Apparently there’s a saying about electric bikes, or ‘e-bikes’ as they’re known. It goes something like, ‘before you try it, you think it’s cheating; after you’ve tried it, you don’t give a toss’.
Electric Bikes NZ Limited – James Speedy (left) with Director, Anthony Clyde
In 2017, Stuff journalist Rob Stock spent a week on an e-bike and wrote, “Hills lose their power to intimidate you. To ride an e-bike is to experience super-strength. With each turn of the pedal, the electric motor drives the rider forward as though they have preternatural muscle power.”
He said fellow e-bike commuters were saving buckets of cash by leaving the car at home, were getting fitter despite not being particularly athletic, were rediscovering the pure joy of cycling and were feeling virtuous at the same time. And perhaps best of all, they were upsetting the lycra-clad purists as they cruised past them on their e-bikes.
This is life-changing stuff for many people. The customer testimonials on Electric Bikes NZ Limited’s (EBNZ) website (electricbikes. co.nz) tell the same story: Stefan says he gets around Auckland’s hilly streets faster on his Smartmotion e-City than he did in a car. Gerard has halved his commute time on his E-Urban, loves overtaking cues of 150 cars in the morning and is saving “a lot of money”. Robenanne has reconnected with her kids and grandkids through e-biking. And Shane says, “Since my knees have gotten so bad, I’ve had to give up so much. But after purchasing one of your bikes it’s allowed me to get back out and enjoy riding again.”
You get the picture. The people at EBNZ are improving the lives of their customers in meaningful ways. And they know it – that’s what drives them.
“The interesting thing about the electric bike industry is that very few of the drivers of the industry are actually cycle purists,” says James Speedy, General Manager of EBNZ. “The industry attracts people who aren’t really cyclists at all. EBNZ are enablers, they enable people to get out of cars and onto bikes, people who might not be able to consider it without electrical assistance; and it really makes a difference in people’s lives.”
That total focus on good outcomes for the customer, coupled with the product- design capability of the majority owner, Anthony Clyde, is a powerful combination that has driven EBNZ’s growth since forming in 2006. The company is now one of the major players in the rapidly growing e-bike segment.
Now a major wholesale distribution business, EBNZ was one of the first commercial importers of e-bikes in New Zealand. It also owns one retail store in Albany, Auckland, which teaches James and his team invaluable lessons about the retail environment that their dealers are experiencing; keeps them tuned in.
Being tuned in is a common theme with this company. It is run by e-bike enthusiasts, they get constant feedback from like-minded dealers and customers, feedback that Anthony, through his separate design business, recycles back to their manufacturing partners in China to tailor e-bikes best suited to New Zealand conditions and values.
These strengths jumped out to Hayes Knight Director Brendon Cutler when he first started working with EBNZ just over a year ago. The company was well in tune with its customers and expanding rapidly, experiencing the usual growing pains, and facing an exciting yet fast-changing marketplace.
“Like electric vehicles, initially there were a few players at the forefront, then everyone jumped on the bandwagon,” says Brendon, “So for them, the question is how do they keep market share and maintain growth in that changing market?”
Together they looked at tax issues, worked with their existing bank to put improved working capital facilities in place and white- boarded the strategies, new organisational structure and roadmap the company would need to be successful.
They also developed an in-house purchasing model, Brendon explains. “Purchasing for EBNZ is very seasonal and with long lead times can be a moving target in terms of quantities and therefore timing of payments. The model helps forecast what their product needs will be, important given the high per unit value, and translates through to show impact on cashflow.”
James Speedy and his team have found the business consulting and advice invaluable as they journey towards their goal.
“I think it’s reasonable to have a goal to become the biggest electric bike distributor in the country,” he says. “And that’s not only distributing to dealers either, that’s focusing on corporate fleet sales, possibly even working with government, councils, that sort of thing.”
“We weren’t really aware of the true role an accounting firm could have. We’ve found huge opportunities in being able to really focus on what the numbers are doing for our business and how we can make use of that; where to put resources and where not to put resources.”
Along the way, the payoff will not just be financial.
“We’re not so much passionate about cycling, we’re passionate about making a difference to all-round transportation and the community. The love of the product is still part of it, but it’s more about what it enables people to do.”