Page 3: Riding The American Dream
Untitled 3 Reader Comments  

"Dan Hanlon holds nothing back as he describes the tremendous highs and lows of launching and starting a business. He takes us on the wild ride of entrepreneurship that digs deep into the inside operations of putting together a management team, locating funding, and building business relationships both externally and internally that share his vision. His entire story gives us a rich account of his passion and struggles that are often not profiled of today’s entrepreneur. A must-read!"

— Jill Kickul
Elizabeth J. McCandless Professor of Entrepreneurship
Simmons School of Management
Boston, MA, USA

"Dan Hanlon's BigX Book is worth a read. If you're a business student, or a budding entrepreneur, or a small manufacturer, you'll find this book worth reading. Hanlon, who holds an MBA, writes in a relaxed conversational style. 'Do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, and for how much you said it would cost.' That's his business motto, and that's the strategy he used with investors. A final comment: 'It was a helluva ride. Always pursue your dreams. I do,' he writes. I still think you guys did a great job. Just skated too long on thin ice; no margin of error. But it's a shame the great drive didn't get you a winning touchdown."

— Joe Delmont
Powersports Business
The First Read of Today's Powersports Leaders

"That was one hell of an interesting book. You have a very good, easy to follow and digest writing style. When EH was up and running, I felt I knew about as much as an outsider could know about the company. The book filled in many of the blanks. It was really a human story after all. I knew you were not out to scam anyone, and you were a man of your word. You kept it--from the moment I met you in Daytona Beach Bike Week at the first ever public rides of the Super X. I am proud to have written about your efforts to build the company, and I would do so again--without reservation."

— Richard Truett
Former reporter: Orlando Sentinel
Presently: Engineering Reporter
Automotive News
Detroit, Michigan

"A great business read. Hanlon maps out a real business plan that every entrepreneur should mirror. It is multi-dimensional and clearly shares the challenges of a start-up CEO. Hanlon is truly a marketing and team building genius, who takes on Harley Davidson and Wall Street and nearly wins."

— Brian Anderson, CEO
Anderson Air Cargo

"Given the ample historical evidence in both the motorcycle and automobile industries (Tucker, DeLorean, Bricklin) that the odds are between slim and none that an all-new motor vehicle can be produced and brought to market in America, why would anyone even try? Dan Hanlon reveals from the outset, he knew his chances for success would be low. Those who risk all, including friends, family, and reputation, to create a new motor vehicle are following a dream that defies logic, prudence, and all odds. But this is not to suggest they are crazy or that they are fools. To the contrary, American industry and culture have been driven by personal courage and the entrepreneurial spirit, and our greatest heroes are those who have followed their dreams.

'Riding The American Dream' has already been selected as recommended reading by one business school, and surely will be by others. However, this is not to say it is egg-heady. At 401 pages, it is not a casual read, but it can be enlightening to anyone, and should be required reading for students of business, industrial engineering, and corporate strategic planning."

— Ed Youngblood
Former CEO: American Motorcycle Association
Inductee: National Motorcycle Hall of Fame
Acclaimed Author & Museum Curator

"I really enjoyed the book and the tragic tale it told about the rebirth and untimely death of one of the greatest motorcycle brands in history. This cautionary and informative story should be read by entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business, and anyone hoping to enter the cut-throat field of motorcycle manufacturing. A good read."

— Marc Ballon
Former Reporter: Inc. Magazine
Former Reporter: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles, CA

"Riding The American Dream is a perfect title for this book. Comparisons have been drawn to Tucker and other wild eyed American Dreamers. I found the book to be to the point and truthful and written with a bit of biker flare. It takes a special kind of person to challenge the gorillas, to dare to make a change to industry, community and country.

Dan describes himself as 'A man with an attitude, educated, and a gear head.' Knowing Dan I would agree with this summation. One thing that comes out of this book is the fact people like this don’t do it for money they do it because they are rebels and feel the need to create. Dan accomplished just what he set out to do. He and his 'Road Crew' built an OEM motorcycle that is better, American made and grass roots in conception. It’s an American victory and tragedy all rolled into a seven year spread.

Money is fuel for the machine and money buys you time – the race was underway and they were winning until the fuel ran out, literally with the finish line in plain sight. He has suffered road rash but will live to fight another day."

