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  1. #1
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    What does it take to run a bike shop?

    Every once in a while when I complain about my job my girlfriend asks me "Well, what do you really want to do?" I always reply, "Play professional Baseball." Then we have a good chuckle and she asks again. "I want to own a bike shop." I mean, it's not as rediculous an idea as playing professional baseball is it?

    My educational background is in Computer Science, but I consider myself to have good business sense and I've take some marketing classes as well. I do think I am capable of someday running a business and running it well. My bike skills, however, are currently limited to a few turns of the wrench here and there. The interest is certainly there and I love to consume bicycle knowledge, but I wouldn't be able to be a head mechanic or even provide professional fittings.

    Well, an oppurtunity has up and bit me in the face. There's a bike shop along a major bikeway for sale due to family illness. I've ridden by this shop many times, but never stopped in. It always looked to me like they could do so much more to attract business. I'm not sure if this is the perception other cyclists share, but I plan to do a little research around this.

    So the question is - if I hire the right people... smart people... customer oriented people, and trust them to do their jobs, what's to stop me from jumping at this oppurtunity? What are the pitfalls? Should I forget this stupid idea and find something else to do? Am I crazy? What am I likely overlooking (beyond the need to develop a business plan and get financing)?

  2. #2
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    That's the key...hiring the right people. To attract the best, you have to be willing to pay them more than the other guys. Finding those people is a whole other challenge.

  3. #3
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    http://www.bikeschool.com/WhatsNew/whatsnew.cgi
    they teach a class on bike repair and shop ownership. the hardest part of customer service is not making the customer feel like an idiot, even though they may be.

  4. #4
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    Holy Crap!

    Are "You" really "Me"?

    I have a degree in Comp Programming, and I HATE it, and have always dreamed of playing for the Red Sox (I'm SURE I could learn how to pitch a Wakefield knuckler) And also use a "bike shop" as my fantasy backup plan....

    Basically, I'd work on bikes for food.

  5. #5
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    It depends on your business skills and your cash flow. I have worked for small companies all of my life and I have worked for owners that became wealthy and some not so wealthy. I worked in high end home and car audio shops for 9 years and I have seen a bunch come and go. It seems the key is separating your feelings for bikes from the business. You have to love the business not the bikes. The most successful people I have worked for loved the deal not the product.

    Then there is cash flow! You might be the best shop in town, but if you canít make payroll, your shop will not make it. I promise you, you will spend more time with cash flow matters than with bike issues. There is tons of ways getting, keeping and spending cash, how long will it take you to learn them all? Will have you enough cash to survive while you learn them?

    Here are a few things I have learned about owning a company.
    1. A 40hr work week is a vacation. (you wonít be putting many miles on bikes.)
    2. Cash is king and how many mistakes can you afford to make?
    3. What is a pay check?
    4. You will think about your business 24-7 NO REST!

    After you get that down, then we can talk about the retail side of things. Dean
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbertfixy
    http://www.bikeschool.com/WhatsNew/whatsnew.cgi
    they teach a class on bike repair and shop ownership. the hardest part of customer service is not making the customer feel like an idiot, even though they may be.
    I second UBI. I took a one week class there, and i LOVE it. I learned so much it is rediculous. And I only took the Intro to Maintenance class cause I was to young for the pro class

  7. #7
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    Also get an MBA and hire one for your manager...

  8. #8
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    Check out SBA and business development advise.

    A small business is a small business is a small business. 95% fail in first 5 years.

    1. Secure adequate capital. Plan for at least 6 to 9 months of cash reserves.
    2. Create a business plan and do adequate market research and business development.
    3. Bikes are a maturish, non growth industry. If you're serious, go to interbike. I think it's the end of this month and get the information from those who know the industry.
    4. Dual track your business plan: Path A- with ideal personnel, Path B- with non-ideal personnel.
    5. Set up the business with proper legal structure. You may not want to stay/be a sole proprieter. In case you fail, you need to limit down side risk.
    Hi 'o Silver away

  9. #9
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    I quit my job last year and got a job at a bike shop, thought it would be cool and all. I liked working there, but I couldn't pay my bills making $8.50 an hour.

    I'd like to own a bike shop too though.
    I rock peas on my head but donít call me a pea head.
    Bees on my head but donít call me a bee head.
    Bruce Leeís on my head but donít call me a Lee head.
    Now please excuse me, I gots to get my tree fed.

  10. #10
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    Just out of curiosity, what shop is it?

  11. #11
    Senior Member kankrum83's Avatar
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    Yes... curiosity...

