Half of March my bike shop was closed. Sadness swept over me anytime I thought about the bike shop hoping that I wouldn't be one of the small businesses that have to shut down due to loss of income.
Towards the end of March bike shops were considered essential businesses in Colorado (thank you for the work, Bicycle Colorado!) and my phone/email box was overflowing with customers needing work done to their bikes so I sat down with my wife, an emergency physician, to figure out a COVID-19 protocol and what I could actually take on while supporting her during this time.
1. No One Is Allowed In the Store
The door is always locked and everything is done by appointment.
2. By Appointment Only
Fortunately, my customer base is used to the shop operating by appointment but this is even more enforced. I don't have the capacity for last-minute drop-ins or small service work. Appointments are made for both for drop off and pick up.
3. Bike Sales are Done Initially By Phone
All my new bike sales are discussed by phone and email. Customers know what I currently have available thanks to an available bike list I'm keeping updated. Kids' bikes are often done by the customer following the online kid's bike size guide and emailing me for questions. For adult or cargo bikes we narrow it down to 1 or 2 bikes and book an appointment for test rides.
4. Hand Free Hand Off
I'm using combo u-locks from Kryptonite and OnGuard that I can reset the combo before each appointment for customer's to lock up their bike outside or to pick it back up after it is done.
5. Sanitize Everything
I am using rubbing alcohol to clean off the bike and lock before bringing it into the store, and again after I lock it up for the customer. I use fresh rubber gloves for each bike and reusable ones that I wash every night for the actual repair time.
6. Pay Online
All sales are done with online invoices paid before the customer picks up their bike.
7. Under Schedule
One of the most important parts of this, that I'm still trying to figure out, is that I'm operating at about 1/2 my operational load time during this. I'm not able to do small fixes like flats or individual small adjustments unless the bike was purchased from my shop. I'm only doing tune-ups that are booked online and I am currently 2-3 weeks out for service. My kids are currently not in school, and my wife is working a lot so I'm trying to give myself the grace to not overwhelm myself during this.
As a small business owner, I want to be cranking through the service and new bike sales but as a parent and wife, I need to be with my family during this unknown so I can support my wife between her ER shifts.
8. The Unknowns
My system isn't flawless. There are a lot of juggling balls and I know I have dropped a few here and there with following up on emails. Please know that when your bike is in my focus is on providing you the best service which often means I don't get to emails until early mornings and I'm also spending a lot less time on social media or creating content right now. My wife and her schedule take the lead right now, thank you for understanding!
I can't thank everyone, especially my wife, during this. Your support and love during this will always be greatly appreciated. April should be one of my busiest months of business and my goal now is to try and cover the bills. We are applying for all grants that we can find and ultimately trying to learn from this. What do I NEED to operate a great business? How do I provide exceptional service in systems and operations?
Thank you again for everything.
Stay healthy and be well,