Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Trip to the Bike Shop and Reflections on Entrepreneurship

For many businesses, the past few months have been disastrous. However, the bike industry has seen a surge in sales and has projections for continued growth. Avoidance of public transportation, gym closures, and extended periods of being at home are some of the drivers of the sales boom.
I experienced this firsthand on my trip to a local bike shop during the spring and have been watching the spike in sales play out for several months. Needing some minor parts and accessories, I called the store to make sure they were even open. To my surprise, an employee said they might not be able to get me in that day because there was an hour and a half to two-hour wait just to get in the store!

Shocked by what I heard, I made my trip another day and came prepared with a camping chair and a book for while I waited in line. Sure enough, when I pulled into the parking lot, people were lined up outside. As I sat in my chair, I reflected on what the shop had done to capitalize on this opportunity and how those steps were applicable to entrepreneurs in any industry. While these points are nothing new, it’s important for entrepreneurs to recognize that while the climate of the business world has drastically changed over the past few months, the keys to success have not.

Customer Service

Since only a limited number of people were allowed in the bike shop, there were two lines outside: one for service and one for sales. An employee asked each customer what they needed, directed them to the appropriate line, and gave them an estimated wait time to ensure everyone’s needs would be met. Although conducting business during a pandemic requires additional hassles, maintaining high standards of customer service and organization lets a business’s patrons know they are valued and can turn them into loyal customers. Understanding customer needs and treating people with respect can often carry a business far more than the mere products or services a business offers.


Closely related to customer service, communication can determine whether a business earns or loses a customer. While I was not thrilled by having to wait in a long line just to make a simple purchase, I knew what I was getting into and appreciated the shop’s communication. Entrepreneurs can develop customer rapport by being upfront and honest. Although customers may not like what they are told, if they receive truthful information, they are more likely to be understanding and place trust in the business.


I didn’t need any empirical data to understand the COVID-induced boost in sales. When I walked in the door at the bike shop, many shelves that previously held bikes were empty. Later trips to sporting goods stores and department stores were the same: almost all the bikes were gone. Since many shops were out of bikes to sell, customers brought in their old bikes for service; adaptable shops bolstered their staff of mechanics to handle the influx. While external factors, like a pandemic, are out of an entrepreneur’s control, being flexible to new opportunities and able to react to a situation can often be the difference between success or failure.

Financial Understanding

Empty shelves may seem like an indicator bike shops are doing well. However, some shops have struggled, because they haven’t been able to replenish their inventory. Many factories overseas halted production for extended periods of time because of the pandemic and are now unable to keep up with demand. Although shops have been pivoting to derive more revenue from services, they are missing out on sales of bikes that cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars per bike. As with bike shops, most businesses’ revenue isn’t typically drawn from one source, and it is essential for entrepreneurs to understand the profitability and revenue generated from a business’s mix of goods and services.

Although it was just a brief trip to the bike shop, much of what I saw that day is applicable to any entrepreneur looking to develop a successful business. Despite tough economic times and uncertainty, the components of success have not changed. In the meantime, happy biking!

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