Monday, October 6, 2008

1 year report card...

I realized not too long ago that it has been over one year since I opened shop. I realized it when some folks in the shop asked how long I'd been here. Instead of my usual flip reply of "since 10:00," I contemplated, realized it was September and said, "well, a little over year." Wow, that year went by fast.

Here's a little report card on my first year.

Having a comfortable environment for myself and customers: A.
I feel like cyclists who come in feel welcome and relaxed. Even non-cyclists who come in with their cyclist partner feel at ease and comment on the couches in the "living room."

Having the ability to fix any rider's emergency they experience out on the road: A.
No rider has had to call for a ride. This is important when I'm at the outskirts of the county and the nearest city is at least 1/2 hour away. I've had to fabricate a derailleur hanger. One girl from Australia who was touring the west coast had her trailer welded back together by Steve Potts who happened to be in the shop when she limped in with her bike and trailer. I even loaned one of my road pedals and shoes to a guy who broke a Look Keo pedal axle.

Have an assortment of parts and accessories to meet anyone's needs: B+.
Only a 'B' because there are a few things I don't carry (yet or at all). Things like baggy mountain bike shorts and road pedals have been some items that people have asked for that I don't carry. There are also a lot of items I overstocked or simply initially ordered too many options when I first opened. Those items are rapidly being sold off on my "clearance" rack. Lesson learned.

Keeping up with the accounting aspect of the business: A-.
I know there are some things that I've got to refine or correct. Quick Books is easy, but the way I use it and make bank deposits don't really jive. I've got a lot of "undeposited funds" on the books and need to figure out how to properly manage that aspect. But, I've made sure to pay sales tax to the state on time and correctly and all of my inventory is properly accounted for.

Complete bikes: C.
A friend of mine gave me advice before I opened the door. Far down on his list of necessary things needed to open a shop my size was complete bikes. But I ignored his advice and bought in to some bikes because several people came in and asked for them. Sold those quickly and then sat on the rest of them. Learned my lesson. I am happy, though, with the selection of Raleigh. Every one I brought in left pretty darn quick and I'm working on getting in more - although not too many because the slow season is coming.

Advertising/Exposure: C-.
A website and a blog do so much. What they don't necessarily do is help bring people in the shop from the immediate area. It took me months to get a website up. It took me months to get a sign up above the front door. I don't have a yellow pages ad because, quite frankly, I've got no competition out here and I'm pretty much it as far as bike shops go in West Marin. I do think I need to revise my website but am not sure how to do it and what to change. But, it needs something.

Because I'm on CA 1, there are a lot of cyclists that ride through town. On a weekend with good weather, there may be a hundred or more. And on a weekend when there is an organized ride, hundreds will pass the shop. The problem is I'm not very visible from the street. Sure, if a rider were to glance over, they'd catch a glimpse of some bikes and a sign that says "Black Mountain Cylcles." But it would be a fleeting glance. A sign of some sort on the road should do wonders to attract the cyclists that roll through town. I've got permission to put a sign on the building fronting the street - a grand old brick building. The sign that will be up there will be made from a bike. Now I've just got to figure out how to, safely, hang a bike from the building. This is kind of what it would look like. See that red bit? Yeah, that would be a bike.

Focus: B-.
As much as I've harped on focusing your efforts at others, I've not done such a good job myself. I've had a few people come in the shop within the past month or so and ask what my specialty is. I've not had a good answer for them other than service and a selection of basic parts to get riders out of a jam on the road. I've got to change that and I've some ideas on how I would like to have a much more refined focus for the bike shop. More on this at a later date.

I guess that's about it. Overall, I'd give myself a B for the first year.

(What's playing: Uncle Dave Macon and his Fruit Jar Drinkers Take Me Back To My Old Carolina Home).


Jim G said...

Mike, congrats on your first year! Looking forward to MANY more!!!

Jim G said...

Also, just some fuel for thought: You wrote about not being certain what your specialty is...well, on your website you state it clearly: "At Black Mountain Cycles, service is our specialty" and from the looks of the thoughtful repairs and rebuilds you've blogged about over the past year -- from figuring out ways to make a DA rear derailleur stretch to big cogs, or re-purposing PVC plumbing bits into a new headset for a child's tricycle, I'd say that's true! (Not to mention helping me with that frame alignment!) I can't imagine any other shop bothering to take the time to help those customers, but you did, and it's great! I've really enjoyed your "What's In The Stand Today" entries because of this!

blackmountaincycles said...

Thanks for the kind words, Jim.

And that will always be true - the service aspect. I was probably referring more to the tangible aspect of what the focus of the shop is. A mountain bike shop is full of mountain bikes. A road bike shop is full of road bikes. I've got a menagerie.

Guitar Ted said...

Congrats on your first year, Mike. I hope you are enjoying it as much as you thought.

I'll echo Jim G and say that I am amazed at your level of personalized and thorough service. I am humbled and I have learned a thing or two here. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Dean said...

Howdy Mike:

Congrats on your one year anniversary. My personal wishes for continued success (although I know you won't need it). Wish your shop was out here.

How is Chuck H. doing?

Dean B. sends from Albuquerque, NM

Chris said...

Congrats on the 1st year!

It's hard to do a self assesment, every year I strugle to do mine at work. Afterward I always found it to be a helpful resource to use to focus on my goals for the next year. You should look at everthing that fell below an A and try to come up with a plan for taking it to the next level.

So here is the part where I give you the unsolicited advice, in otherwords you can take this or leave it. For the advertising and exposure I would probably skip the Yellow Pages, I'm not sure what value that provides in this day and age. Plus like you said there is not much competition anyways.

Try to get involved with the orgranized rides some how. Maybe vollenteer to host the starts and finishes and supply refreshments. Be the shop where everyone meets up before their rides.

I've got a bike fitting schedule with a shop that's across town, I would have never known about the shop except for the fact they hosted a group ride I did earlier this year. The ride started from their shop and when it finished they supplied fixings for sandwichs, cold drinks, frozen yogurt and some snacks to refuel. All told they maybe spent $20 for the event. Which they will easily recover with 1 of their basic bike fittings. When I was considering getting fitted based they where the first people I called.

Get out into the commuity by doing workshops on bike safety or maintence at schools, churches and commnity orgs. Bicycling is becoming a popular way for people to start getting healthy and green. Be the expert and resource to help people embrace that oppertunity.

Ok... enough advice... again Congrats! Your living the dream of most cycling addicts who wish they could quit their jobs and open a bike shop.

blackmountaincycles said...

Thanks, Chris. Excellent feedback!