Bicycle Mechanics - Question for shop owners/managers
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05-18-09, 06:12 AM
Tuesday, I have an interview at a bike shop. The shop has two locations and is adding a third. I initially just walked in asking if they were hiring. The next day I handed in a formal resume, and followed up by visiting a couple times to get an update. I got a call last week asking for me to come in for an interview. I could use some advice on how to handle the interview.
I've worked in two shops previously, eight years ago, a total of about one year experience. I was a mechanic, mainly building bikes. I didn't get a chance to work on the sales floor.
I've been riding for 12 years. In the eight years since I worked in a shop, I've learned a lot more about mechanics, building up four personal bikes from the frame up, including two mountain bikes as commuters, one specifically for winter riding in Maine, two road bikes, and a fixed gear. I've recently learned to build wheels. I haven't had a chance to work on more modern equipment such as outboard bb, integrated headsets, non-traditional wheels, etc. I know little about working on shocks or non-mechanical disc brakes. I tend to be anal about adjustment and should probably develop a better ability to balance work speed with fine tuning, since I will be being paid by the hour, and now simply working on my own equipment where I have unlimited time to do everything perfectly. I've been active in several internet discussion boards which has helped me keep get more tips, put them into practice, and keep up to date on various trends and new equipment. Chances are, this is not a "racer's shop" but more of an all around shop.
I've been car-free for 12 years, commuting on Tucson, Scranton, and Maine, now back in Tucson. I've raced for four years.
I'm not approaching this simply looking for a summer fun job. I'm looking for full-time employment, open to any work schedule, and make this a career. I've had a chance to work in several fields, with all sorts of people and in all sorts of situations, and working around bikes has continued to be my favorite job and pastime. It's something I love and have maintained an interest in, and am motivated to learn more. I'm 40 years old and have been a paratrooper, earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism, lived on both coasts, and am currently working the graveyard shift at Wal-mart.
I'd prefer a mechanic's job, but am willing to work on the sales floor and learn all aspects of the business.
What would you look for in an employee? What questions should I ask?
I'm thinking about asking them about what the shop's focus is, their target customer, why their opening a new shop, etc.
Any suggestions are welcome.
05-18-09, 12:18 PM
What position are you applying for?
05-18-09, 12:29 PM
I'd prefer to be a mechanic. But when I spoke to the hiring person on the phone, he mentioned that they like their employees to "wear many hats", be able to fill multiple positions. In my resume, I mentioned I had experience bike fitting, and could relate to a variety of customer due to my racing and commuting history.
05-18-09, 12:37 PM
yeah, most shops are mom & pop type operations that require a lot of overlap in duties and skills. One thing you want to keep in mind is customer-service. Consider the shop-operators in the interview as your "customers" at that moment. You want to inquire as to what their goals are and explain how you can help with achieving them.
Remember that the shop has to make a certain amount of sales and profit in order to pay for the building, the inventory and the paychecks for everyone, including the mechanics. Good salesman are hard to find, much, much more difficult than mechanics. If you can develop yourself into a good salesman with your racing & commuting background (good for rapport-building with customers), you'll be much more valuable to them. And yourself in the long-run; you'll ALWAYS have to market yourself in the world.
05-18-09, 02:35 PM
As always, DannoXYZ has excellent advice.
If they want you to wear many hats, talk about how much you like people (unless you don't). Talk about how each different person is a different challenge. Someone walks into a bike shop and you listen to them carefully, listen to what they want and need, and then you figure out what would serve them best. Some people are not good at articulating their needs, so tell your prospective employer that you can read between these people's lines (if it's at all true) and figure out what they really need. For instance, someone may say she's not very bike savvy but you learn from various questions that she's ridden 1000 miles in the last year, so you steer her away from heavy soft bikes and into something more performance oriented.
05-18-09, 02:46 PM
Think about what the shop owner wants...
He wants to make sure you're not going to rip him off or do sloppy work, and he wants customers to like you and trust you enough to buy a bike from you.
So smile, look him in the eyes, and let him see you do something unselfish and nice... like pick up some litter or something.
05-18-09, 03:10 PM
I'm neither a shop owner nor a manager, but ...
I think it always helps to show that you give a hoot about the guy's particular business. Know enough to ask some pointed questions that show you're smart, you did some homework, and you know the industry. I could make up a ton of "f'rinstance" questions, but they wouldn't be specific ... as they should be.
Know the store. Know the lines they carry and the lines they don't. Know the competition (stores AND product lines). Know something about the industry, generally. Just show you're a thinker ... that can add to, and grow with, his business.
Your OP sounded pretty informed, smart, and thougtful. I'm guessing you'll present yourself well. Good luck!
05-19-09, 11:16 AM
What questions should I ask?
How do you expect me to live on THAT salary? :lol:
05-19-09, 12:11 PM
I start on June 3rd, full-time, earning more than I am now at Wal-mart.
I think my formal resume and repeat visits helped secure the job more than the interview. But the advice provided here definitely helped. It was pretty informal, with the owner and shop manager present. Although my resume emphasised my mechanical experience, they're goal is to have me selling their higher end road bikes, Treks, Specialized, etc. I was a bit surprised by this, but look forward to the challenge.