— Norm Kokes
New Prague, MN

"Some of the best books ever, are the ones that friends give me. Of course, it helps to have smart friends! My brother bought an Excelsior-Henderson motorcycle. He loves it. Convincing my other brother to buy all three of us Dan Hanlon's book.

It is first of all, a great recap of the seven plus years of E-H's struggle from the man at the helm. But it really is a great business "how to" or perhaps "how not to" launch a capital intensive manufacturing business. The tales of fund raising are not for the faint of heart.

Serious about a startup business? Read this book first. It is so fast paced, that I was able to read the whole 401 pages in just two sessions. Some great photos included, as well as some corporate documents like the list of E-H dealers.

Even if you are not going for a capital intensive venture, it will still help. The passages on corporate culture were great. And the interaction with Wall Street was fun reading. Oh yea, everyone that knows anything about E-H has second guessed Hanlon. He convinced me that every single criticism was for the most part, untrue. One example is the building. It just 'looks' expensive. The true costs were amazingly low.

If you are serious about business and enjoy motorcycles [riding or watching them ride down the street], this is a must have. One of my top twenty picks."

— Jeff "SKI" Kinsey, ATM, Jonah
Former CEO: LLC
Former Publisher: TOCreview Magazine
Hilton Head Island, SC

"Riding-The-American-Dream' describes a story about one of the last Pioneers of American Industry to roll the dice against insurmountable odds. Dan Hanlon's attempt to resurrect the Excelsior-Henderson motorcycle brand to it's once proud glory is well captured as he describes the rise and fall of this historic marque. Despite Dan's best efforts, the odds were stacked against his venture from the beginning.

The reality is that American Manufacturing is at a severe disadvantage against low-wage foreign competition. Compound this with Wall Street's short term performance expectations, and it's not hard to see what happened to E-H. Dan's story serves as a warning call to American Industry. Without an intervention of significant proportion, we will not only see our Manufacturing base disappear, but our Engineering base as well. India, and the Pacific rim countries have low-wage Engineering and Manufacturing resources that we can't compete with. The Government of these countries have underwritten the debt necessary to accomplish this goal. It's only a matter of time before the current trade deficit catches up with Corporate America. Short term profits will be our undoing. In the past three years, 2.5 million U.S.manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Over the next 15 years, U.S. employers will move 3.3 million professional job's to these same countries. Once we lose these jobs, it's unlikely we will ever get them back. It's also unlikely that we will see an up-start U.S. based company like Excelsior Henderson any time soon.

Fortunately, those of us who chose to take a gamble on Excelsior-Henderson, now own motorcycles that capture the essence of true American Soul, and will for years to come."

— J. P. McCarthy
Product Engineer
DaimlerChrysler Corporation
Detroit, MI

"Dan Hanlon's 'Riding The American Dream' is much more than the success story of building the first American proprietary motorcycle in 75 years. It is a entrepreneurial blueprint of success on how to build a business.

Read about a visionary with daring ingenuity fighting the good fight the right and honest way with integrity that will inspire! Where actions were bold but mouths were not. Feel the passion of Road Crew Members (employees & volunteers) willing to give all they had, even if they didn't have much to give. Think 'outside the box' studying the proactive business philosophy in which 'No' only means not today and 'Can't Be Done' simply means just hasn't been done yet.

Unfortunately failing before it had a chance to succeed, the tale of Excelsior-Henderson is a compelling story about pursuing the American Dream and an inspiration to all walks of life.

Although 401 pages of content, the author's honest and sincere delivery in a simple format make it a quick and entertaining read. Whenever I would set it down my wife would grab it and I'd have to wait for an opportunity to steal it back. I barely managed to finish it before she did!"

— Thomas Niederer
Captain Northwest Airlines

“Dan tells it like it was because that’s who he is. Great story, I read through the night because I could not put the book down until the last page was consumed. The story isn’t just about a motorcycle company, it’s more… Family, friends, competition, employees, media, fund raising, recruiting, building and most importantly keeping the ‘American Dream’ in focus. I invited my teenage son to attend the second stockholder meeting, because I wanted him to experience the excitement and passion of this young American start up company. He loved it! When you get deeply into this book, you too may become part of the ‘American Dream.’”

— Gary “Jet” Johnson
JET-SAN Consulting

“This book takes the reader on a Sturgis to Daytona sized motorcycle ride through the entrepreneurial process. From beginning to end, you experience the country values, strength and integrity that Dan Hanlon and his team brought to the Excelsior-Henderson success story. There are many reasons you should read this book, highlight passages, and bend the corner on a page or two:

1. You wish to become a business owner someday,
2. You’re inspired by people that pursue their dreams,
3. Or, you simply love motorcycles.

