For the long awaited return of our “Break In” interview series, we talk to someone who’s concept certainly shook things up. It’s one thing to iterate on an existing product category, which, in a way, is what happened here, but it’s something else to virtually reinvent it for the modern age. Beeline Bikes took the bike shop “product” and made it mobile. And it gave anyone the opportunity to own one of those mobile shops through a franchise model. Then, as online sales continue to challenge brick and mortar operations, they became a conduit for brands looking to offer consumer direct Internet sales, funneling potentially lost revenue directly into their (and their franchisees’) pockets.
As of this story going live, Beeline has 31 mobile bike shops open and in development across Albuquerque, the Bay Area, Boulder, Denver, Los Angeles, Orange County and Phoenix. They are a dealer for Breezer, Cleary, Diamondback, Faraday, Fuji, Kestrel, Lynskey, Raleigh, Spot and Van Dessel, with more brands having conversations with them. Here’s how it all started…
BIKERUMOR: Who are you and what are you doing here?
PETE: My name is Pete Buhl, co-Founder & CEO of Beeline Bikes. I do whatever needs to be done. These days that consists largely of 1) meeting with prospective franchisees and brand partners, 2) working with our team to continuously improve our model, and, 3) doing whatever I can to pitch in where needed.
But that is today…in the early days of Beeline, I spent a lot of time out with our mechanics/mobile shop operators at house visits, corporate visits and events to get an understanding how we interacted with customers and how we could make the mobile bike shop most efficient and responsive to the customers’ needs. The only thing I’ve not done is wrench on a bike – I’m prohibited from wrenching as I’m not certified by Beeline University. I am, however, allowed to clean and wipe down bikes in support of a mechanic and I love the chance to get my hands dirty.
BIKERUMOR: What was your first job or experience in the cycling industry? How did you “break” in?
PETE: I broke into the industry with Beeline Bikes and it was a big shock. I had come out of the tech world where the focus on customer lifetime value, efficient supply chains, applying technology to scale, and using data/analytics to learn/improve were commonplace. If you could not handle these basics you were done in a day.
The bike world was a wake up call. Despite the fact that we ran the most buttoned up bike shop in the industry, offered an amazing customer experience, and fully complied with MAP policies, none of the suppliers wanted to sell me any product. In fact, we were forced to open a brick and mortar shop that offered a much less convenient experience in order to purchase parts…insane, but we did what we had to do.
BIKERUMOR: What’s your educational background?
PETE: After attending 10 schools between K-12 as my family moved around the US (California, Texas, Washington), I spent my last 3 years of high school in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I went to UC Berkeley for college and studied Accounting and Operations Research (OR). I loved OR, which was essentially applying mathematical models to real world problems to figure out a better solution (i.e. how to route the teller line most efficiently at the bank – does anyone still go to a bank?).
Interestingly, we have a super smart team at Beeline Bikes applying technology, bike knowledge, and data analytics/OR techniques to optimize our inventory and supply chain logistics with the goal of enhancing our product margins and our customer experience (the problem set we can solve in the mobile shop).
BIKERUMOR: After that first experience/job, what was the path to your current position?
PETE: After school, I was an accountant at Price Waterhouse for four years. Accounting was challenging and required a bunch of 60-80 hour work weeks, but I had the chance to support a whole bunch of really cool companies in technology, mining, medical devices, etc. That gave me the entrepreneurial bug and eventually one of my technology clients offered me a position that set my course for the future.
BIKERUMOR: What’s a normal day for you?
PETE: Get up around 6am and check email for any urgent items, then head into the Beeline Bikes office by 7:30am and review customer feedback, new appointment notes and update my to-do list for the day.
A day usually consist of some internal meetings regarding current projects (supply chain optimization, customer acquisition learnings, etc.). If we have franchisee prospects in for a Discovery Day or recent franchisees in for their Beeline University training week, a significant portion of my time is allocated to those activities.
I usually work at the office at least until the last of our company mobile bike shops is done for the day. I always want to hear real-time feedback about what the team in the field is seeing and experiencing.
BIKERUMOR: What are the highlights of your job?
PETE: I love sharing the Beeline Bikes approach with prospective franchisees, mechanics, partners and customers. What we are doing is so different and game-changing. The opportunity to bring customer convenience to the bicycle industry and in doing so, dramatically grow the number of folks on bikes is my personal (and our team’s) mission.
At the same time, our franchise model enables folks who love cycling and bikes to make a good living pursuing their passion.
BIKERUMOR: What could you do without?
PETE: Complainers and folks who say it cannot be done – way too many folks like this on the industry message boards. Here are two quotes for folks to think about:
“If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out… Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture.
From the year 1915 when bicycle urban travel was 20 times greater than it is today: “The world is moving so fast nowadays that the man who says it cannot be done is generally interrupted by someone else doing it.”—Elbert Hubbard.
BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give to someone looking to follow your path today?
PETE: If you want to win and change the status quo, do your best to attract a team of committed, like-minded folks, and be prepared to sacrifice and work your butt off every day.