05-19-09, 12:12 PM
Congrats and good luck!
05-19-09, 12:15 PM
Wow, that's great news! And you display an excellent attitude, so you'll have a great time.
Where is the shop?
Reliability, and customer service. Anyone can wrench on a bike, it's not rocket science. It's how you treat customers that keeps them coming back.
05-19-09, 01:01 PM
The shop is Oro Valley Bicycles in Tucson. It's a family business. They're opening a third location where a couple current employees will work. I'll be working out of the "old" store.
Selling will be a challenge. I've never been a salesman, and it's not something that comes natural. I'm hopeful that if I make sure I know everything about the products and line, and I can develop the skills to make customers feel at ease, I can make this shop some money.
What's really nice is the changes it will bring outside of work. As a cyclists, working the graveyard shift at a really physically demanding job has meant other than commuting, I haven't been able to ride since last August. You wouldn't think a Wal-mart job is physically demanding, but let me tell you, I've been a paratrooper, and this job is more physically demanding. I'm stocking cases of bleach, cases of detergent, hefting cases of toilet paper ten feet up a ladder, at full-on speed all night, no let up. Now I'm in really good shape, but at the end of the week, I am truly spent. By the last day of the week, my commute home feels like the last leg of a fixed-gear double century. So far, it's transformed my climbers body into more of a triathlete's body, but I can tell in a few more years, I'd develop the characteristic hunched posture and limping gate overnight Wal-mart workers seem to have.
On my days off, I don't have the energy to ride. And even if I did, riding would mess up my graveyard sleep schedule. It's very depressing to sleep away the bright sunny days in Tucson, when the rest of the world seems to be living life. Riding home from a back-breaking nights work at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning just hoping to easily fall asleep, while seeing other people who have just arisen from a good dark night's sleep, themselves starting out on a either a fun leisure ride, or preparing to put in a hard days training, well .....that's really depressing. That life might suit me better if I was an alcoholic or a video game addict.
So in preparation, I've dusted off the steel Lemond that hasn't seen the sun for nearly nine months, cleaned the chain, cassette, and trued both wheels. I built this bike from the bare frame-up when I first got to Tucson in August, rode maybe three times, and hung it up. I have ridden a fixed-gear to work and back since. So soon, I'll have to learn how to coast all over again!
05-19-09, 01:10 PM
Just show enthusiasm for all the stuff you sell. If you are selling a product you wouldn't care to use, put yourself in the customer's shoes and tell her why it's right for her. But don't lie.
If you show that you enjoy your job, you will put your customers in a buying mood. But don't feign enthusiasm, either.
And don't badmouth your competition. If the subject comes up, just tell the customer what you do that others might not do.
05-19-09, 04:20 PM
Noglider brought up some good points. I work retail and would like to expand on a few.
Rule one is never lie to the customer. They have a way of finding out and will hold it against you.
Treat them with respect, even if it's difficult.
If you don't know something, admit it and try to find the answer. There is no shame in not knowing everything. Trust me, it's better to try to find an answer than it is to apologize to a customer after they were given really bad advice.
Enjoy what you do! Concentrate not on how difficult it is to sell to people, but on what happens during the day that is fun and rewarding.
Always be positive. Look for the good side of a situation or product.
Not everyone needs the finest and fanciest. Keep that in mind when they don't want to spend a lot of money.
Relate your own experiences to customers and you'll find they become more at ease and trusting in what you say.
Overall, enjoy yourself. You sound like you'll do just fine. After you've been there for a while check back in and let us know how you're doing.
05-19-09, 06:18 PM
get some good books on selling and read them.
05-19-09, 06:19 PM
Agree with all the points made by the last two posters.
I was in sales ... for years.
Listen. Listen. Listen.
One thing that I've watched scads of salespeople do is talk.
Salespeople seem to love to hear themselves talk.
But the good ones ... emphasize serious product knowledge, and then learn all they can about what I like, dislike, need, and do not need. They have to ask smart questions to get to that ... particularly when the customer may know nothing about ... in this case ... cycling.
You may not be able to use ANY bike jargon to help assess a customer's true wants and needs ... 'ticularly for a first bike ... so learn touchy-feely language for things like ride quality, shifting gears/not shifting gears, upright/"comfy" riding position, etc.
I think the notion of "salespeople" -- at least to me -- is a fairly negative connotation. It means they're trying to "sell me something."
Good people, in that profession, genuinely try to understand my needs and recommend the best product to suit those needs ... without regard to gross profit margin, spiff, inventory levels, etc.
See what I mean? ;)
05-19-09, 08:05 PM
Only other thing I can add is that you should not only learn about the bikes you sell, but learn about the competition also. That way you can distinguish your brands from the others the way you want, instead of having the customer learn it on their own (or perhaps from the competition) without the benefit of your input. Some will do their own research anyway, but they may not focus on the things on which you'd like them to focus.
Oh, and personally I would never let a customer roam around for more than a minute or two without at least an offer of assistance. There was a thread about this recently, I think in the road bike forum.
I can send you copies of the 200 or so bicycle and brand reviews that I've written this year.
If they ever come out with bicycle Trivial Pursuit, I am so in there!
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