By Heather Mason
Editor’s note: Heather Mason has done nearly everything in the bike industry. The former pro 24-hour racer has been a retailer and national sales manager for a well-known brand. Now she is a bicycle industry advocate, business developer, columnist, and athlete who shares her knowledge, insight and passion with everyone she meets. She is also in charge of eastern U.S. business development for Bianchi Bicycles. BRAIN will be sharing monthly columns from Heather in 2020.
I’ve been dropping into bicycle shops for 20-plus years. I simply love bicycles; the scene and lifestyle. My industry career has allowed me to visit hundreds of shops, all over the U.S.; getting to know owners, managers and staff. In the recent years I have been deepening my visits by staying longer and working with the staff; interacting with customers, wrenching in service, answering the phone and ultimately becoming part of the daily shop routine. I’ve learned that, no matter how pristine your store or how beautifully it flows, regardless if your prices are competitive, or if you have great curb appeal, what matters most is your staff. Your staff members are your game changers, they are the key to everything retail. More importantly, they’re an extension of who you as an owner and a business.
They set the pace and the vibe of your business. So, how do we build the best team?
If you own an independent bicycle retail store, you most likely employ one or more staff members. Some of these ideas should cause you to take a hard look at your current staff and make changes if needed; others may provide opportunity for you to shift your current staff dynamic and push towards change.
Start with the person.
Hire people who have the required skillset as well as the ability to connect the story of their personal insight to the position. Seeing a possible employee as a whole person, not just their resume-worthy skills, is so important. To end up with superstars you have to start with a super star.
Look for “yes” people.
Too often we lose many sales, due to answers such as “we don’t stock that” or “no, we can’t fix your flat today.” Positive people naturally approach these questions with answers that prohibit the dead end. “While we do not carry that we do have these, and I personally favor this because” … or “the service shop is very busy, but let me check and maybe worst case I can sell you the tools you need to do it.’ Look for upbeat people that keep conversations moving forward, instead of out the door.
Encourage your staff to share their ideas. While not every concept will work for your retail establishment, some may. Employees who offer ideas that ultimately are put into action have a keen interest in follow-through, and feel a sense of dedication. Humans need to feel like we are adding to the universe, that we have purpose. Let each and every one of your employees take ownership for an idea that you think will enhance your location.
I spent years managing a successful bike and ski retail location. I had a large staff, and every Saturday we had a morning meeting. At every meeting we discussed the components of a sale; we reviewed the feature and benefit presentation, and we gave examples of a sales closure. I would highlight new products in the store, and additional product education. We reviewed community events and upcoming area race news. Empowerment to sell comes from knowledge — your staff needs to be educated. As a manager or owner you are not just opening the door and making the schedule, you are the leader. You’re the person setting the stage for success. Make sure your employees are seeking to know more about what you stock in the store and why you selected to bring that item into your shop.
Building the best retail team is about teamwork and understanding. It’s about collaboration and the willingness to share. How do we feel connected? Sharing like interests. Get to know your staff, ride with them; encourage them to get to know one another. A team that works seamlessly is a team that stands out to the customer. A team that is smiling and happy to be at their job, enjoying the industry and getting more people on bikes is evident. Make sure your staff is communicating their eagerness to help your clients leap into the bicycle world.
Let your staff know your expectations and visions. People need to know what they are striving for. It feels good to chase a goal. Be clear. Let the staff know your monetary goal for the day. Highlight a bike you would like to move from inventory or past stock that needs to go. If your staff knows it is important to you, ultimately it will become important to them.
Why visit the IBD? Service, product, and more commonly addressed the “experience.” Where can you learn about group rides, or hear first-hand reviews on product? Your staff. Where can consumers go to chat local trails, ask about which tires they should ride, or get excited about something they never knew they needed? Your shop. Your staff is the reason customers will return. Invest in your team to find the best ROI.