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Heather Mason: Connecting on a personal level

Published August 4, 2020

This is a challenging time for all of us. As more and more events go virtual, trade shows are canceled and travel within our industry at a standstill, I am concerned about the depth of connection within our industry and to our customers. We are indeed an industry built on connections: we value our yearly opportunity to meet up at trade shows, reps love to go into shops and chat with owners and staff; setting up a customer's bike is a very personal service. At first, the thought of no group rides, races, fondos, or kids' events was a simple bummer. But as time moves on the extent of the disappointment is building.

Collectively we understand the importance of flattening the curve by separating from each other, however this is creating an epidemic of loneliness; presenting a super challenge for us at the moment. Ignoring this need for connection right now is not an option.

For best business practice, I challenge us to use this as a chance to tighten our bonds and show the best side of our industry, ourselves, and our customers.

I have worked with Bianchi Bicycles for the past few years. I absolutely love my job. I am determined to make every connection I have one of the most authentically possible and come to deeply understand why our paths crossed. I know that awesomeness happens when you pull the best out of each other, and I am determined that we do that for each other. My dealers are my friends; in fact I would go further to say I even consider them my family. We host events together, take rides together, drink coffee, share beers, fix bikes, sort our problems, and genuinely have each other's backs. Always.

I share in pictures in the gallery at the bottom of this page.

My industry network and connections have brought me to where I am. Years ago, a friend of mine crashed his road bike and contacted a bike brand to purchase a new one. This phone call prompted a conversation that led to them contacting me, which would turn into a full-time job opportunity within the industry; thus, getting me out of my personal shop and onto an entire new side of things. A few years later a shop owner I was working with at the time was chatting with a bike company, which led to a new role for me within the industry. Lately, one shop owner is friends with another shop owner who ends up contacting me to become a Bianchi dealer. An owner of a sock company I was introduced to on a marketing project years ago becomes a team sponsor. I could go on and on about the importance of your network, your connections, and personal growth. It's the importance of face-to-face conversations.

People trust people. People buy from people. People get inspired ideas from people. It's how we grow. Group ride conversations inspire new bike builds, new bike purchases, races to be entered, and bibs to be bought. Trade shows inspire new in-store displays, conversations about emerging brands, and new job opportunities. Fit appointments bring on adjustments for purchases inspiring shoes, cleats, bars, and wheels. Dealers talking to dealers inspires confidence, builds supplier relationships, and sparks ideas and opportunity.

So we can't just stop here. The new canceled, virtual world we are in is rapidly shifting and changing under our feet daily. We need to navigate this time by staying connected. We need to continue to share, and it needs to be genuine.

So, ideas?

Last night I was sitting on the porch talking with a great friend when I blurted out, "we need to ride." The industry needs to ride. While we may not actually be able to meet up and ride at the moment, what I was thinking was how the bicycle connects us. Almost all of us are in this industry because we love to ride. Riding found us and inspired us and brought us to where we are. Riding gives us this unique mental connection to each other, to our staff and customers that is indescribable. It's part of our DNA. Riding cleanses the soul and brings us back to center. The bicycle industry is full of crazy passionate people. It's fun, memorable, and impactful. What is so stand-apart about our industry is that if you want to make a difference, if you have a loud voice, you can be heard.

Simply said, we need to share more of us.

  • We need to share our brand, shop, customer and personal stories.
  • We need to share our why, in a genuine and bold way.
  • We need to share why we ride, and the thoughts that come to us while we ride.
  • Consumers, shop owners, vendors, you, me; we are all ready to hear it.
  • With fear, loneliness, and uncertainty, millions of ears are open at an all-time high.
  • I urge you to speak loudly.

I love to ride my bike. I love to spend long days on All Road Expeditions; combining tarmac, gravel, and single track, riding up mountains with lots of elevation and multiple water stops. I ride for the brain time, for the exploration and inspiration. I ride to share my story, to meet other people along the way, and to take a mini escape.

I live in upstate New York, in an area that has no real mountains outside my door. My house is nice, but where I actually live is not my passion. I am there for my family and children, but I dream of a home next to a mountain, where I can wake each day and ride to the summit.

My brother lives in Vermont and I am fortunate enough to share a spot at his place. Splitting time between New York and Vermont allows me quick access to visiting my Bianchi dealer accounts in the Northeast. Although I have not been traveling much as of late, I continue to seek ways to stay connected to my dealers and share stories and images with them via text, email and social feeds. I took my gravel bike up Mount Mansfield (the highest mountain in Vermont) the other day.

Recently, I've spent workdays checking in with dealers, making and sending homemade cookies, having pizza delivered, writing blog posts, and sharing ride and brand stories. I am continuing to find ways to work anew and stay connected while distant. I'm planning and dreaming.

I'm writing today concerned. I love our industry and do not want us to drift farther apart.

Starting today, I challenge you to brilliance. We need to create a personal connection with as many customers as possible. Both sides, Supplier and IBD, need to get tighter. We need to listen, ask for feedback, and show we care. We need to make communication frequent, supportive and transparent. I truly believe it will change everything.

Look at your current customers, those that have been doing business with you for years. Reward them, thank and acknowledge them. We need to genuinely appreciate those that have been there for us. Friends, colleagues, associates, customers.

Share your story and theirs. First, if you have not told your story, or it's been awhile, now is the time to freshen it up. How and why are you in the industry? What makes you, you? Share your company mission and who your staff is. Ask your customers for content. Authentic video and reviews from customers resonate most with potential buyers. Interview your customers; and with their permission share their personal images off their social feeds. It's easy and free to get great content.

Think about the right time to create real events. There is no substitute for face-to-face. As certain areas of our nation begin opening up under modified policies, perhaps a masked ride, or a no-contact clinic could become an option. Make these events small, by invite only, and free.

The last thing I would encourage you to focus on is often the simplest and most overlooked: returning calls, sending emails, and good old customer service.

Be outstanding. Encourage yourself and your team (or anyone that is the face of your company) to be the best they can with response time and quality.

I am all in for intentionally boosting our superpowers of connection. I challenge you to go all in, with a focused effort on making a meaningful connection while maintaining social distance. By doing this we will lift not only ourselves, but our industry as a whole.

By doing this united, we will continue to ride stronger, faster, and farther.

Editor's note: Heather Mason has done nearly everything in the bike industry. The former pro 24-hour racer has been a retailer and national sales manager for a well-known brand. Now she is a bicycle industry advocate, business developer, columnist, and athlete who shares her knowledge, insight and passion with everyone she meets. She is also in charge of eastern U.S. business development for Bianchi Bicycles. 


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