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State of Retail: Best practices for recruiting, hiring, and retaining qualified sales people and mechanics?

Published April 11, 2024

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

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — For our April magazine edition, we asked our State of Retail panel members: What are your best practices for recruiting, hiring, and retaining qualified sales people and mechanics?

CARSON CITY, Nev: Win Allen, owner Win’s Wheels

Win Allen

My hiring practices have and will always be the same: hiring the most qualified person for the position, despite sex, age, color, or race. My clients expect the highest quality work coming out of my shop and the only way to do that is by hiring the best available person. I have recruited from our industry’s trade schools UBI and BBI, the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association Job board, and posts on social media. I've also had mechanics come to me looking for a new shop to "hang their shingle." I offer employees wholesale pricing on purchases after 90 days, paid time off after one year, and I do my best to evenly distribute any swag. I also offer on-the-clock continuing education, online, or in-person. Some other perks are allowing employees to work on their personal bikes in the shop when they’re not on the clock and buying the staff lunch a few times a month.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.: Matthew Crawford, manager The Spoke Easy

Matthew Crawford

We’ve worked to build relationships with both marginalized and non-cis cycling groups in our city to better understand the pulse of Charlotte's cycling community. We practice equitable and inclusive hiring and do a lot of outreach through our rides, pop-up events, and community involvement that have helped us to cultivate relationships with people who share our passion for cycling. One of the primary ways we find potential mechanics is through The Spoke Easy University mechanic courses sponsored by Park Tool, which provide an overview in mechanical curriculum for fledgling mechanics and hobbyists. Through this engagement, we have been able to find new talent from within the community as our team has shifted and grown. To retain our staff, we provide competitive compensation, including increases for employees that stay on from year to year and a fair amount of scheduling autonomy. Another thing we provide is access to some team pricing benefits on cycling gear, bikes, parts, etc. We participate in ongoing company-provided training programs that give our team members the opportunity to grow into their role and find ways to really thrive through their passion for cycling. 

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio: Jacob English, owner Mountain Road Cycles

Jacob English

If you love bikes and have good ethics, then you are welcome to our team. We look for passionate cycling people when hiring. A lot of them tend to be customers transitioning from another field. Diversity and inclusion have always been a focus of our hiring practices. We always keep our eyes out for good prospects, even if they’re not needed right away. You don't want to lose a good prospect even if it is the off-season and it costs more to start. As far as retaining our staff, we give flexibility. If someone wants to ride across the country or do an event, we make it work, even in the busy season. We make sure they get paid overtime and shop discounts. However, we are not big enough to offer healthcare and 401(k) plans. Most of our employees already have those through other sources.

CHICAGO: Gillian Forsyth, owner BFF Bikes

Gillian Forsyth

We’re a small shop and our hiring is usually based on skill and fit. Most of our employees have been hired as a result of unsolicited inquiries. This has worked great in that we knew that the prospective employee had already done their research and decided it would be a great place to work. We typically have a four-week probation period for new employees. Retention has to be a balance of compensation, benefits, and an overall good work environment. I think it is very important to offer a fair and living wage. This usually results in a pricing increase every year, but it is the only way to do it without losing your shirt. We also offer purchases at cost plus 10% on everything for employees and their significant others, bonuses based on results, and health insurance as part of a group plan. Due to the fact that our shop is seasonal, we naturally need to reduce hours in the winter, and we make sure that the prospective employees know this. I try to be as fair as possible and reduce hours among each employee rather than just letting one go.

NEWINGTON, N.H.: Steve Gerhartz, owner Seacoast E-Bikes

Steve Gerhartz

In my former career, I consulted for auto dealers, and they would ask, "Find me the best!" The problem with that is you end up overpaying and hoping the person fits into your culture. We hire for attitude and work ethic and build from the ground up. It takes longer but is less expensive, and we get what we want. When we opened in 2020 as an e-bike-only store, we hired seasoned bike techs. Big mistake. They brought old habits that did not work in a rapidly changing bicycle industry, so we stopped looking for longtime bike industry veterans. Now, the average age of our techs is 28. We offer employees flexible hours and discounts. We are considering putting in a profit-sharing plan, but the long view for me is to sell the store to the employees. 401(k)’s only get them so far. We are also considering an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. You must have an exit strategy in any business.

WINTHROP, Wash.: Julie Muyllaert, co-owner Methow Cycle & Sport

Julie Muyllaert

It’s important to us that all of our staff are passionate about bicycles and cycling, and that their values are aligned with ours in terms of caring for our customers and community. We also aim to have a staff composition that reflects our community so that all feel welcome and comfortable in the shop. Being clear up front in the hiring process helps ensure that a candidate is a good fit and also helps establish a solid foundation for expectations, roles, and responsibilities, which is important for employee satisfaction and retention. We work hard to align employees’ interests and skills with leadership opportunities, and provide ongoing training and education. We also strive to pay competitive wages and offer paid healthcare and vacation for full-time employees. All staff receive paid sick leave and access to all the industry perks available. Seasonally, we hire a couple of high school students to help maintain the rental fleet and prep bikes for service. Depending on their skills and interest, we also train them to build bikes, change flats and do minor repairs. We are fortunate in that we have little staff turnover. During the pandemic, we weren't able to successfully recruit any new full-time staff. I’m happy to report that we recently advertised for two positions, received numerous qualified inquiries, and hired two new people who are great additions to our staff.

LITTLE FALLS, Minn.: David Sperstad, owner Touright Bicycle Shop

David Sperstad

Talking with customers is one of the ways we recruit and hire new staff. We also work with a state/federally funded program that helps small businesses such as ours by providing workers and covering their cost of employment. We focus on quality individuals and work to develop them into exceptional employees. We try to mentor them to understand what it means to do a job and work for someone. I’ve been pretty lucky and haven’t had to deal with much turnover. It’s disappointing when they leave, but we understand. We will hopefully be adding additional staff this year.

ALAMEDA, Calif.: Larry Tetone, event coordinator Alameda Bicycle

Larry Tetone

We’ve been really lucky with the talent we’ve had in our shop; we have some of the best wrenches in the Bay Area working for us. A lot of hires come from word of mouth and asking around local networks, but outside of that, we’ve had luck with UBI and Barnett’s job boards for mechanics. For sales we tend to cast a wide net: Radical Adventure Riders, Craigslist, and Indeed are our go-to’s. Most of our long-term full-timers started off as part-time help. If you want to retain folks, you need to be paying them well. For our full-time employees, we offer a 4% matching 401(k) contribution, three weeks paid-time off, one-week paid sick time, four weeks paid parental leave, subsidized medical, dental, and vision care, and wholesale pricing. We work hard to make our shop a place where folks have a chance at a career if they choose. I don’t mean to gush, but we have a special group of folks at the shop. Most of the turnover we have is in the form of seasonal hires every year as opposed to trying to fill in full-time positions.

Julie Muyllaert.
Topics associated with this article: From the Magazine

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