David Guettler | Founder, CEO
River City Bicycles
Q: Why did you start your business?
A: I started River City Bicycles because I had been in the bike industry for about 12 years, 10 as a junior partner in a chain of bike shops. I had an idea of how I wanted to open a different kind of store, basically the shop of my dreams. My approach was “I don't care if I have to work twice as hard for half as much money, at least I will know if my idea would work or not”. My fear was turning 50 and not knowing if it would've worked.
Q: What are some key factors or decisions that contributed to the success of your business?
A: The biggest factor in our success was something I learned in one of my first jobs ever--working in a restaurant as a cook. I learned from my best friend the concept of taking pride in your work, and paying attention to detail. I wanted to build a store that obviously respected the customers, where my staff would look forward to spending time. I wanted a store that our customers would think was obviously the best store around.
Q: What are some challenging aspects of your business?
A: The job constantly changes. When I got started, the most important thing was that it was up to me to make just about everything happen, from sales to making sure service got done, shipping, receiving, and bookkeeping was accurate. I was always looking to set the “high water mark” in regards to productivity. It evolved into learning how to train managers to do these things, and my job moved up the chain to big picture things, still keeping an eye on how the store runs. I still work the sales floor on Saturdays for that reason, to keep up with what our customers are asking for, and to keep a hand in the day-to-day operations.
Q: Do you feel you made any serious mistakes as you were starting or growing your business? Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
A: Maybe the big mistake I made early on was not finding a location that I could purchase. I was taught that commercial real estate was different from running a business. While that may be true, my goal is to be in business for 50 years, and not owning your location leaves too much up to chance for that to be a certainty.
Q: What other advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
A: Words of advice? When you start a business, it is your 'put up or shut up' moment. You have to throw absolutely everything you have into it, and be prepared to work harder than you've ever worked in your life if you want it to be excellent. Keep the customer’s perspective in mind, because not much else matters. Be the fearless leader your business needs and your staff wants.
About River City Bicycles
River City Bicycles, founded in 1995, is a full service bike shop located in Portland, Oregon. We have been recognized as a 'Nation’s Top 100 Bike Shop' by the industry every year of our existence, while also being recognized as the 'Top Retailer' in 2010, and 'Top Female Friendly' store in 2008. We opened an 'Outlet Store' a couple blocks away from our main store in 2011.
"I had an idea of how I wanted to open a different kind of store, basically the shop of my dreams… My fear was turning 50 and not knowing if it would've worked."—David Guettler