Behind the Wizard’s Curtain
or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love QBP
I’ve never been ashamed of the fact that I opened Back Alley Bikes with more gumption than know-how. In the beginning, “I know how to fix bikes” and “I own all these tools” made “I’ll just open a bike shop” seem like a logical next step down a predictable road when, in fact, I was stepping off a cliff. Seven years of freefall later and I’m still flapping my arms furiously. I’m not flying yet, but I haven’t hit the ground either. So far, so good.
This past weekend, I took my long-awaited/briefly-dreaded first trip to Minneapolis to attend Frostbike, the annual bike nerd pilgrimage hosted by our main bike part supplier, Quality Bicycle Products (QBP). Featuring the mix of shiny new bobbles and puntastic seminars (“Where do we grow from here?”) that one would expect at any business convention, the big surprise for me was learning that there are hundreds of rad little bike shops out there, and that they’re all run by people as seemingly clueless about basic business practices as I am.
I know for a fact that there are plenty of bike shops out there that are run by people with a real understanding of how business works. Hell, I’ve even worked at shops that are managed by people with bona fide university degrees in business, but there were very few of those folks at Frostbike. QBP somehow managed to invite a disproportionate number of shockingly ignorant bike shop owners, but I don’t think it was an accident because I’ve rarely seen such a high concentration of dorks so genuinely passionate about bikes. By gathering all of these doofuses together, and lubing us up with hundreds of gallons of beer, QBP gave us the opportunity to share our enthusiasm with each other rather than just learn new ways to more precisely calculate projections.
In the business world, I suppose this would be called networking, but in the bike world, it’s a party!