So, you’ve successfully started running your bike rental shop and are looking into growing your business further? Congratulations!
This final article of our How to start a bike rental shop -series will cover all of the essential things you need to take into consideration when planning your expansion. If you haven't, check out our part one and part two of the series. Again, Kuutti from Roll Outdoors is here to share meaningful insights and tips on how to successfully grow your business.
Planning your growth
Having multiple locations doubles the workload and complicates all of your already-existing processes. Realistically, a project of this nature isn’t exactly a walk in the park: it’s tedious work and it will take up a lot of working hours. On top of everything, there is no one right way to expand in the rental industry. Some decide to grow their only location and refine their services to perfection, while others, like Roll Outdoors, decide to grow by opening up more locations.
However, proper preparations and evaluations of what will work best for you will ease up the workload, making the growing process as a whole much smoother. Here's what you'll need to do:
✔️ Find new locations.
✔️ Update your processes.
✔️ Plan your online marketing.
✔️ Grow your team.
Finding new locations
When deciding on your approach on whether you want to grow your only location or expand by opening another location, keep in mind the industry you’re in and the popularity it holds in your country/area. Expanding in a highly competitive market is complicated and challenging.
In Roll Outdoors’ case, bike touring in Finland was, and still is in its infancy, so it was easy to expand and find locations with lots of demand and little competition.
Roll Outdoors’ approach was to find interesting and different geographical locations where they can start off with a small budget and minimal risk. They start off small, checking the demand and profitability, and investing more as they go. For a small business, this strategy has worked out well so far.
‘’If we had used all this energy and effort into developing our first location, we don’t know what situation we would be in right now and whether our operations would be bigger or smaller. We believe opening up multiple locations was the right path for us.’’
Another thing to consider to see the geographical area: because Finland is so long, the geographical landscape changes quite a bit. This provided an opportunity for Roll Outdoors to open multiple locations offering different types of products and bike tours.
Pro Tip: Differentiate your services from each other
Offering different types of services and activities between locations allows you to reach a larger audience.
‘’Each of our locations serves different customers’ needs, offering them a different type of biking opportunities in different landscapes’’
Having locations in different areas or even climates also means that while one season is ending in one location, another one is only starting. Keeping this in mind, choose your geographical location and type of service wisely: you don’t want to end up in an area where the season is extremely short.
Updating your processes
One of the most fundamental changes that will occur with the growth of your business is the need to develop your processes and update your online store.
This will require meticulous planning and distribution of resources, especially if you have the option of booking and paying in advance. Make sure your contact information is up-to-date, all of the products are in the right categories and physically moved to the right locations.
‘’It can’t be emphasized enough how important it is that you go through every single little thing from your available gear, to season passes. You have to be careful and make sure everything is updated and put into the systems correctly.’’
In case there’s a wrong email address, or a product is marked under the wrong location, it will complicate the employees’ job and take up a lot of time. Most importantly, leaving the customer confused and in the worst case without the right gear affects the overall customer experience in a negative way.
Planning your online marketing
Any type of expansions or growth also means updating your social media and marketing strategy. One of the decisions you’ll have to make is whether you’ll have separate accounts for the different locations, or if you’ll continue with only one.
If you continue with one general account for all your locations, make sure your communication is clear: if you have gained a following thanks to a certain type of content you post, you don’t want to disappoint your followers by starting to post about completely something different.
‘’Especially in the age of social media, you have to be smart with what and how you’re marketing. People nowadays just scroll through without reading the captions properly, so try and be as accurate as possible in order to avoid disappointments.’’
Having at least double the amount of marketing-related work to deal with, consider setting concrete budgets & strategies, and hiring someone to take care of marketing as a whole. This will help with maintaining the consistency and quality of your content.
Growing your team
Naturally, a growing business will need more workforce. You’ll need to figure out who to hire: full-time and seasonal employees, marketing managers, and so on. This comes with setting up an accurate budget so you can manage to pay them, of course.
‘’Since paying salaries isn’t cheap in Finland especially, it’s important to have a proper HR plan. On the other hand - what else would you do with money than hiring good people.’’
Any last tips?
Kuutti pointed out that all the practicalities tend to work out in the end. The most important thing is that you believe in your business and have fun with it. If you genuinely enjoy what you’re doing and the services you’re offering, without a doubt other people will enjoy it too - you just have to be persistent and not give up when times get tough.
‘’My final advice would be: Be brave. Starting your own business is at least worth a try if you believe in it! But don’t be limited to one thing - be open to change and even if something doesn’t work out, try something else. There will always be hits and misses, it’s all about how you work around them.’’
That’s it for the series! Hope you found these tips and how-tos helpful and we wish you the best of luck with your businesses. Of course, a huge thank you to Roll Outdoors for sharing their tips and expertise.
As always, if you have any questions related to anything, our team is always ready to help - just shoot us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meanwhile, download our free e-book on e-commerce for rental shops.
Photos by: Roll Outdoors.