The proverbial “they” say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. “They” also say that one should be constantly learning and growing. At The Motley Fool, we believe a bit of both. While we know we’re a great place to work, we also know that other businesses are doing incredible things when it comes to taking care of their employees and customers. Fortunately for us, most places are generous in sharing with us what makes them so special.
We’ve sent Fools out on what we call Expeditions in Learning to well-known companies like Zappos, REI, and Whole Foods. But some great places to check out might be right in your own backyard – or in my case, down the street. BicycleSPACE is a bike shop in my up-and-coming DC neighborhood that has quickly become a center for the city’s cycling community. The owner graciously spent time with me recently, and here’s what I learned:
- Hire the best people and take care of them: BicycleSPACE’s mechanics, combined, have decades of experience building and maintaining bikes. I’ve had my bike tuned up there, and have sent friends there when their own bikes needed repairs. After meeting the staff, I wouldn’t send my bike anywhere else. Usually winter is a slow time for bike shops, but to keep their staff working (and bringing home paychecks), BicycleSPACE offered a Groupon for tune-ups. They didn’t make much money off of the deal, but it kept the shop busy and morale high.
- Know your Business: The mechanics, as I mentioned, are extremely skilled. The buyer has been a self-proclaimed bike nerd since childhood. The owner works with the DC city council on bike advocacy issues. They don’t just sell bikes to whoever will pay for them – they know and stand behind the products they sell, they understand how city politics can affect their business, and they understand their competition. That said…
- Don’t sweat the competition: Do what you do best, and the business will come. In the case of cycling, competition is a good thing. The more bike shops there are, the more biking becomes a normal part of life in DC. This ultimately benefits BicycleSPACE in the long run.
- Be welcoming to everyone: In the U.S., most cycling is done for sport. Walking into a shop as a newbie can be intimidating – the gear, the $3000 road bikes…if you’re not a triathlete, you feel like you just crashed a party. BicycleSPACE aims to make everyone feel like they belong. If you tell them you’re buying your first bike since childhood, and you want it to be red and have a wicker basket on the front handlebars, they congratulate you and hook you up with a bike that fits your needs and budget. At The Fool, we know investing is an intimidating thing for people to do for the first time. If they think they missed the boat and started too late, we just congratulate them for joining us and help them get started!
- Build a community: BicycleSPACE offers informal rides, yoga classes, and other events that generate word-of-mouth publicity and create new customers. It’s also a great way to market toward women because women really value community. At The Fool, our community is a rich source of investing information, and a pool of people we often hire from.
I learned all of that in one hour! If you have the time, I encourage all of you to take your own Expedition in Learning. Interview the owner of a local business, or check out a company headquartered in your hometown. You never know what you can learn or what idea the visit may spark.