I discovered an unexpected perk to our business model on Sunday. For the first time in a few months, I wasn't selling bikes. Dave and I spent some time at a local CX race on Saturday for some last-minute baby-kissing and glad-handing, but mostly we were there to talk to our customers and the teams we're working with next year, and to see a pair of our RFSWs make their maiden game day voyage in a CX race. Sunday we switched to "off", and both of us exhaled for the first time since late August I think.
Every other brand out there - whether they're selling direct or through retail - has to be out selling all the time. Every day is a chance to close deals and put product into customers' hands. I've been in that situation myself. We all have, in fact - it's how business gets done in almost every industry.
But our seasonal selling model doesn't require us to be on all the time. You see the metaphor coming, right? If you race on the road, exactly how fast are you right now? "Not very" is my guess. You take a few months off to lay the groundwork and recover, and you come back in the spring even faster. On a micro level, even soft pedaling for a week at the end of a 3-week training block allows you to springboard to new heights. A teammate of mine bruised the bejeezus out of his ribs at a cross race a few weeks back and had to throttle back for longer than he wanted. The result? He hit the podium twice this past weekend, and is going faster than ever with the State Champs next on the schedule.
Peaks and valleys, man. They're the secret to racing performance. I realize now they're the secret to a lot more. When November is on, we can operate with an intensity that would be simply impossible if we tried to keep it up year-round. That doesn't just mean we can make more noise in the marketplace and write more of these blog entries. It means also we can more readily respond to our customers' requests, helping them get the product they want and feel confident with their purchases. Practically speaking, it means we made the time to get to CX races and group rides, and demo our bikes at a moment's notice, even with enough energy to be hospitable. And that intensity allowed us to introduce the new Side Of Beef build for our RFSWs and collect tons of input on a CX frame at the same time. The past month and a half have been positively consuming - as much so as any block of training and racing leading up to my A races. If I didn't know there was a recovery period afterwards, the intensity would have flagged and we wouldn't have moved as far as we did.
As for our own soft-pedaling, it's not happening just yet. We're finalizing our order details with our suppliers right now (I'm typing this while I await a response from our agent in Taiwan about decal art specs), and later today I'll kick off the first round of benefits with our sponsored teams. Dave moves straight into cross-training, taking the lead on lining up CX frame samples for scrutinizing and testing and also on an expanded wheelset line for 2011. But the fervor has mercifully waned, giving us a chance to step back and look strategically at the business, instead of operating with the short-view rapid responsiveness day-to-day selling businesses often fall into. It's better this way. Other industries should try it.