John Titman Racing is a family owned and operated company that has grown from humble beginnings into one of Australia’s leading wholesale distributors. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, JTR’s association with Talon products has been a long and mutually beneficial one. Talon recently caught up with JTR founder and owner, John Titman, to chat about his company. Here’s what he had to say.
John Titman Racing was founded back in 1982. As you were still racing professional Speedway, what was the impetus for starting a retail company at that time?
Brisk Sales who were the importers of Weslake and Jawa speedway products at the time were winding back there involvement in competition parts, so I saw an opportunity to open a competition speedway supply business.
Your association with Talon goes back even further than the development of your company. Is it true that you were the first racer to use Talon products? How did the opportunity to use Talon arise?
I was I believe the first Australian and one of the first high profile riders in the 70’s to use Talon products. I believe the late Lew Coffin would have completed some of the early testing on the products. I first met George Sartin at Exeter Speedway when racing for them in the mid- to late 70’s, as George used to often attend our home meetings.
By 1986 you had retired from professional racing and started to focus your attention on your company. What were your initial ambitions?
To build up the business and offer the full range speedway components available in Europe to the racers of Australia.
What skills did you take from racing and apply to your business?
To be professional and offer quality products, with great service.
JTR is the longest standing distributor of Talon. Based on your experience and background, do you have any impact on the research and design of Talon products?
We have had a lot of input over the years and tested many pre-production products. Certainly in the 80’s and 90’s I worked closely with George on the development of many new products. In recent years my son Kevin has had involvement with new products, packaging, marketing etc, which is so important in today’s market.
What would you class as the most significant milestones for JTR pre 2000?
Certainly personally for me it was to create the business from scratch and in the mid-90’s we built our first purpose built 400 square metre warehouse, which was the first step of our expansion as a company. The building of this warehouse allowed us to carry more stock, expand our machining centre and have room for further expansion.
For approximately half of the company’s history, JTR focussed on selling speedway products. However, by the year 2000 your focus changed to wholesale importation, with a strong focus on Talon. What factors led to this decision?
Motorcycle speedway racing was in decline around 2000. Most of the Speedway tracks had migrated to a clay surface for the cars and the bike numbers were in major decline. At the same time Talon had expanded heavily into motocross products and we could see the motocross market in Australia was strong. We made a business decision to switch the focus of the company to motocross products and to do that meant we also needed to generate dealer support to stock our products. This meant becoming a wholesale supplier rather than retailer.
JTR is a family business. What do you see as the major advantages and disadvantages of working with family?
Certainly trusting the people you work with is the major key, building a legacy is something that is also nice. I am lucky that my son and now daughter work actively in the company. In addition, of my grandchildren two of the boys have a strong interest in motorcycles, so it would be nice to see in 30 years that the company still in the family. I wouldn’t say there are any major disadvantages. We have grown rapidly as a company in the past 15 years, however, I guess outside investment would allow you to grow further and faster- it’s just not something that we have entertained, but I can see why some companies do it.
JTR has a reputation in the Australian market as the ‘Kings of Bling’. Is this an accurate description of the products you import? Why/why not?
Probably not an accurate description, but one we have used from time to time ourselves years ago. Certainly we do supply a wide range of ‘bling’ parts, however, we like to think of ourselves as the leading supplier of ‘hard parts’ in the Australian motorcycle industry- we distribute for 15 international brands these days. Wheels are still a major part of the company and we still strive to offer the widest range of model, size, colour, price options on the market, and we are constantly looking for new brands and products that fit the mould of the JTR product range.
In your opinion, what are the key elements of Talon products that set them apart from their competitors?
For JTR, the two flagship products in the Talon range are the Radiallite sprockets and the Pro Billet hub. In sprockets you have a unique design in the ‘Radiallite’ sprocket and one that has been bulletproof for over 20 years, with one of, if not the widest range of colours, sizes and models of any brand. This ensures that Talon is one of the leading sprocket suppliers in the world.
The ‘Pro Billet hub’ is virtually the same as the sprocket. It has been in existence for over 20 years, has a solid design, three year warranty, widest range of fitments and colours on the market. When custom built with Bulldog spokes and the rim of your choice, you have the best wheel money can buy!
The internet and social media is obviously a big part of any company in today’s environment. How does JTR target this audience? For example, I noticed that you have a ‘Book of Hard Parts’ on your website for dealers to use. Overall, how much importance do you place on your online presence?
Difficult question, we see the internet as a very powerful tool, however, there will always be a place for print media and never a day without magazines. Certainly it is important for the public to be able to view the full range products that we offer, as it is impossible for dealers to stock our full range of parts, hence the catalogue is online. We use Facebook, Instagram and internet adverts to promote our products, however, it is a very difficult media to measure in terms of sales. We are strongly focused on building the brands and their image that we distribute in this country, not just JTR as a company.
On a global scale, how does the Australian market compare to the rest of the world in regard to the sale of Talon products?
I believe that of the past seven years, JTR has been the largest Talon distributor in the world in all but one of those years. This is a major feather in our cap when you compare the size of markets like the USA and France. We certainly focus on selling as many Talon products as possible, be that sprockets and wheels as discussed above. While I understand that some countries like the USA may sell more wheels than JTR, I certainly think that we have the best cross section of sales. Our Talon sales are something that we are very proud of and are hoping to grow further in the future.
How many people are currently employed by JTR?
JTR currently employs 18 people.
How does JTR promote Talon products in Australia?
Current advertising is in ADB & Dirt Action magazines and the Full Noise website, as well as monthly dealer mail outs. We have also produced our own DL flyers which are distributed to dealers nationally to give away to customers and an A2 Talon wheel poster to display in shops to promote our customised range of Talon wheels.
Talon supports many racers from all the world. Who are the most famous Australian racers supported by Talon?
Currently at the moment we are not actually supporting any race teams in full in this country. For over 10 years we did support the Factory KTM racing team in this country, as well as Kawasaki Australia and Serco Yamaha. In recent years we have supported enduro riders such as Ben Grabham, AJ Roberts and Brad Williscroft. Interestingly, in the past five years Talon wheels in this country have won the Australian Supercross and Motocross Championships, as well as the Australian Safari, 4 Day, Hattah Rally and Finke Desert race with various riders, which allows us to constantly R&D.
What are the future goals for JTR?
Certainly growth is still a major part of our current strategy. We have just expanded to two warehouse locations in an effort to carry more inventory. We have had some new brands come on board in the past 12 months and currently the focus is to build all the brands that we are now distributing for further improvement. Most companies these days are releasing more new products annually, so the key for JTR is to ensure that we are doing the best possible job of distribution. There are some more things that we have planned for the future that are very exciting; time doesn’t stand still at JTR!
Pictures courtesy of John Titman Racing website. Find out more information here: http://www.jtr.com.au/