“Only in America do we take for granted that ‘NO!’ doesn’t mean never, and as another speaker said recently, ‘...pursue your dreams with the mind of a baby and never be constrained by your history.’ This cultural attribute is as American as grabbing the front brake, cracking the throttle on a Weslake engine, and filling the air with the sound and smell of rubber and asphalt. If you don’t have oil and gas running through your veins when you start reading this book, you certainly will by the end of it. Experience through the eyes of Dan Hanlon what it means to ‘Do what you said you would, when you said you would do it, for what you said it would cost.’ You won’t be disappointed and you just might learn something about yourself.”

— Alec Johnson
Asst. Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies
Graduate and Undergraduate
University of St. Thomas

“A Great Ride! Dan shared his Excelsior-Henderson story and entrepreneurial insights with my Management class earlier this year. It was a smashing success and a valuable experience for all. He does it again—with great aplomb—in Riding the American Dream. Honest, educational, and a compelling read. This book is sure to appeal to educators, students, followers of business and management, and motorcycle enthusiasts alike. Without a doubt, I’m recommending it to my peers and students, and am looking forward to integrating the insights and lessons within into my business courses in the coming year.”

— Kristen M. Heimerl, MBA, MS
Community Faculty, Metropolitan State University

"Riding the American Dream is an interesting, energetic business read and exemplifies the many financial barriers to entry in the manufacturing industry of new products in today’s high tech driven industry. Dan Hanlon has lived the story. I would recommend this book to all university and college business majors at the undergraduate or graduate level. His book has valid, small business to large business education merit and would be very beneficial to the interested business entrepreneur. Written with passion to succeed and to live the American Dream! I enjoyed the read and recommend the book without reservation."

— Brad Isberner, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
St. Cloud State University

"If you believe in the power of a dream and the possibility of opportunity, then get set for the ride of your life as you take to the road with Dan Hanlon and set off on an entrepreneurial journey. This book is about building a business - about what it takes to find the passion, nurture its development, build the team, and cope with all the uncertainties that are sure to lie on the road ahead. Dan Hanlon's first-hand account of the trials and tribulations that are part of the American dream of creating something from scratch should be required reading for all who seek to start their own entrepreneurial journeys. A compelling read for entrepreneurs, managers, and anyone who wants to turn a dream into reality - the very essence of American entrepreneurship."

— Dr. Lisa Gundry
Professor of Management
DePaul University
Chicago, IL USA
Author: Breakthrough Teams for Breakthrough Times

“This book tells the real story of the resurrection of an American Legend in the motorcycle industry. Where else but in America could a farm boy from Minnesota raise 100 million dollars, build a state-of-the-art factory and put a completely new, from the ground up, legendary marque back on the streets. The inside scoop on the trials, tribulations and successes of this journey are inspirational, humorous, nostalgic and shared for the first time in this book. As an early employee, it was with great pride that our accomplishments were done not only the Excelsior-Henderson way, but the American way. This books confirms the beliefs of the founder, that became the beliefs of the employees and all others involved in this endeavor, that once you establish a target, you must never waiver from your goal, while still keeping a balance of family and business. I was pleased to be a part of it and enjoyed reading the ‘complete’ story. It answered a lot of questions for me.”

— Jan Crawford
Road Crew Member

“Peel back Excelsior-Henderson’s most-debated and obvious outer layers—the marketing and branding efforts, the media-spun ‘facts’ and rumors, and the bike design, engineering, and factory issues—and you'll find a core of business essentials that steadily drove this company onward despite a business climate equivalent to gale force headwinds, driving rain, and a continually-shifting roadbed—all uphill. Dan reveals his methodical plan that kept his American dream rolling for years beyond what industry ‘experts’ had predicted. He roared right past each of those experts on his way to meeting the next milestone and, ultimately, attaining the impossible—mass production. Seasoned with humorous personal anecdotes, the book is an entrepreneur’s motivational guide to perseverance and creativity in the face of repeated financial challenges, as well as a handbook of business philosophies that can help build a resilient corporate foundation.”

