The Build Cycle Podcast #014 – Beeline Bikes’ Peter Buhl

As soon as I started The Build Cycle, I knew I wanted Beeline Bikes’ story on the podcast. Why? Because it’s a platform for others to build their businesses upon, a concept that has thus far eluded me in my own entrepreneurial endeavors. But it’s a powerful one because it can scale can so much bigger than what we’re capable of doing with any normal business. Beeline Bikes creates customized mobile bicycle repair shops inside a Sprinter van, then franchises them to owners and operators across the country. Listen in as co-founder Peter Buhl tells how they launched the concept and are poised for massive growth!

DISCUSSION TIMELINE

  • 01:45 – Why I wanted to interview Peter.
  • 03:30 – Where the idea came from.
  • 09:00 – Switching from a management concept to a franchise concept.
  • 11:30 – A few of the things to consider when creating a franchisor business.
  • 13:00 – Why it’s important to test the business model yourself first.
  • 18:50 – How they get their franchisees up and running, and continue to support them.
  • 32:00 – How and why they’re controlling their growth.
  • 40:00 – Taking advantages of a changing retail landscape.
  • 43:40 – What does Beeline provide to their franchisees?
  • 48:00 – What other revenue opportunities do they have?
  • 49:00 – What separates them from the competition?
  • 51:30 – Are there opportunities beyond bike repair and sales?
  • 51:20 – The costs of startup and growth.
  • 56:10 – Peter’s advice for others, and their biggest challenges.
  • 58:40 – Different ways they help their franchisees manage inventory.
Beeline Bikes co-founder Peter Buhl.
The inside of a modern Beeline Bikes mobile repair shop, tucked inside a Sprinter-sized van.

POST GAME ANALYSIS

Do you want to start a business, or create a platform? Whether it’s a franchise system like Pete did with Beeline Bikes, or a software system like WordPress or Shopify, if you can create the platform upon which other people build their businesses, there’s much greater growth potential than a single business.

The concept requires you to think differently about who your end customer is. In Beeline’s case, their customer is the franchisee, so they’ve developed systems, features and benefits that help their customer run their business in the most efficient, easy manner possible. This keeps the franchisee happy, and by helping them succeed, it helps Beeline succeed. Where they’re doing it right is by automating much of the process, like inventory management and stock replenishment, and assisting in the backend with custom point-of-sale software. They’re also helping to bring new business to their franchisees by partnering with bicycle brands to offer delivery and assembly services when the customer orders a new bike online.

Pete learned from other companies he’d seen in the tech sector that dogged pursuit of your vision is what separates the winners from the losers. You also need a dogged pursuit of improvement…how can you improve your product, service or platform to keep your customers happy (and prevent them from leaving). Similarly, they’re looking for the right partners to buy a franchise, which helps them keep things running smoothly and focused on overall growth rather than dealer with problem customers.

One thing Beeline had to consider is how their business model would compete with existing bike shops. For them, they found their own segment that wanted something beyond what the local bike shop could provide (convenience), so it was additive. While this was a happy accident here, it’s worth considering how your business model can find underserved customers in addition to new markets.

A prototype box truck shape to test the layout…
…where they built this layout concept. Ultimately, they went with a Sprinter rather than a box truck.

LINKS & RESOURCES

 

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