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State of Retail: What do you do for professional development?

Published August 15, 2023

A version of this feature ran in the August issue of BRAIN.

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — For our August magazine edition, we asked our State of Retail panel members: What do you do for professional development? 

BOISE, Idaho: Jason Bauer, owner Bauerhaus Bikes

Jason Bauer

My professional learning has been trial by fire. I worked for a larger shop for 20-plus years, learning the ropes through observation and understanding our market. We use Lightspeed to manage our inventory. When time permits, I check various online sites for industry information such as new product news and tech bites. The sites I read are Bikerumor, Pinkbike, Vital MTB, and Bike Radar. Also, I hear a lot from our inside and outside sales reps. We don’t belong to the local chamber of commerce or any industry organizations. If we were a bigger shop, I might find use with these resources, but currently our bandwidth is at capacity with our daily influx, and I don't see the need to add another moving part into our system.

WALLA WALLA, Wash.: Kathryn Austin, owner/manager Allegro Cyclery

Kathryn Austin

We have a small shop, only a few employees, and a life beyond work honestly does not leave much time to stay current with the bicycle industry news. We mainly read Bicycle Retailer, Instagram, and Facebook. We get a lot of news from our reps, as they seem to know what is going on in the industry before the rest of us. Through the years, we’ve attended small business workshops and relied on 30-plus years of prior retail experience to guide us. We love talking to other bike shop owners because we learn a lot from them, such as what is working for them and what is not. 

Most of our city's interest in local businesses is focused on the wine industry and tourism, so it's important for us to be integrated into our local business organizations. We belong to our local chamber of commerce and our Downtown Foundation. We also are partners with our local tourism organization. We stay focused on what our local commerce is doing to gauge and predict not only biking trends but business in general.

MOBILE, Ala.: Brad Burton, owner Cadence120 Bicycles

Brad Burton

For professional development, I read many business, history, and self-improvement books. Some of the ones I’m reading currently include Tools of Titans, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, and Can't Hurt Me! I have had Dale Carnegie training and use the principles of his book, How to Win Friends & Influence People. I do not currently belong to any associations or professional groups.

STAMFORD, Conn.: Julie Gabay, owner, president, buyer Pacific Cycling & Triathlon

Julie Gabay

You never know if one idea can change your business. It's nonstop to keep educating myself, and I am religious about listening to How I Built This with Guy Raz. I am always searching for new things about marketing as well, because it is key to succeeding in business and often overlooked. I read the Wall Street Journal daily, and I subscribe to online newsletters such as Daily Brew, NY Times online, and all local online news and business papers. I am active on social media and read anything I can to improve my knowledge on business. Of course, I read Bicycle Retailer online and in print. I also subscribe to "Really Good Emails" which is a great tool for writing newsletters.

I belong to local business groups — women owned and local in general — where I meet people and get the word out about our business. We support races and specifically host events to promote them. It's important to note: It's not one source that I can solely mention; it’s a conglomerate of all of them. Bottom line: Knowledge is power!

MASSILLON, Ohio: Molly Lehman, marketing manager Ernie’s Bike Shop

Molly Lehman

Our leadership team possesses some "official" college education on aspects of retail marketing and accounting, but we also listen to our trusted accountant and people who run businesses that are successful and that we admire. We're of course loyal subscribers to BRAIN (and particularly enjoy the State of Retail column). We get a lot of value out of supplier-provided news and resources, such as Trek University; although, we find it's important to curate that material for the specific needs of our shop. Subscribing to other bike shops' email lists and newsletters provides good perspective, and general consumer-facing cycling news sources like Velo and Bikerumor are useful for the sport's big picture. Our ongoing involvement in numerous trail- and bike-related organizations is huge. They allow us to be active within local networks, alert us to new developments quickly, and support the initiatives we care about. We’re also members of the local chamber of commerce.

