It’s been an awesome year. How could it not be? We play with bikes for a living! BUT……and trust me, it’s a big but……my efforts are no longer anywhere NEAR as visible as they were a few short years ago. The devil is in the detail, and the sheer volume of work, planning, organising and investing that has to happen behind the scenes before a single spanner gets turned is beyond what I would have believed when I started. In fact it might have stopped me starting if I really knew…!
Before I get stuck in though, I want to rewind a few years back, and acknowledge every single one of you who ever called me to come around and do some work for you. You KNOW that I remember you. You know I saved your number. I’m sure you remember that I answered your calls, greeting you by name. Customers come and go, for a thousand different reasons – and I don’t see every single person anymore, but there are still hundreds of you guys who still to this day call me up and get us to handle your bike maintenance. You know who you are – and you guys are legends. Nothing beyond the first 2-3 years would have been possible without you guys. I never did get around to hosting the big ‘grand opening’ party when I moved into my current premise on Winton Rd, but looking back it would have been pointless because it continues to evolve at such a rate that even customers who walk in now after 6 months between services are surprised by what they see!
I suppose if I was to assign any kind of a theme to the years efforts it would be that I’ve put a lot of effort into learning how to work smarter, not harder, and finally introduce a bit of tech into the way we work. Fewer stock orders, but bigger volumes. Trusting the sums instead of relying on how I “feel” on any given day when decisions need to be made. Dare I say it…..I think I’m finally running a business over here! (I’m just as surprised as you are) We’re now a three-man team. Jack, Peter and yours truly are spinning the spanners Monday to Friday and handling all the repairs, maintenance, projects, builds and upgrades you guys can throw at us.
So, here are a few things you might find interesting….
It seems that the trend of people no longer having to “go to work” 5 days a week, 8-5, is still alive. A little bit less prevalent than it was during the height of COVID in 2020, yes, but the working from home revolution had had huge impact on the way people schedule their rides, servicing, and the rest of their life. People are flexible, accommodating and patient. I don’t have any horror stories for you – they simply don’t exist in this realm. It just means that we’ve learned to adapt to peoples new work schedules, especially those who might work from home AND multiple locations, on different days of the week. It might not be obvious until you live it day to day, but learning how to adapt and work in different environments and still deliver the same outcomes for riders is trickier than you think. From office tower basements or multi-story car parks, to apartment complexes, to suburban blocks with weird parking rules, to the folks who need emergency assistance somewhere along the PSP. We take it all in stride, ask as many relevant questions as we can, and just go figure it out. There’s no more science to it than that. Go. Figure. It. Out.
Speaking of figuring stuff out…..this years journey to become a fully fledged MTB Suspension Workshop was BUILT on the back of ‘figuring stuff out’. I even had to take a few steps back and re-train my ability to focus on deep, detailed, process driven work…..the evidence of which sits on a shelf behind my desk at work these days!
I started buying new LEGO sets (and finishing ones I already had) early this year to help me get better at following long, specific sets of instructions. Why? I was determined to get the Suspension Service area up and running after years of dreaming (and learning) about it, but it was going to force me to learn about 600 pages worth of service procedures for the 25 or so most common forks and shocks that come through the workshop. Yes, really. It was about a 9 month process to go from committing to the idea, to being ‘customer ready’. This included WEEKS of my time spent going through service manuals identifying tooling and parts to order, then SOURCING those items, a trip to NSW to get some training from FOX/ROCKSHOX, and then a few more weeks spent doing practice work on a combination of shocks I bought and ones that customers very kindly donated. Around early September, we officially became a full service suspension workshop, on top of the already extensive list of services we continue to provide.
I’ve had to learn to defend and protect my time fiercely against folks who simply aren’t a good customer for us (and I’m sure we’re not the right service for them either). Specifically, in dealing with the broader online community who seem to lack the ability to type a full sentence, ask an intelligent question, provide ANY relevant information or even simply say “hi” before they type anything else. That might seem a bit harsh, but hear me out: If you are interested enough in what we do that you follow any of our socials, let alone actually take the time to read this, you are automatically NOT part of the group I’m talking about. I have deliberately ruined my ‘response time’ status on the TLS Facebook page because I end up either ignoring people completely, or just abandoning conversations that are very clearly not going anywhere. Let me be clear, this has NOTHING to do with language barriers, people being busy, or not really knowing anything about bikes. I’ve discovered the absolute best filter is to just ask for a phone call during business hours the following day. 90% of unrealistic enquiries vanish when you give them a task to do. People with genuine needs always pick up the phone. Interestingly, learning to defend my time has almost by default made me a thousand times better at “picking my battles” – possibly my new favourite expression.
I spend very little time working out of the service van these days, which is a little bit of a tragedy, but trust me, I’ve earned the promotion! Monday is usually my day in the van, and the regulars who I’ve worked for for years always keep Monday as their day to get me out – usually to the riverside and beachside suburbs. I still do loads of pickup and drop offs in the ute though – I often get messages from you guys who spot me driving around with a tray full of bikes. I am no less “available” than I ever was, its just the logistics that have changed. The work all still gets done, in the same (or faster) time frame. I’m just not standing in driveways as much as I used to!
Making sure the guys have plenty of work to do, that is within or on the very edge of their skills and training, as well as providing everything else they need to work in a safe, productive and fun environment takes up plenty of my time as well. Multi tasking is a myth, folks!
After all this…..I think we’re only just getting started. A few times a year it becomes obvious that a decision needs to be made to double down on a specific part of the business. Just this week, literally, 2 days ago (at time of writing), I paid the deposit on a new work van. Newer. Bigger. More capable. This is just 3 months after the epic saga of getting the suspension tech area ready for commercial work. It’s also just 1 month after hiring mechanic #3. Let me be clear that this is not growth for the sake of growth – the goals haven’t changed. We want to do outstanding work for you guys. To have the best and brightest team working on your bikes. To offer the most convenience. To have the fastest turnaround. The shortest lead times for bookings. To maintain your cycling investment to such a standard that we’re ALL proud of it. And…..alongside all of this….to still have time to joke around and have a coffee with you guys at home, or at the shop, or out at an event that we’re supporting.
I guess that’s it for now. I really can’t thank you guys enough – but I’ll try and express my appreciation by always going above and beyond what you expect from your bike mechanic!
-The Local Spokesman