Monday, June 18, 2007

The king pin has been pulled

How long do you have to wait before tossing that grenade after the pin's been pulled? In my case, the pin's pulled and lost somewhere in the dirt so I gotta throw the grenade and take my chances on what the future holds.

My son and I drove our big blue box with a little trailer up to Point Reyes over the weekend. We wanted to haul a bunch of my bike stuff along with plastic crates full of Christmas decorations so they don't get too beat up in the moving van. In addition to moving a bunch of junk...er, valuables, I needed to check the status of my PO box. Lots of great mail with my Marin County business license, California reseller's permit and confirmation on my federal ID number. All fairly important. Along with these and the certificate of insurance I now have (that only cost me more than my first car but not as much as my favorite bike is worth), I'm set to go to line up accounts so I can start writing checks.

Also in my mail box was a stack of junk mail - already! All were adverts for various credit card companies wanting me to use their credit card service. How did they know that I was opening up a business? I guess I have either the county of Marin of the state of California to thank for this. I wonder if they sell the information on new businesses or give it away. I sure hope they give it away, because it would kind of frost me if they sold it and I did not benefit.

I also got my phone number established and got to pick from a few options - 415-663-8125 will be operational as Black Mountain Cycles in a few weeks - give or take a few weeks. Well, probably (give a few).

Now that almost all of the background stuff is done, I can focus on getting the things done that will make a bike shop a bike shop - like finding a spot for that cool Cane Creek bar mat that my friend at Cane Creek sent me! Thank you, by the way!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Focusing

Macro or micro. Why is it that macro photography is shooting close-ups of small things yet macro typically is associated with the big picture? Doesn't make sense. And it really doesn't make sense with the focus of this here blog unless, of course, you know what your big picture is and can therefore focus in on the small segments that allow you to achieve your goals.

I want to open and run my own bike shop. Cool. I can stop right there. Done. But it isn't done. Besides all the details required to establish a retail location, there's the business plan. However, the business plan, in my opinion, is simply a guide that can, and should, be deviated from as required to survive. During my process of developing a business plan, I stumbled on a book called "The Art of the Start" by Guy Kawasaki. Very good book that made a lot of sense. Early on in the book, he emphasized creating a mantra for your company. Go ride your bike is mine. It's simple. It's supposed to be. I want people associated with the bike shop to go ride their bike.

When people ask me what bikes I plan on carrying, I shrug my shoulders and say "none." Well, that's not totally true. While it is true that I don't plan on carrying the traditional complete line of bikes, I will have to have access to a line of bikes where I can get kids' bikes as well as some popularly priced adult bikes because I want to service the community where I also live. The shop is for them since it is the only game within at least a half-hour's drive. Point Reyes Station is rural with only 350 residents. Major strike against me. However, there are roughly 3,000 residents with a 5-10 mile radius. Make that a minor strike against me.

What Point Reyes does have is a major bike magnet in the form of incredible riding that draws riders to its epicenter - currently the Bovine Bakery, but soon to be Black Mountain Cycles ;-) . My macro focus for the shop will be on Northern California bike companies, therefore putting my shop into the "boutique" arena. In addition to the plethora of incredible components and frames that are made in or designed in Northern California, I plan to add my name to the list. Yep, Black Mountain Cycles won't be just the name of a bike shop, but the name for a series of frames/bikes that I plan on sourcing from either the States or Asia as needed.

Why? Well, for one, by sourcing my own framesets or complete bikes I can exactly meet the demand of my customers by having available what they want and, hopefully, when they want it. I also believe that it will draw cyclists in because the bikes I am planning won't be available anywhere else but Black Mountain Cycles.

I believe that the main thing a bike shop has to sell is itself. The shop is the brand that should be sold. You want customers coming to your shop regardless of the bikes you carry because it is the shop and the experience of the shop that you are selling. The shop I first worked at had a customer base that extended up to 300 miles away. We had customers coming to us from 300 miles away just because we knew our stuff. It also helped that we carried the cutting edge of mountain bikes in the mid/late 80's. That shop was the brand that drew customers to us.

That is my goal as well, to have the shop be the brand I am selling. Combining the brand of the shop and the brand of a bike will only help reinforce each other and enable each to grow. At least, that's going to be my focus.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

It's about the bike

Okay, so I've decided to open a bike shop. What do I want it to be? I think you first have to have a concept of what you want the bike shop to be like before you can even think about opening a shop. Location dictates style.

If I was opening a shop in the middle of a "master planned" community, the focus would need to be on family. Mike's Family Bike Shop - where we carry a complete range of bikes for you and your kids! Bleh. Nothing against that, but just the thought of having to carry such a large range of new complete bikes makes my bank account quiver. Leave that to the guys who are already good at doing that.

Instead, I'll be opening a bike shop in a rural area with 350 immediate local residents. I realize that the members of this community will have needs that similar to those of that master planned community, but on a much smaller scale. And I will want to serve those needs, but can do so very easily without tying up too many dollars in inventory.

I've thought about it a lot. I want my bike shop to be a destination. I want cyclists in the Bay Area to use Black Mountain Cycles as a destination point or a meeting point. I want riders to call each other and say, "Let's ride out to Black Mountain Cycles in Point Reyes." I want Black Mountain Cycles to be synonymous with Point Reyes Station. I want to have all the necessities that a cyclist on a 2 hour ride will need as well as the necessities that a cyclist touring from Canada to Mexico down Highway 1 will need. I want them to use the shop as a stop to rest up for the second half of their ride or to use the shop as the meeting point to begin their ride.

So, how do you make a shop interesting enough that these riders stop and check it out besides the fact that it's the only bike ship within about 20 miles? Maybe having a couch to hang out on and music playing good enough that you feel the need to wait for "just one more song" is enough. But what I hope really attracts attention are the bikes. Well, bikes and bike related memorabilia.

I've got my own personal collection of bikes, parts and various trinkets that used to be just a bunch of "junk" cluttering my garage and forcing the cars into the driveway before I thought about opening a bike shop. I'm also lucky enough to have some pretty incredible friends who want to donate (rather, put on display) something from their collection. And I didn't even have to ask! How cool is that? It's also justification to peruse the internet in the search for cool old bike stuff.

I hope my plan to develop the feel of the shop is enough to draw riders in to spend some time. The real goal will be to keep them coming back. After all, my personality can only go so far, I gotta have a backup.