I’ve been taking a look at Oldham based We Buy Any Bike to see how they operate, and speak to some of the key people behind the scenes at the company. It’s a lovely family run firm, it’s been interesting getting to know some of the characters. A lot of the staff have been with the company for a long time – including Graham from the Transport Team – he’s been there for 13 years! I’ve already spoken to the MD Gary, and Dawn from the Purchasing Team.
Graham oversees a team of drivers – they are the people that will go up and down the country, collecting bikes that customers of We Buy Any Bike have sold to them. The Transport Team cover the entire UK. It requires meticulous planning to ensure smooth operation, and Graham certainly has a handle on it all. He has a near encyclopaedic knowledge of postcodes – it’s fascinating to watch him work! I sat down with Graham to find out a bit more about exactly what he does.
So you manage of the ‘collections team’ at WeBuyAnyBike.co.uk, within the purchasing department – what’s an average day for you?
Hard work!. It’s mostly an office job, and I handle all aspects of the collections process, scheduling runs, organising our drivers and their vehicles, ensuring our drivers’ safety. Ultimately, all the paperwork passes through my hands. I’ve become so good at organising runs that I’ve memorised the areas for each post code. I also act as the go-between for all the departments, keeping everyone updated about each step of the process, and I’m the one that calls our customers at every step of the way to make sure they stay in the know. In fact, most of my day is spent ringing and chasing things up with the customers leading up to the collection of their bike.
The most important part of my day is making sure each bike is collected within 48 to 72 hours of our team agreeing to buy it. These timescales are always met, unless the bike is at the farthest edges of the UK, or the customer wants to rearrange. Organising these collections efficiently means that the customers never have to wait, and the drivers aren’t put under too much pressure. It’s my responsibility to make sure the drivers have plenty of time to eat and rest up before each collection – you could say I’m the head of HR for the drivers.
So my day is all about maximising efficiency (especially by keeping the vans full and the routes as effective as possible), keeping everyone in touch and updated, and keeping the customers happy. It’s a bit of a blur, but a successful day is always satisfying. Especially because I’ve been in the driver’s shoes and I know what a difference an efficient plan can make.
Because of the nationwide coverage of the company, you must do a LOT of miles each week?
The whole team does a lot of miles altogether. This alone means we need vigorous planning, accurate timescales and organisation. Our drivers will literally go anywhere in the UK for a bike – we’ve even took the ferry if we need to. We’ll go to the furthest corners of the UK, and it’s no trouble for us.
It simply wouldn’t work without our team of drivers, and we all have to stay on top of the game. Part of this is planning time for drivers to eat and rest on every route. With this approach balancing the driver’s health and happiness with hard work, we’ve safely covered many millions of miles altogether.
How do you transport the bikes?
In our purpose-built vans. Each one has a ramp for the bikes and a specially built bed, and both are for the safety and comfort of our drivers. Straps inside the vans keep the bikes safe on long distance journeys.
Also, rather than use our vans for advertising, we choose to keep them plain white. We’d never want to advertise the contents of the vans, not so much because of the bikes themselves, which are insured, but mostly because it would compromise the driver’s safety – especially because they sometimes sleep on the beds inside the vans.
Each van can hold up to five bikes, and at the moment we have six vans in our fleet, as well as, naturally, six drivers. We’re still expanding in this area.
Do you end up buying every bike you see, or do you find some people change their mind when you arrive?
We do on most occasions buy every bike we have gone to collect. The only reason we wouldn’t, is if the bike turns out to not be as described, or if the customer changes their mind, though this usually happens before the driver arrives, and is most often because the customer’s circumstances have changed.
Groundwork before collection means there are minimal surprises on the doorstep when we arrive. Sometimes, the customer needs to rearrange at the last minute, too, but ultimately I go out of my way to ensure they always get picked up.
You’re obviously very ‘customer facing’ in your job – you must meet some interesting people while you’re out and about?
Every bike we collect is an opportunity to meet our customers and put a face to a bike.
Myself and the other drivers have had a great time meeting people from all walks of life, from all over the country, not to mention the many locations we visit. As bikers ourselves we love meeting people with bikes, we’ve automatically got something in common after all. We’re often invited in for butties and a brew, and in Scotland it’s usually a bacon butty, biscuits and a cuppa.
Do you find people are a little wary of you? I’d imagine some customers, although they will know about your ‘no haggle’ policy, must be concerned that you’ll start finding fault when you arrive?
This is very rare. I personally reassure them before the driver even arrives that we won’t change our mind, and keep our customers are fully informed throughout the whole process. I also advise the customer that should anything change with the condition of their bike they do let me know as soon as possible. This reduces the chance of any renegotiation or wasted driving hours or miles. We keep our customers involved at all stages of the day, especially if traffic means we’ll be late.
We always explain how it works from the start to finish, because consistent information at all stages keeps the customer reassured and involved with the process, so it’s very important for building rapport and trust. We value every customer and their bikes and our drivers are well trained and in the know, so I wouldn’t say that we ever come across a wary customer.
When you’re collecting a bike, what sort of things do you look over? Do you have a checklist to work through?
Yes, we have a strict appraisal sheet that’s completed with every single bike, and every bike is test rode and got to temperature. There’s a routine that runs like clockwork for every single collection, and that routine leaves no room for error. This works so well because our drivers themselves understand why each element is important, and what to look for.
A big part of this process is checking the information from our Valuations Advisors in the initial stages against the reality of the bike we’re picking up on the day, and we make sure to question and work out any issues we come across and where necessary point these out to our customers.
How long does it take to do a collection from when your driver arrives to when he leaves?
We do not have a set time in place we spend as much time is necessary. However, once the driver arrives, they’re usually there for thirty to forty-five minutes, but ultimately they’ll stay for as long as it takes, and once the bike’s safely loaded up and the money has hit their account, we leave. And, of course, we always make sure they’re completely happy before we go.
You must see a lot of great bikes – are there any that are REALLY memorable?
Every single one. Every bike tells a story – when we see the bike later on, we think of the customer that came with it. Selling a bike can be very emotional for our customers, as bikers get really attached to their ride. Some, have even been known to cry when they part with their bike.
We have had some strange items in the back of the vans in the bid for efficiency on each route – office furniture, a vending machine for the office, engines, parts, even the customer’s gear. On the bike side though, trikes and quad bikes require a little extra effort due to their size. They do present an extra challenge, but one of us gets to have fun riding it back to work!
What’s it like working for the WeBuyAnyBike.co.uk family? Be honest!
I’ve enjoyed it for 13 years. Best family run business I’ve ever worked for! I suppose the highlights are being able to work with my hobby and passion, take on responsibility, be a trusted member of the team, and be proud of my accomplishments. In a company like this I can really see the importance of what I do every day. My best moment here by far, though, was my surprise ‘10 year anniversary’ party – I’ll admit I nearly cried when I saw everyone there.
What kind of bike do you ride?
I get to choose whichever bike I want to ride from the showroom when the sun’s out – only for the day, mind you. So the answer is that I have no favourite, but I’ll try anything!
Thanks for your time Graham! It’s nearly the end of my collaboration with We Buy Any Bike. I’ll soon publish my interview with one of the lead mechanics at the company who skillfully evaluate and get all the collected bikes ready for their new owners.
This post has been written in partnership with WeBuyAnyBike.co.uk