At 718 Cyclery
, there never was a business plan. This may make a lot of business-types cringe. We have allowed the shop to take us where it would take us, like kayaking down the rapids. "Wild Ride" analogies aside, I do think that we have gotten involved with things that we never would have if following a set plan. We have always believed that getting our customers excited about what excites us is the path to growing a sustainable business. Well, what excites us? Building bikes
, riding off-road, camping, touring
, cargo bikes
As an architect, I was given a book titled "Now, Explore Your Strengths". It talked about the natural human instinct of trying to become better at what we are not good at. The book described this situation as spreading your limited resources too thin, and becoming a jack-of-all-trades but the master of none. The book went on to advocate a process of finding what you are good at and enjoy, and taking the time to become great at it. I dove in. My salary essentially doubled and I became a very sought after specialist, even during down economic times. I had no resume or portfolio, yet worked at the best firms in NYC for close to 20 years (and gave it all up to run our sweaty bike shop!).
Back to this bike shop. After a track record of 7 years, you start to see patterns emerge. Are we selling tons of hybrid bikes? No. Are we interested in hybrid bikes...not really. The correlation of what we are interested in and what we sell with passion is pretty direct. We don't have a sales staff. We sell the things we use and are passionate about. In that sense, it's not really selling as much as it is relating your experience to a customer, who may or may not be into it.
We have lots of experience and passion in the adventure bike and cargo bike world . This passion has led us to become the NYC leader in these categories. This wasn't some calculated market-share strategy (remember, no business plan!), these were interests that led us by the nose.
In 2015, we connected with so many people who share our interests (through camping trips
etc). We are very excited to go further in 2016. We have remained fiercely independent, and have the sales numbers to prove that this method of running a business works. Our sales numbers are up 20%, and customer visits up 18% over 2014, and we passed a BIG number milestone that I never dreamed I would say. These increases are the results of narrowing down and focusing, and fly in the face of the typical business model of "selling everything" and "expanding".
Thank you all so much for contributing to the shops existence. Without an engaged staff and passionate customers, we are just another bike shop. As you might conclude, I didn't get into this to be just another bike shop.