The Little Idea: Define Your Core Values

Hire the right people (and keep them!) by spelling out your mission and values, and then measuring against them

Words by Peter Koch

Over the past 45 years, family-owned Wheat Ridge Cyclery (WRC) has grown from a modest, 750-square-foot locals shop into a sprawling, 30,000-square-foot destination superstore (one of the nation’s largest, most successful single-store retailers) that serves the entire Denver metro area. At the heart of its success, says second-generation co-owner and outgoing GM Ron Kiefel, are 35 high-quality, year-round full-time employees, including a relatively large proportion of longtime veterans.

Wheat Ridge Cyclery

Wheat Ridge Cyclery

Of course, there are a lot of straightforward ways to attract and retain good people—like competitive wages, 401Ks and health insurance—and Wheat Ridge does those things. “But even more important,” he says, “people want to know that their work is being recognized.” To that end, WRC defined the core values of its business back in 2016, and let everyone on staff know that they were being measured against them. When you start doing that, he says, you can find the right people, and you tend to hire the right people for the right positions.

The five core values they defined were:

  1. Legendary Experiences (Extraordinary, Passionate, Caring and Detailed Interactions)

  2. Fun!

  3. Expertise

  4. Not Complacent

  5. We Give Back (Time, Talent and/or Treasure within the Cycling Community)

Additionally, they spelled out a couple of mission statements that speak to why WRC exists, and what it does:

  • Our Passion (The “Why”): Our passion is to enhance lives through cycling!

  • Our Niche (“What We Do”): Serve cyclists with extraordinary care and the right cool stuff.

The review process is fairly straightforward. “We try for quarterly reviews of full-time staff, and seasonal staff get at least one review,” Kiefel says. In rating the core values, they use a “+”, “+/-” and “-” system (adapted from Gino Wickman’s Entrepreneurial Operating System model in the book Traction). Each team member needs to have at least three “+” ratings; two “+/-“ ratings are OK; “-” ratings are not ok. “If they don’t meet our standards,” he says, “we give them 30 days to step up, or we both agree this is not the place they’re interested in working.”

The core values and mission represent, in many ways, the perfect balance between the hard-nosed business approach of founder Eugene Kiefel (left) and his son (and outgoing GM) Ron’s long-lived passion for cycling.

The core values and mission represent, in many ways, the perfect balance between the hard-nosed business approach of founder Eugene Kiefel (left) and his son (and outgoing GM) Ron’s long-lived passion for cycling.

On the front end of the hiring process, managers include WRC’s core values in the new hire assessment, which Kiefel says has helped them to hire the right people. “It’s also made it easier to decide who to retain and who to let go, especially at the end of the high season.”

To further clarify each person’s job, WRC created a super detailed accountability chart that lists the top responsibilities of each of nearly 50 roles in the company. During every employee review, there’s a discussion of their role, and whether they “Get It,” “Want It” and have the “Capacity to Do It.” For each point, it’s either a simple Yes or No. “If there’s a “No” in any of those three areas, decisions have to be made to either fix them, find a new role in the company, or find a new place of employment that better suits their strengths and gifts.”

From the outside, these kinds of regular assessments may appear a little cold or impersonal. To the contrary, by spelling out such clear expectations, WRC is both 1) Giving employees ample opportunity to understand their jobs, embrace their responsibilities, and work with their managers to maximize performance and job satisfaction, and 2) Removing from the equation most of those emotions and gut feelings that can cause so many of us to hire and retain subpar employees.

“We haven’t perfected it” Kiefel cautions, “but we’re getting better and better. We have great morale on our sales team, and our service department works really well together, too.”

The Little Idea is an ongoing series that examines some of the great “little ideas” that independent bicycle retailers have implemented in their businesses to make them successful. While outwardly small in scope—especially when viewed against the noise and clutter of our industry’s complex and often hectic day-to-day ops—these tend to have a big long-term impact. To submit a Little Idea, either comment below, or email us here.