Agent took him into custody. Hard till the end, Baylon throws his neighborhood gang sign in defiance. Luckily for Baylon, this SIDI soldier was released, and now, thanks to Grey Davis, he has a California driver's license.
Bill Berroth stands in front of his arsenal of SIDI boots.
SIDI boots have come a long way since their beginning. SIDI foot protection has come along way since day one. The Motonation headquarters has a collection of vintage SIDI boots.