The last 3 years have been tough for the cycling industry. In 2012 when stolen goat was formed on a laptop from my kitchen table we were in the midst of a cycling boom. The Olympics, Bradley Wiggins etc etc all paved the way for a mini boost in the sport’s popularity. This is a good thing, but the rise in the number of brands and retailers offering essentially the same thing as each other was never going to be sustainable.
In the last 3 years popularity has still very much risen but the industry is struggling in many areas. It is still a niche industry and that makes business unsustainable for a lot of small companies.
As I wrote in my article on surviving 5 years, I’m super happy that we have not only made it this far but are now growing faster than ever. In fact as I look over the last 3 years of accounts we have grown around 1000% in that time frame (in terms of revenue). Whilst there are definitely a bunch of companies out there growing faster than us, I will take that level of growth any day of the week. If we can achieve even a quarter of that growth in the next 3 years then we’ll be in a very good place indeed.
That growth hasn’t come easy. Not in the slightest. The term “growing pains” doesn’t just apply to kids, the more businesses I look at (not just in cycling), the more I realise many are fighting for survival, trying to grow fast enough to outrun the cash runway that they have. Sadly this year, that runway ran out for a number of businesses, especially in cycling.
We recently launched our AW17 season and it’s very satisfying to see people enjoying the clothing and the designs that we have worked so hard on over the 12 months that precede launch day. But whilst the kit is brand new, the principals that we have relied on over the last 5 years haven’t changed one single bit. It is these principals that I think have not only kept us alive but fuelled that 1000% 3 year growth. Here’s a few of them for your information / amusement…
Customer Service Is So Much More Than Serving Customers
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… in this day and age, you simply have to treat every single customer with the gratitude and respect they deserve. There is so much choice out there and yet so many companies are missing the mark on this.
The irony is that it’s one of the cheapest ways to grow your business. I guarantee that any money you have to spend on it will come back at least two-fold.
Selling something to someone is not hard, but nurturing a customer relationship that results in repeat custom takes a little bit more effort, but ultimately if you want to compete with the rest you need to find a way.
The customers we have who found us via a recommendation from a friend or loved one are the most rewarding customers, because you know their friend or loved one is super happy with their purchase and will therefore also be coming back at some point. If you run the basic maths, a little courtesy and compassion just turned one sale into three. That’s a good ROI :-)
Be Proud Of What You Produce
If you’re going to add a new product into the marketplace, you better be proud of it. If you’re not, throw it away and start again. This year we have pulled a number of products prior to launch because we just weren’t happy with them 100%. I’m sure we could have sold them eventually, but we wouldn’t be happy about it, and therefore… what’s the point?
Feelings aside, it’s the difference between selling one thing to one person and nurturing a customer relationship that results in a lifetime of brand loyalty. I know which I prefer.
What this has meant for us so far is that we may make slightly less on each purchase due to the cost of the production, but the quality of the garment speaks for itself and that repeat purchase is just around the corner.
Allow People To Be Different
Our business is, I guess, different in many ways. We shunned the easy option of creating another “Heritage” clothing brand. In a crowded market, it’s important to be different, but fundamentally – as human creatures we like to be a little bit different when standing alongside our fellow man.
I think this is why our limited edition offering over the last 12 months has really struck a chord with people. The trails and local climbs are stuffed with the same people wearing the same kit. We live in a society where we are allowed to express ourselves creatively, so I think it’s important to allow people to do just that.
As a business, it’s cool to be different, so long as you allow your customers the chance to be different too.
Seriously, if you’re not having fun working in an industry as small as this then you should really ask why you’re here?! This isn’t a gravy train, there are no quick bucks to be made in this industry, it’s a small but passionate industry. Get on your bike, or stick your trainers on and go outside and adventure more. This, I guarantee, will make you happier in your situation and you’ll be better in all aspects of your life – not just work.
If you’re not in the cycling industry then you should probably focus even more on having fun. Growing a business is tough, and it isn’t for everybody. But it’s also very rewarding, and if you get the balance right it can be very fun and always a genuine adventure.