— Tim Leary
Road Crew Member

“I have had the opportunity to read Dan Hanlon’s book and enjoyed it very much. The book is a review, from a business perspective, of the building of an American Dream and the difficulties in making it thrive. It covers the business from the initial concept stages to producing a new American motorcycle. Dan talks about one’s principles and how they play an important role in the decision process of starting a business and making it work. He also talks about the roles of various players that make up the team that is needed to develop and run a business. The book covers the various areas of starting, funding, and running a business from A-Z. It’s too bad Z came so soon in the life of Excelsior-Henderson.

“Many challenges were faced and overcome throughout the life of Excelsior-Henderson. The Super X motorcycle they built was not a clone, but a proprietary motorcycle and was/is a very quality product. A lot was accomplished in the short life of this company and there now exists a ‘family’ of owners that will forever be believers in the Super X.”

— Chuck Barsness
Proud Owner of Super X # 70

“Welcome, I’m very pleased to be able to contribute to this web site. Finally there’s a book detailing the story of the Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycle Manufacturing Company. It was an honor to be asked to be an advance reader of the manuscript of this book. As an early employee of the company, it brought back a flood of memories. Friendships, strong patriotic feelings, the reasons for our existence as a company, our blood, our sweat and our tears. The drive to accomplish the goal of designing and manufacturing the finest heavy-weight cruiser motorcycle in the world. We were able to create in a few short years a unique soul and mystique that other companies take many more years to accomplish. Reading the book also brought back feelings of lost opportunities, unfinished goals, and dramatic life changes. It also made me wonder, what would we be doing today if only we could have stayed in business long enough to fight another day.

As a company ‘Road Crew’ member, the Excelsior-Henderson story is very important to me. Even today, hardly a month goes by that I don’t hear several comments about Excelsior-Henderson. Sometimes the comments are positive, and sometimes they are not. Most of the time the person is just repeating something that they heard from someone else, and the misinformation continues to grow and spread. Since I was a part of the company, I often try to set the record straight. This book does a much better job of telling the story than I could ever do. In my middle management position with the company there were areas that I had no first hand knowledge or personal involvement. This book helped fill in some of those gaps in my understanding.

There is more to this story than the company and its product. The bigger picture is the business principles that went into the design of the company long before there was a product to manufacture or sell. It all starts with a firm foundation. It’s really unfortunate that all companies don’t adhere to these types of disciplines. Imagine a company where people are your greatest asset. This includes your customers, your dealers, your suppliers, and your employees. A company where employees are empowered to succeed and exceed. With empowerment comes the responsibility to perform. Walk the talk. No lip service. Integrity. Say what you plan to do; when and how you plan to accomplish it; and what it will cost to do it. Now get to it, and move on to the next project. I know that I will never truly be fulfilled until I work for another company, like Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycle Manufacturing Company, dedicated to these greater business principles.

It really doesn’t matter what your relationship was to Excelsior-Henderson, or if you’re just a motorcycle aficionado, or if you’re only interested in studying business precepts, you'll enjoy reading this book.”

— Tom Robinson
Road Crew Member

“Entrepreneurship takes vision, ingenuity and most of all, persistence. Riding the American Dream gives an inside look to the effort to resurrect an American motorcycle icon from the past. Moreover, it’s the inside story of an entrepreneur who had to beat the odds to bring the new bike to fruition and the wild ride to keep the company afloat in a mature market dominated by a major brand. Faced with continued obstacles, Excelsior-Henderson founder, Dan Hanlon, shares his experience of not only developing a new motorcycle but also the business side of finding investors, raising capital, creating brand awareness, developing a management team, etc., needed to hit the road running. Those who followed Excelsior-Henderson know the company ending was not rosy but the numerous victories along the way provide valuable business insight of developing a company, particularly raising capital in an adverse business environment.”

— Mike Todd

“WOW: As Paul Harvey says, 'Now, the rest of the story'-- This book is the 'must read' for those that have X's and have been there from the early days. Dan and the Road Crew built a hell of a Motorcycle. As an owner that has three X's, I read this book and 'lived' the dream. Thanks Dan!”

— Jumper
Virginia, USA
Super X Serial Numbers: 0827, 1375, 1968

“Dan's book Riding The American Dream is an inspiration to anyone who is in business or wants to start a business. His advice to 'do what you say you will do when you say you will do it' is not only a good way to conduct yourself in business but also in life.”