    -Rips up tuition check and readies pen and checkbook-

  12. #12
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    Its an existing business so you should be able to go over the books to see if it is worth the investment, and what the staff turnover is. You should then make your business plan based on what is there already. Is there a possibility of expanding into other fields, such as locksmithing, lawnmower repair, skateboards. Can family back you financially or will you have to rely on the bank.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vwone
    ...Here are a few things I have learned about owning a company.
    1. A 40hr work week is a vacation. (you wonít be putting many miles on bikes.)
    2. Cash is king and how many mistakes can you afford to make?
    3. What is a pay check?
    4. You will think about your business 24-7 NO REST!
    Dean got it right! As owner of a small consulting business (selling services only, not products), I can tell you that stress will kill you unless you manage it well. Cash flow makes or breaks your business - especially if you've got others in your employ. Start out with at least three times the amount of cash you estimate that you'll need to get started, be prepared for "roller-coaster" cash flow situations, and separate the business from your personal life! Being a successful business person doesn't make you a successful person. Being a failure at business doesn't make you a failure at life.

    Finally, treat your employees with courtesy and respect. Their life goals probably have nothing to do with your business aims. They're only working for you on a temporary basis and for a paycheck. Don't expect them to have the committment to the business that you do, and if they do go "above and beyond," reward them lavishly. NEVER CRITICIZE YOUR EMPLOYEES IN FRONT OF YOUR CUSTOMERS! Even if the employee makes a horrendous mistake, square it with the customer and speak to the employee later (and in private). Use every opportunity to praise and reward your employees - remember that they're human and have their own problems, strengths, and weaknesses.

    No matter what happens, be able to look yourself in the mirror and have self-respect.

    Good luck! If you open a shop, tell us where - I'll try to come shop with you!

  14. #14
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    Sometimes you just have to go for it....if you don't you will think about it forever and regret not doing it. Even if you go, and fail or put in tons of hours and become disillusioned, you will have learned and experienced something in life. That is what life is all about, the experiences, the adventures etc... It is not about how much money you have collected or what you can place onto your resume, rather it is the intangible things in life that truly add up.

    So too few people even are aware of that...such as shame for most people go around dreaming of what they can be and never go for it. They go around buying all the material things in life and never realize that it is the non-material things in life that really make a difference.

    My grandmother / father made over a million dollars in oil in the 1950's and lost it soon after and they invested in oil!... They never regretted it for like they told me time and time again, it was the adventure of doing. Bike shop...go for it!

  15. #15
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    I think you've received some sound advice here from some people likely more experienced than I. One piece of advice i will give you is to try and look objectively at the oppurtunity. I know you have looked at it romantically and think it is always what you have "wanted" to do.

    Be aware, that since you have never done it, you are only speculating on what it will be like. Chances are that it will be NOTHING like you imagine it will be. Most things aren't. I have to admit that the allure is there for me as well. Hmmmmmm, being surrounded by bikes, all day....that would be perfect! Or would it?

    In high school i ran an icecream shop in the summers. It has taken nearly 20 years to learn to enjoy icecream again. I would never want that to happen with bikes. I simply love them too much.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by FarHorizon
    Finally, treat your employees with courtesy and respect. Their life goals probably have nothing to do with your business aims. They're only working for you on a temporary basis and for a paycheck. Don't expect them to have the committment to the business that you do, and if they do go "above and beyond," reward them lavishly. NEVER CRITICIZE YOUR EMPLOYEES IN FRONT OF YOUR CUSTOMERS! Even if the employee makes a horrendous mistake, square it with the customer and speak to the employee later (and in private). Use every opportunity to praise and reward your employees - remember that they're human and have their own problems, strengths, and weaknesses.

    No matter what happens, be able to look yourself in the mirror and have self-respect.

    Good luck! If you open a shop, tell us where - I'll try to come shop with you!
    You should be in management. I've never met a manager like you which is why most of them are horrible to work with.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by DerekU2
    My educational background is in Computer Science, but I consider myself to have good business sense and I've take some marketing classes as well. I do think I am capable of someday running a business and running it well. My bike skills, however, are currently limited to a few turns of the wrench here and there. The interest is certainly there and I love to consume bicycle knowledge, but I wouldn't be able to be a head mechanic or even provide professional fittings.

    Well, an oppurtunity has up and bit me in the face. There's a bike shop along a major bikeway for sale due to family illness. I've ridden by this shop many times, but never stopped in. It always looked to me like they could do so much more to attract business. I'm not sure if this is the perception other cyclists share, but I plan to do a little research around this.
    I would get a part time job in a bike shop and see if you like SALES! Sales is hard job and the smell of new bikes gets old pretty fast if you can't sell. Bottom line. If you are not a saleman, you will struggle if volume is low and did I tell you weekends are for working? Yes, you will have a day off and it will usually be on a Wednesday or Monday because there is no way that store can be closed on Sunday or you'll lose 20% of your sales or more!

    As a business owner, you better brush up on your bike skills because this is where the money is and you may not be able to afford payroll. Who's going to fix the bikes should your employee get sick, go on vacation or quit? Being able to fix bikes will put more money in your pocket because selling bikes is a low margin business.