HOPKINS, Minn.: Jonathan Minks, owner Jonny Rock Bikes

Jonathan Minks

As small business owners and family members, we only have so much time to spend working and with our families. It's a hard balancing act. I listen to Christian Podcasts about business and personal development, as well as following the markets and economic news. I try to listen to encouraging and empowering podcasts that help elevate my outlook. Sales training movies, podcasts, and videos are always a great resource to inspire and benefit from. 

I belong to barter groups such as ITEX in order to have additional revenue streams. I also have some fulfillment and assembly subscriptions. I really enjoy the discussions on some of the Facebook forums for our industry. I’m a volunteer as park and recreation commissioner in my city, and we’re actively working on new parks, including a mountain bike park. It's very exciting and engaging to be a part of the community. Being involved makes me feel good about helping my city grow for outdoor fitness and exercise as well as bringing my personality and enthusiasm to the table. This has been my best experience from my corporate days of being part of chambers of commerce and business associations.

BROOKLYN, N.Y.: Ilya Nikhamin and Kasia Nikhamina, co-owners Redbeard Bikes

Ilya Nikhamin and Kasia Nikhamina

Ilya listens to podcasts such as Planet Money, Freakonomics, Hidden Brain, and BBC’s The Life Scientific and applies research from every scientific and behavioral discipline. The lessons are universal. My (Kasia’s) favorite professional development books have been Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, about the hospitality industry, and How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer, a collection of Debbie Millman's interviews with designers, that empowered me to think of Redbeard as a brand that is bigger than just a bike shop. Also, self-awareness, gained through individuals and couples therapy, goes a long way toward working well with people. If we’d sought therapy sooner, we might still have employees … and be less burnt out.

We belong informally to our local business improvement district, the DUMBO BID. Much of the programming they organize doesn’t involve us, but it makes for a lively engaged neighborhood, and in that sense it benefits us. We occasionally contribute content to their weekly email blast and Instagram. For a few years, we had an external/outsourced CFO on a monthly retainer. He revamped our Quickbooks so we were actually getting useful reports, and advised on key strategic decisions that allowed us to pivot to our current model — bike fit and high-end service by appointment.

ENCINITAS, Calif.: Will Schellenger, owner El Camino Bike Shop

Will Schellenger

I cannot think of a membership, subscription, online community or book that I have read or been a part of that has helped me run my business. That is not to say they don't exist, just that I have not been good at taking advantage of them. I ride with local groups of people, some of whom are in the bike industry, and some who are not. I listen to them, especially their observations of the economy and their cycling needs, and I try to act accordingly.

My former business partner was a member of the Rotary Club, and I think that was a valuable connection for him, but I have not joined myself. The NBDA has been calling me lately at the shop, so I suppose that means my subscription has lapsed. I will have to follow up with them and see what value they may have to add to my business. I think small business owners need to be aware of memberships, especially if there is a fee involved. You can have too many of these, much like having too many entertainment subscriptions in your personal life. It's a good idea to take a look at them from time to time to make sure they still serve your needs.

BRADENTON, Fla.: Paul Tobio, owner Ryder Bikes

Paul Tobio

I keep up with the news in various formats on a daily basis, and I listen to business podcasts and read business books about case studies and managing people. This allows me to stay focused on customers, employees, and look for signs of things changing at the shop to stay ahead of the curve and make changes as needed. I also hold USA Cycling and USA Triathlon Coaching licenses, which help me keep in touch with active cyclists. Additionally, the organizations’ on-going continuing education helps me stay at the forefront of items these cyclists deem important. I subscribe to publications for store design, supply chain, and retail focus to improve my store and understand what is happening in the retail landscape.

I am a member of our local chamber of commerce as well as the NBDA. The chamber creates a network of other local business owners to share ideas and provide assistance with local market conditions. The NBDA has great programs, specifically podcasts, the Monday Mingle, and Wednesdays “actionable items” that help place some focus around the cycling specifics of our store.

Jonathan Minks.
Topics associated with this article: From the Magazine

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