There have been more than a couple occasions in November's history where Dave and I have played the game, "If I had a million dollars." The idea is to decide where we would make an investment if we had a cash windfall, which seems like an easy exercise. But it's not, because we're both spendthrifts and would only invest somewhere if we recognized some strategic advantage in doing it. So the game is actually a strategic workshop for us, to assess our model and the market and choose a proactive direction to advance. So far, we have not yet had the million dollar windfall to invest, but even without it the game throws some clarity on our purpose, and often spurs us to some new (and needed) direction.
A nice reliant automobile.
Now is a good time for us to play the game again. If you're reading this in your inbox, you won't yet know we have a brand new site. (If you're on the site, did you know that by subscribing to our email list you'll get these blogs every day we publish them, around happy hour o'clock EST?) The biggest visible difference to the new site is that instead of a handful of products, we have over a hundred - each one a different rim and hub combination. The selection is the same as before, but by merchandising each separately we're hoping to make it easier to find the custom wheelset that will make you happy. And each of these products you see is between 60 and 100 SKUs, with all the different drilling, hub color and axle combinations. There are several thousand SKUs on the site so far, as well as MTB and Full Custom pages that let you tell us exactly what you want if you don't see it here. There are still some missing descriptions, absent information and blank product photos, but all of that is coming. This is an agile delivery.
But the bigger change for us in the new site is how we define ourselves. For years we struggled between being a product company and a service company, and we straddled the line trying to be both. A hard look at the market finally moved us to make a choice, and we put ourselves squarely in the service category, as custom wheelbuilders. We know our wheel builds are exceptional, a quality that's often overlooked by people who think of us as a product company and are evaluating us based on product price and delivery time. And while we've had success in bringing products to market (the Rail 52 was the outcome of an earlier round of "If I had a million dollars"), the truth is that we are neither uniquely qualified to develop or source products, and also that the industry already has a glut of options to meet every need. New for the sake of new isn't a strategy we subscribe to.
The trend we've seen on the rise since we started, with no signs of abatement, is the drive to customize. For many of our customers, their bikes are part of their personal identity. Brands, aesthetics, colors, even hub noises all contribute. Product companies succeed by a limited number of options and a brand story that relieves customers of the burden of decision-making. We've found that decision-making is half the fun for our customers, and as a brand it's always best to get in on the fun part of customers' processes than to try to talk them out of it.
So we are custom wheelbuilders, because bikes are fun and a set of wheels that suit our personalities as well as our riding needs bring cyclists joy. And that's always been our favorite part of this job - when our customers show the same outsized giddiness to colored hubs that we have.
As seen on our instagram.
So if I had a million dollars and I wanted to grow our business with it, I'd invest it in a campaign to celebrate the joy of selecting and riding a wheelset that fits the bike and the rider equally well. The one-size-fits-most approach to wheels results in color choices deemed universally inoffensive, spoke counts that are either overkill or underbuilt, and inattentive mass-oriented build processes. While all of that is great for margins, it's lousy for the rider experience. I had a coach that used to always remind me, "bike racing is fun." Yes it is. And so should be bike shopping.