— Jim Glasspoole
Minnesota, USA
Local 563

“I just finished reading your book. The trials of faith you had during your journey from conception to completion would have seemed insurmountable to most. As a Super X owner I also ride the American Dream and wouldn't have it any other way. Your concept of 'doing what you say you are going to do' is generally nonexistent in today's environment--but for anyone that hasn't ridden a Super X they wouldn't understand. You delivered as promised the supreme motorcycle manufactured in the USA. The lack of compromise in development, design, and construction produced a quality product that will probably never be equaled. The book should provide the answers to the people on the outside that criticized operations and the shutdown. But your book provided the answers to questions that were left hanging. I can only imagine the emotional rollercoaster seeing your dream come to life only to see it slowly be suffocated a few months later--but as you said in the book the dream will live forever as all of the owners of the bikes continue to ride them proudly, as I do mine.

I met you at Sturgis 2000 where the Road Crew did service work on my Super X and the staff was exactly as presented in your book. They corrected a minor problem with no questions, other than asking me about my impressions of the bike. Dave D. was informative and helpful, Woody was outgoing and friendly, as were you. I left the Excelsior-Henderson eXperience display with: 1) a repaired bike, and 2) meeting the people that had made it happen. The bike currently has 20,000 miles on it and I have as much pride in it now as ever and don't see this bike ever being replaced by any other bike unless I do decide to purchase another Super X--which I do look at often. I wish you well and do want you to know you did make the dream happen and there are a bunch of us out here that still believe in it.”

— Robert Tullis
Super X Number 1207
South Padre Island, TX USA

"Riding the American Dream" is an apt title for Hanlon's book. Who among us hasn't dreamed of starting his own business? For a motorcyclist and an entrepreneur, what could be better than a motorcycle business? Step the dream up a notch and what could be better than building your own motorcycle?

We're not talking just any motorcycle, either, but a proprietary one, with its own unique engine design, its own front forks, fuel tank, and frame. Those are the identifying parts of a motorcycle. They give it its look, its personality, its character.

Dozens of American companies build so-called custom motorcycles, which are little more than an amalgam of replicated Harley Davidson parts. Thousands of individuals do the same every year in their own garages. What Hanlon and his Road Crew did was different. They took a storied name from America's Motorcycle Golden Age, one of the Big Three of American motorcycling, dusted it off and built a motorcycle to live up to it.

They bucked conventional wisdom and built the company, a world class manufacturing facility, and then successfully built the motorcycle. That they could not sustain is a pity. They certainly gave it a valiant effort.

From my perspective as a Manufacturing Engineering Consultant, Hanlon had a viable business plan; he and his team devised a solid manufacturing plan. Like all good project teams, they worked that plan, made-up for lags in it by working harder, and delivered what they promised, product-wise.

In his book, Hanlon gives an honest inside look at the business side of Excelsior Henderson as only he is qualified to do. He's the only one who was there from beginning to end, from the idea to the closed plant and sold assets. He's to be commended for providing answers to many of the criticisms raised during the life and death of the new Excelsior Henderson Motorcycle Manufacturing Company. This volume belongs on the bookshelf of any fan of American motorcycles, and certainly any Excelsior Henderson owner."

— Alan Mayes
Manufacturing Consultant
Freelance Motojournalist
Tullahoma, TN USA

"Anyone who is considering starting a business of his or her own should read your book, 'Riding The American Dream'. Your book is very powerful in describing many of the day-to-day challenges one must face and overcome when trying to get a business off the ground. Your consistent use of a grass roots approach to build and grow the business was effective and innovative. I found your book to be a necessary addition to the course material I am using in my MBA Venture Management program. The experiences you shared in your book about launching your new venture gave me tremendous insight into how a new entrepreneur should execute a business plan and use innovation to overcome obstacles. Your book inspired me to continue forward, pursuing my dreams to launch a business of my own."

— Margaret DePuydt
University of St. Thomas Student
Minneapolis, MN USA

"I had heard of Excelsior-Henderson. So I went on the web and read industry articles about the story of a company that was trying the impossible – and actually doing it. I read about the excitement they were generating, selling merchandise and subsequently, motorcycles. Then I read about Excelsior-Henderson filing for reorganization. This was about nine months ago. I wanted to know more.

When I learned that Dan Hanlon had written a book detailing the EH experience, I ordered it and read it in a day. As a budding entrepreneur, I appreciate Hanlon’s candor on the subject. He laid out the sequence of events – successful and unsuccessful – and is brutally honest about his approach. Any business person could learn from his story."

— Jon Kay
Georgia USA

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