    Ask for the past 5 years tax returns to see how much money they're making. Now you should have a hard reality of what it takes to run a business and I can almost assure you there is probably little profit in it for them. If the owners tell you they under report their income in order to explain their poor tax returns, run quickly for the door.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    You should be in management. I've never met a manager like you which is why most of them are horrible to work with.
    Please don't make me blush! I worked for 25 years for the worst-run company in the world. It was a valuable experience! Now that I'm in business for myself, all I have to do is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the managers at my former employer did & I'm bound to succeed!

  19. #19
    Senior Curmudgeon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger
    ...Be aware, that since you have never done it, you are only speculating on what it will be like...
    Exactly correct, Ranger. Allow me to dispense one more piece of advice (worth exactly what you're paying for it ) to the original poster:

    DO SOME INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWING!

    What you do is call the LBS (preferably more than one), and ask to speak to the owner. Tell the owner that you're considering a career change to her/his field, and that you'd like to interview her/him just to see what it is like. Offer to take the owner to a lunch or to coffee at your expense & explain that you'll use no more than 30 minutes to an hour of their time.

    When you get the interview, ask about what it's like to run a bike shop - what does the owner do with her/his daily time? how much money did it take to start? how long was it before a profit was turned? what is the thing the owner likes best about being a shop owner? what is the worst? TAKE NOTES!

    You get the drift. Since this is a "no-stress" interview, the owner will tell you things that they would never disclose when interviewing a potential employee. You'll also find that about two out of five informational interviews that you do will result in job offers! You may want to try out working in a bike shop before considering buying/opening one.

    You'll come away with a MUCH better idea of what a bike shop owner REALLY does. You may not be so keen on the idea, or you may become much more interested. Either way, your time and money are well invested.

    Good luck!

  20. #20
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    Please move to clarksville and open a shop, I'll help you get going. I would do it myself, but I don't want to be married to a shop. I would rather ride.
    '05 Motobecane Le Champion SL (Carbon Seat Post, Carbon Cages, Mike Garcia DT Swiss Customs 1436gram wheels, FSA Compact Crank 36/50, 12/27 Ultegra Cassette, Ultegra 6600 SPD-SL Pedals,)
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    On or off road I'm ready!

  21. #21
    Senior Member Swimjim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
    Also get an MBA and hire one for your manager...

    A good recipe for going out of business. You can't afford any dead weight.

    Jim

  22. #22
    Senior Member Swimjim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FarHorizon
    Exactly correct, Ranger. Allow me to dispense one more piece of advice (worth exactly what you're paying for it ) to the original poster:

    DO SOME INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWING!

    What you do is call the LBS (preferably more than one), and ask to speak to the owner. Tell the owner that you're considering a career change to her/his field, and that you'd like to interview her/him just to see what it is like. Offer to take the owner to a lunch or to coffee at your expense & explain that you'll use no more than 30 minutes to an hour of their time.

    When you get the interview, ask about what it's like to run a bike shop - what does the owner do with her/his daily time? how much money did it take to start? how long was it before a profit was turned? what is the thing the owner likes best about being a shop owner? what is the worst? TAKE NOTES!

    You get the drift. Since this is a "no-stress" interview, the owner will tell you things that they would never disclose when interviewing a potential employee. You'll also find that about two out of five informational interviews that you do will result in job offers! You may want to try out working in a bike shop before considering buying/opening one.

    You'll come away with a MUCH better idea of what a bike shop owner REALLY does. You may not be so keen on the idea, or you may become much more interested. Either way, your time and money are well invested.

    Good luck!
    Sound advise. I've run my own business for ten years and would not hesitate to do an interview with someone who was interested in following my career path. Gaining experience from someone who has actully been there would be literaly worth its weight in gold.

    Jim

  23. #23
    Senior Member va_cyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FarHorizon
    Finally, treat your employees with courtesy and respect. Their life goals probably have nothing to do with your business aims. They're only working for you on a temporary basis and for a paycheck. Don't expect them to have the committment to the business that you do, and if they do go "above and beyond," reward them lavishly. NEVER CRITICIZE YOUR EMPLOYEES IN FRONT OF YOUR CUSTOMERS! Even if the employee makes a horrendous mistake, square it with the customer and speak to the employee later (and in private). Use every opportunity to praise and reward your employees - remember that they're human and have their own problems, strengths, and weaknesses.
    Can I come to work for you???

  24. #24
    Senior Curmudgeon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swimjim
    (Hire an MBA...) - A good recipe for going out of business. You can't afford any dead weight...
    I must reluctantly agree with Jim. I found that CPA's and atttorneys are ALWAYS willing to charge you top dollar - whether or not they know a D**N thing about your business. They'll try to be helpful, but they aren't worth the expense.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by va_cyclist
    Can I come to work for you???
    Unfortunately, you'd starve! My business is VERY occasional. On the other hand, when I work, I make up for lost time!

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