When I left Eugene for a two week vacation on the coast of Maine awhile back I brought along a Bike Friday. I saw it as a way to enjoy a bit of solitude while visiting my new in-laws. While visiting the coast of Maine I used my bike for brief trips to visit my in-laws across the harbor … a nice break from all the commotion of family.
What surprised me most of all when riding was that my thoughts turned quickly to the people behind the bike. I could not help but reflect on my own experience at the home of Bike Friday.
I thought some more, and three words came to mind: love, initiative and perseverance. Love of a common vision – to see everyone riding more and driving less. Taking the initiative in spite of the FUD factor – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. And lastly, persevering and turning things around even after a setback. This is not a typical story of the graceful, often mythical high powered organizations lauded in management text books. Rather, it’s a simple story of how a local company can transform a dream into a sustainable reality.
My first experience with Bike Friday was in the early 1990’s. At that time I was working with a manufacturing company that supplied parts for Bike Friday. It was then that I first experienced the soul of Bike Friday. I will never forget a hot summer day when we were working in 90+ degree heat and, to our surprise, someone showed up with several cartons of ice cream for our workers. The ice cream was from Bike Friday. How often does a customer send the vendor a gift? I knew then, this was a unique company.
It was much later in 2001 that I found myself working with Bike Friday over a six month period. I was able to experience first hand the challenges of keeping a small business with a global customer base moving forward. A business led by a couple of visionary guys who admitted they had more experience with engineering than human relations. A highly intense and creative environment. I found the company a challenge to work with, like many cutting-edge companies. Yet, I also found big hearts.
Who do I remember? I remember the owners Hanz and Alan Scholz. I think of Lynette Chiang’s travels and sharing it through her writing. I think of the young Hanna Scholz growing with the family business and the good work ethic she learned in the process.
Since leaving Bike Friday I’ve stopped by many times to check-up on their progress. I am always amazed by their work ethic and the continuing evolution of the company.
Bike Friday is not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing environment either; factories often aren’t. Yet, there is a beauty of a unified vision that hums within those tin walls.
For the many who have worked for Bike Friday, we know that it isn’t necessarily the easiest place to work … most labor of love isn’t. Doing anything out of the box takes commitment, effort and mutual understanding. Even though it’s been a few years since working with Bike Friday, I continue to reflect on valuable lessons learned there.
If you would like to know more about Bike Friday you can visit their web site at www.bikefriday.com