Q&A with Rob Akam, Managing Director
11 February, 2020
This week we sit down with our Managing Director, Rob Akam at our International Head Office in Bournemouth, to find out a little more about him, how he’s grown REID and what he does to unwind…
So, Rob, tell us a little about yourself…
I’m Rob! I live in Bournemouth which is on the South Coast of the UK. I am married and have a little baby boy born this year. I’ve been with REID for about 6 and a half years now, and am passionate about all things cycling!
How did you get involved with REID?
I moved to Australia at the beginning of 2012 with my girlfriend (now wife), for a year out of our busy lives in managing an Estate Agency in the UK, but after a couple of months, I wanted to get a job. I saw an advert to run the Sydney store for a retailer called Reid Cycles. I didn’t realise at the time that this was a brand, with huge potential. Within minutes of meeting James Reid, the Founder, I knew I wanted to work together. He is a real entrepreneur and wanted to develop the brand and retail presence in Australia. Within 3 months I was appointed National Sales Manager, then within 12 months I was sponsored by REID, appointed GM for the Australian business, and we had opened several more stores and worked hard to create a more rounded brand with a wider product offering and better online and social presence. Things then kept growing from there!
So, when did you think REID could be successful Internationally?
In 2014 we decided to try and sell bikes internationally as we felt the brand was strong enough to go beyond Australia and that we had a great product offering for international distributors. I was fully invested in making the brand a success outside of Australia once we opened our international sales office in the UK. It was just myself working here at first and we leveraged off our great Australia team, to keep costs low, but as we started to gain distributors, the UK team has grown and we now operate completely independently to our Australia business. It is really rewarding starting the international business from scratch and seeing more and more countries come on board, we are at over 20 now, and this keeps growing. We are always careful to ensure we know we can service a new distributor well and really understand their needs to tailor the models offered to their country.
Where do you see REID going in the future?
I see REID continuing to grow our distribution network across the globe and become a more known name within the bike industry. During this, we want to build strong relationships with our distributors and retailers and continue to have high engagement with our riders. I love the small business, busy feel to the company and want that to stay, as it keeps things exciting! I think our riders also like to see that I reply personally to every website enquiry. I love hearing from our riders, and seeing people posting photos of their bikes and adventures on them! We’ve run a monthly feature called Reid Rider of the Month for about a year now, and Kyle in Marketing reaches out to some of our riders that share content only to hear their stories and adventures, which we then share with our audience. They’re really inspirational and very interesting! This is what we’re about, creating experiences, not just a product. As we grow in the future its really important to me that we never lose track of that. I believe it is part of what makes us different.
What’s an average day in the life of Rob Akam?
Running a business and having a 6 month old baby means everyday feels very different. But I normally get to the office by about 7am, so that I have some communication time with our assembly factories in Asia and our clients who are East of us, and therefore ahead on time zones. As we are still a relatively small team I am involved in pretty much all aspects of the business, working with our awesome staff on everything from social media planning, to booking freight forwarders for productions of thousands of bikes that may have been made that week. I am also one of the leads in product design, which is probably the most fun part of the job and we’re always looking for ways to improve our products and service and discussing things with our distributors to align our business with their expectations. There always seems to be some product development work to be done everyday. When I get home I will normally try and get in some exercise whether going for a run, PT, a ride or bootcamp, then spend time with my family. Having clients from +12 hours to -8 hours of our UK time, I also do a bit of work most evening on my phone at home, liaising with clients, other staff or customers. It makes the inbox that little bit lighter the next morning!
What are your thoughts on the increasing popularity of ebikes for consumers?
I think it is great. There is clearly massive demand at a consumer level, especially in more mature eBike markets like in mainland Europe, especially Germany, Switzerland and some Scandinavian countries. The quality and reliability on hub drive systems such as Bafang powered models have improved a lot in the last 5 years and have become much more affordable for brands to spec those has meant lower retail prices, opening up the market more. The biggest problem now though is getting governments to loosen some of the rules around usage, with USA in particular being a bit problematic with some states taking a different standpoint on them to others. The biggest issue facing affordable eBike growth right now though is taxes. The EU has just introduced a triple digit import tax on Chinese made eBikes to protect European assemblers against cheaper imported products, and USA has just introduced a 25% import tax, for no bike manufacturing related reason, as there are no major USA eBike assemblers to protect. It is crazy to me that they are simply inflating the cost to consumers on a green transport method to fill their pockets.
How do you feel about the mass production for bike share bikes and there effect on the cities the enter?
Being a regular visitor to China, I have seen the pre share bike streets and post share bike streets. Before the big boom, people had their own bikes and got from A to B. Now when I go the pavements are littered with literally thousands of bikes. They are clogging up the streets, but not actually being used. Last time I was in Shanghai in June I saw people on them maybe 5 to 10 times on a 3 day trip, but there were thousands on the streets stood waiting to be used. You can read many reports about the huge piles where councils have decided enough is enough and impound them, or ban them from cities around the globe. There are huge mountains of tens of thousands of these in some landfill / recycling centres in some parts of China, waiting to be either broken down and recycled, or put into landfill. It was all promised as the future and being green transport, but the pollution that these created to be made and destroyed will be very unlikely to be offset by their usage because of the huge global over supply.
So, now the important stuff, what bike(s) do you ride?
I’ve got a couple; a Roadster for going to the beach / pub / shop in the summer, then a VICE FS 3.0 for going on rides over the Purbecks which has some great trails and is on the South Coast of the UK where we filmed one of our ‘Performance Series’ video.
How do you like to unwind after a week of work?
I like to spend time with my wife, Helen, and my baby boy, Freddie. We just go for walks, out for meals and generally just socialise with friends and family. I also workout and go to a local bootcamp group to help destress! As much as I love my job, it can be pretty stressful juggling so many tasks!
Finally, what advice would you give to none or novice cyclist out there?
Just ride. It doesn’t matter what you ride or where you ride it, just ride it and enjoy it. If you want to get serious and ride trails, or get into road racing for example, crack on, but make sure you still have fun!