Brandon Hirokawa is no stranger to bicycles
Brandon Hirokawa is the Owner / CEO / President of Hirobel Cycling Solutions. You may of seen or heard of the Hirobel Frame Clamp.
We wanted to know a bit more about Brandon so here we go!
How did you get started in the cycling industry?
I hung out a Pauli's Bicycle and Lawn almost everyday for a year trying to learn what I could from the head mechanic. I was one of the few kids during the late 80's that was interested in bicycles rather than skateboards. Finally the owners wife gave me a job. Then I spend the next year cutting my teeth on Schwinn Sprnts and Aerodynes... the sight of that gold exercise bike makes me sick to this day!
What exactly is Hirobel?
Hirobel is a company with the mindset of innovation. Marc Bellet and I started the company with six solid products. We started off with the Frame Clamp because it would make the biggest immediate impact on how mechanics work today.
We ask everyone, because inquiring minds want to know. What is your favorite tool?
Using the Craftsman Portable Inflator with a Silca Hero Pump Head has been great for the last couple years... it's a time and arm saver at large events.
We understand that you get to visit a fair share of bicycle shops, what are you seeing that's good and what are you seeing that's bad?
I am seeing more space opening up for service or multi-use space being used for trainer events, fitting and even in-shop clinics. I have been more mobile service platforms or shop owners thinking about adding a mobile aspect to their brick and mortar shop.
On the flip side I'm seeing too many shops searching for the magic bullet to optimize their business. They aren't seeing that an optimized store layout, skilled mechanics and a functional service department are a golden goose. I have seen several shops spending a lot money in the service department to make it look amazing with new benches, tools, flooring and equipment, but pay the mechanics minimum wage and expect an instant return on investment.
Invest in people (mechanics) first! The IBD's that don't get it may soon have the best looking showroom floor at the local commercial auction!
How important do you think service will be in the future?
As direct sales become more popular with industry brands and big-box / e-retailers are growing... service will eventually become the cornerstone of the bicycle retail industry. Once those companies offering direct sales have time to realize thee is no amount of pre-box assembly that will replace a skilled mechanic, they will need points of service they can count on.
I do think both direct sales companies and "Service Oriented" IBD's will eventually be more integrated to the delivery of safe bicycles to the end users.
We heard you were back to riding again, What's your bike of choice?
I powder coated by Cannondale CAAD8 and put Shimano Ultegra Di2 on it. It's one fo the frames that I will never get rid of because it was built with a longer top tube back when Cannondale could whip out custom frames pretty fast!
When talking to mechanics, what are you hearing about the challenges they are facing?
I think being taken seriously as a skilled workforce is a big challenge. As bicycle service becomes more complicated the need for skilled labor will increase.
Unfortunately I see a lot of the really talented mechanics go to different industries so they can make a living wage.
What are the characteristics of a great mechanic?
Being able to communicate effectively would be first on my list. Be open to new ideas or products. Being able to see past the fad and recognize true innovation. Pay attention to the details. Details are very important to getting customers back in the door!
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