Interview with the founder
"MULTICYCLE BRINGS BACK THE SENSE OF CUSTOMER LINK"
An interview with Nico and Annemieke Bieleveldt, founders of Multicycle
Interview with nico and Annemieke bieleveldt
Forty years ago, Nico and Annemieke Bieleveldt were at the cradle of Multicycle. After twenty years they said goodbye, but they still look with great involvement and warm feelings at the developments within “their company”. Together we look at how Multicycle came into being, what the strength was and is of this small bicycle factory and they also take a look at the current developments and future of Multicycle.
As a child, Nico was completely mad about cars. That is still visible. When you enter their house, the first thing you see is a display case full of beautiful miniature cars. The fact that Nico ended up in bicycles is therefore pure coincidence: “In the 1960s, bicycle wholesaler Winkelhorst asked me if I wanted to become a sales representative in the bicycle trade. I did that for seven years and it went like a rocket. There I got the feeling for the bicycle trade.
After those seven years, Nico ended up at Peugeot. They also wanted to enter the market with bicycles. When, after another seven years, he no longer felt at home with all the changes within Peugeot, the idea gradually arose to start his own company: “At that time I had such a grip on that trade, everyone knew me and I everyone knew. If you then get the chance to start yourself, you will. Of course it is also in my genes. I come from an entrepreneurial family, so I grew up with it ”.
“That’s it”, Annemieke adds, “if that drive had not been there to have something for yourself, you would never have done it, then Multicycle would never have been there. When you wanted to leave Peugeot, you could go anywhere. Everyone knew you in the bicycle industry, and the big companies, Gazelle, Batavus, wanted to work with you ”.
What made the choice easier at the time was the fact that Annemieke wanted to get back to work herself. “The children were now a bit older and it was not for me to sit at home. Before the kids arrived, I worked a lot for accounting firms. That is why I initially thought I would look for an office job again. But then the idea arose for Nico to start his own business and it quickly became clear to me that we could do that together. Working together to build a business has many advantages. I just know what it is like and I also know that he goes for it day and night. So I said: then I will participate! ” Nico: “So I had the best accountant in the Netherlands. I did the trade, was on the road all day, and Annemieke did everything in the office, the administration and the organization. Together a golden team ”.
What has characterized Multicycle from those early years was the feeling that great things arise from collaboration. They both see that as the real strength of Multicycle. Annemieke: “We worked from a family feeling. Together with the employees, we had the feeling “we do it together, we put our shoulders to the wheel together”. But that’s how we also worked towards the customers. We were a small company, and we can do more than a large company. If they wanted to pick up a bike from us that they were urgently in need of, we said, “Pick it up from our home tonight.” And when such a customer came by, we made a cup of coffee or served a drink. That’s how it went ”.
The different parts of their bicycles came from all over the world. This often meant a delivery time of nine months and therefore required good planning. Nico also sees this piece of “time management” as one of the tricky aspects in the profession. “We never had bicycles in stock. Everything was always sold. That was of course very nice, but then you have to make sure that the ordered bikes are ready on time. You have to deliver. So you had to think nine months ahead, plan nine months ahead. ”
This process of planning, production and delivery is also characterized by the cooperation with the customers. “The large orders came in the autumn, we call that the winter orders,” says Nico. “And when the sun started to shine in the spring, and then you really had to make sure that those bicycles were ready. Because then sales started for our customers. Everyone wants to go outside. It was a matter of teamwork. Our customers could understand that we could not close the tent in September and they also understood that as a small business owner we could not have bicycles in stock for six months or more ”.
Accelerate in the spring
Annemieke adds: “We have never put an employee on unemployment benefit during the winter period. We have always kept people working. We didn’t want them to suddenly have to pay 30% less. So we said to our employees: it is a quiet time now, so there is less pressure on it, but when spring starts you all have to accelerate well. That way we could arrange it with our people, and that way we could also explain it to our customers ”.
“In the period before the summer it could often happen that the mechanics were in the workshop on Saturdays,” says Annemieke. “Every effort was made to deliver the ordered bicycles before the summer holidays. Ultimately, customers expect you to deliver. They certainly expect that from a company like ours. A small company with short lines of communication. It was old boys’ raisin bread, and even if we were upside down, we had to make sure that the bike was delivered. And we arranged that too. Sometimes it went so far that you asked other dealers if they still had a certain type of bicycle. Then we went to get that bike and delivered it to the customer who needed it. That’s how they helped each other. This method is very different now. At the moment Multicycle is opting for a limited number of model variants. This ensures that the more than 180 dealers will experience shorter delivery times. This allows them to provide clarity to their customers. This makes it easier for them to choose which bike suits them best ”.
Enthusiasm and knowledge
Multicycle is currently on the move on many more fronts, the bicycle manufacturer has developed strongly over the past 1.5 years and is putting a completely new line on the market. Still very solid Dutch bicycles but with a modern look. Stability and quality are of paramount importance. The touring bikes and e-bikes are perfect for active cycling enthusiasts as well as for the younger audience.
Nico and Annemieke applaud the current development. “We also ride electric bicycles ourselves. The recreational bike market is saturated at some point, so something new has to be introduced to keep that market going. And that has become the electric bicycle. This has given the bicycle market a huge boost again. In the beginning they were especially popular with the seniors, but now you can also see the younger generation switching, the students who have to cycle 15 kilometers to school from the villages. So the market has also received an enormous boost in that corner ”.
When they talk about these developments, you still hear a huge commitment to the bicycle world. Nico: The Multicycle brochures are in the back of our car and they come with us when we are on vacation. We often hand out these leaflets on the second day. Cars used to be talked about and now it’s about bicycles. And everyone knows that we come from the bicycle industry, so the conversation quickly turns to those bicycles, and it is of course very nice that we always have the brochures with us. I also think that people expect that from us, they expect the enthusiasm and they expect the knowledge.
Multicycle now: a good feeling
Apart from all the necessary and important innovations, Nico and Annemieke also see that at Multicycle the course is now gradually going back a bit to “their time”. Multicycle wants to bring back the feeling of customer loyalty. Nico: “The world is of course very different now, so it will never be the way we worked. But by staying small-scale and close to customers, you can clearly distinguish yourself from the large companies. The bicycle dealers are often “personal entrepreneurs”, and they feel much more comfortable with the smaller bicycle manufacturers. After all, it is about the human dimension, about keeping room for the agreements you make and not working with all kinds of purchase obligations like the big boys do. That ensures that they give it to you ”.
That goodwill factor is an important aspect, according to Annemieke. “You have to grant it to each other and you have to do it together. Ultimately, you depend on each other. It is very important that employees feel valued and have a good time. And if our employees help us to deliver a beautiful product, then the traders, our customers, realize that they can earn good money from that beautiful product. And you also treat those customers well. You are ready for your customers and they know it. You do it together and you have to give it to each other. That is the ultimate success factor of Multicycle ”.
Looking back, Annemieke says: “We just started with a large hall with nothing in it, Nico on the road and I alone in the office. And when we stopped after twenty years, I looked around and thought: we have built a great company, a financially healthy company, a small company, with a great product. And we managed to do that nicely. ”
Nico: “And if we were to start over again tomorrow, we’ll be fine again”. After a period of much turbulence at Multicycle, Nico and Annemieke now see the company sailing a course that gives confidence. “I have a good feeling about it,” says Nico. Gradually, a company is emerging again in the spirit of the Multicycle that we started forty years ago. There are really good people now and together they just get it done “.