5 business lessons that accelerated Norton Motorcycles into the fast lane

When Stuart Garner bought the Norton Motorcycles business in 2008, many thought he was destined to fail. Despite its iconic reputation, Norton had struggled since the 1970s, finally going into liquidation in 1992.

But Stuart had held on to a dream to buy Norton for years, tracking it down to a US investment banker, Ollie Curme, who had poured millions of his own money into consolidating Norton trademarks. 

One day in 2008, he called Stuart to tell him the Norton brand would be sold in just five days. Stuart got on a plane that evening so he could get the business back on track, from the ground up. 

Now going from strength-to-strength, Stuart has relaunched Norton Motorcycles at its Donington Park factory in the Midlands, with a full staff in place, and over 2000 units on order of the 961 Commando, a redeveloped version of the original Norton Commando. Driven to achieve significant growth, the brand has also been expanded to include merchandise and clothing.
The five strands of my success

Knowing your brand is key: Don’t be afraid of creating an aspirational, luxury brand. People are increasingly looking at the high-end, seeking out quality. We are focused completely on a niche market. 

  1. Building a great team: The tenacity, initiative and drive of our team has had an immeasurable impact on our success. It has fed down to our suppliers, and also to our customers.
  2. Exploiting our heritage (but not being weighed down by it): Our customers are invested in our brand, in its history, and in the authentic look and feel of the bikes. But we are at the leading edge of innovation and modern production values.
  3. Getting the right suppliers: A supportive supply chain, committed to what you are trying to do, will go that bit further for you. It doesn’t matter how much funding you have if your suppliers are not bothered about your business. 
  4. Putting the right finance in place: Santander has put one of the last pieces of the puzzle in place for us, agreeing an Export Enterprise Finance Guarantee – the first written in the UK. It fitted our requirements perfectly.

 Stuart Garner, Norton Motorcycles
Find out more about Norton Motorcycles at: www.nortonmotorcycles.com


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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK