Cycles of Life: The Dealer Camp Experience
Cycles of Life is an ongoing series from Siren Cycles’ founder Brendan Collier. While it’ll touch on his bike brand, the focus is on the romantic notion most of us have of one day opening a little bike shop to call our own. He’s done it, and now he’s chronicling the experience for us.
No, not that DealerCamp. I had the pleasure of joining a number of other dealers in Northern California for Marin Bikes’ 2014 product launch.
As a new bike shop owner, this was my first time attending a bike industry dealer camp. I’d been invited to attend SaddleDrive with QBP & Salsa last month, but had to bow out when our forest was on fire. The dealer camp concept affords an opportunity for the the manufacturer to have the undivided attention of their dealers, and a low stress getaway for those of us working in IBD’s. I joke that industry perks like this are what I get to enjoy in lieu of the benefits that come with a “real job.”
While my dealer camp experience was with Marin Bikes, I’d imagine the playbook -and some of the benefits to the IBD & manufacturer- are similar for all brands. In the end, I found the opportunity to network with other IBD’s just as valuable as the info received from the manufacturer.
Getting in & Getting Settled
Traveling to dealer camp brought the usual excitement and disappointment of most travel experiences- baggage snafus, delayed flights, and Bloody Mary’s in an airport lounge where time seems to be disconnected with the outside world.
On arriving at our hotel, I began meeting other shop owners and managers, and received copies of the 2014 product catalog. We had time to unwind poolside, schmooze with industry legends, talk shop, and learn about one another’s businesses. We discussed the things that make our shops tick, and the pros & cons of various suppliers we work with. I believe this intimate setting made for better IBD collaboration than say, Interbike, where we tend to be more pressed for time.
Getting to Work
Our daily meetings began in a conference room, ended on the bike. In between, we reviewed the company’s rebranding efforts, exchanged ideas for different ways of doing business, and learned about the new product line. We put faces with company names we’d otherwise only known from email & phone calls. Though not as exciting as new product, I left this phase of the meeting day with a better understanding of where our shop fit in the brand status, and how we might be able to leverage the company’s rebranding efforts to make gains at Hub Cyclery.
The new product is exactly that- new product. Pretty much regardless of the brand name, it’s gonna be lighter, stiffer, smoother, faster… more. All that. I’m forever a bike geek, and a somewhat jaded & opinionated one at times. I was happy to see a few bits & pieces worthy of excitement, snap pictures, text a friend. With new product comes new benefits to our shop customers. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s really about.
Getting to Ride, Getting to Relax
Time on the bike forges friendships and business relationships… and it can clear the headspace.
Each day at dealer camp included time on the bike: an optional tourist ride in the Bay Area, a mountain bike ride on Mt Tam, or a road ride in the Marin County highlands. I opted for dirt one day, and the road ride the next. The mountain bike ride ushered in camaraderie in the way only single track and beer can do. (and, to hear Steve Gravenites’ stories!) The demo ride also gave us dealers a chance to compare notes on the various models we were riding. Hey, it makes for a good day at work.
Day 2 brought me to a road ride. It’d been years since I’d ridden a road bike with purpose. I live in a mountain bike town, what can I say?
I’m glad I made it. The informal atmosphere gave us all a chance to talk with company reps from sales, marketing, and product management… all while getting a chance to blow off some steam, away from work.
I came home to the shop after the dealer camp feeling refreshed, and also armed with more knowledge and vision than I’d left with. It’s like having a vacation that’s part work, or work that’s part vacation… a lot like running a bike shop.