It's going well with the Dutch Fietsvoordeelshop.nl† The family business, which started in 1972 as a bicycle shop in Opmeer (North Holland), has now been handed over to the third generation. Together with his brothers Jack and Niels, Mark Vriend (CEO) manages the rapidly growing company, which has now grown into the largest player in the Netherlands.
And that growth is fast. Because where the company still had 2019 employees in 65, there are now about 300 employees and Fietsvoordeelshop.nl will have its 31th open a store (for reference: in 2019 there were only 5).
Keeping your identity
The wind in the sails and being able to achieve significant growth for years in a row: that sounds like a dream. But there are also challenges, because how do you maintain your identity and how do you ensure that everyone continues to feel part of the same family? Over the past two years, Branddoctors helped Fietsvoordeelshop.nl clarify their brand identity and together we recorded the positioning in a brand book.
Rutger Pronk, operational director at Fietsvoordeelshop.nl explains: “A clear positioning really helps you to make choices; better understand what works for you and what doesn't. But it also really helped us to explain those choices to the organization. We can now better explain what we stand for. Sometimes you choose a longer route or a more expensive option, which is difficult to explain without that understanding. But now everyone understands: this suits us better, so that's why we're doing this."
The rapid growth was therefore an important reason to look closely at the positioning, says Rutger: “Especially in a time when you are growing rapidly, you want to maintain that clarity, otherwise the growth and the choices you make as an organization will feel unsettled. Focus helps you enormously to maintain speed and calm”.
Making the implicit explicit
How do we ensure that everyone at Fietsvoordeelshop.nl knows what we stand for? That was the exact question that brought Mark to Branddoctors at the time. “As a family business with 6 people, everyone knows what you stand for and what you want to achieve together. But the further you grow, the more important it becomes to grasp it well. Both internally and towards your customers: you have to ensure that people remain connected to your brand.”
“As a core team, we already knew well what the Fiestvoordeelshop.nl brand means. But we rarely discussed it, let alone wrote it down once. With the positioning and the brand book that we have created, we have made a lot of the implicit, explicit,” Rutger adds.
Photo: Brand book
But taking a close look at your brand once and anchoring your identity in a positioning and brand book is not enough. Wendy Groenleer, HR Manager at Fiestvoordeelshop.nl, was involved from the start and worked hard to make the positioning as concrete and tangible as possible: “We constantly need new people. Our business can only grow if our people do too. That is why you need a clear story for both attracting new talent and allowing staff to grow. That goes further than an image of who we are and what characterizes us; we also really look at what that positioning means for our employment conditions, our valuation cycle and the profiles we are looking for”.
An important exercise in this regard, for example, was the translation of brand values into concrete behaviour. How does the brand value of friendly translate into behavior in the workplace; how do you see that in the store and how do you see that online? “This immediately made the values very concrete and workable for the various people and functions in the organisation. Everyone knows what is expected of you, it is very clear”.
The brand is therefore really propagated inwardly at Fietsvoordeelshop.nl. The values are also continuously reflected in the development of leadership within the organization. “If you want to train people well, you first have to know what kind of behavior you expect from them,” explains Wendy.
Internal compass and feed for discussion
In addition to clear frameworks, the positioning sometimes also leads to discussion. Rutger explains: “As part of your professionalisation, you naturally want everyone to walk in the same direction, we wanted to reduce a proliferation of ideas and working methods. A brand foundation helps enormously. On the other hand, one of our most important brand values is lef† We also want people to have the freedom to take the initiative themselves and prevent us from talking too much and doing too little. So there is tension with each other and we often talk about that: how much freedom do we want to give? How do we find the right balance?”.
We help the whole of the Netherlands to enjoy cycling.
Energy and focus, in addition to the brand values, is found in the mission: We help the whole of the Netherlands to enjoy cycling† Formulated in clear language, appropriate to the culture of Fietsvoordeelshop.nl. “This is what makes people the most warm,” says Wendy. “After all, this is what people do it for, regardless of your position. And you really hear people say to each other: what you are doing now contributes to this?”.
The advantage of a store and webshop in one
The customer promise actually works more outwardly, Rutger explains. “You literally see them in shops. The advantage of a store and webshop in one† There is a concrete benefit for the customer in this, but it does not really control your behavior internally”.
The unique strength of a family business
An important impulse in the growth and professionalization of Fietsvoordeelshop.nl is the investment by mobility provider Louwman, which has had a minority interest in Fietsvoordeelshop.nl since 2019. But anyone who thinks it is purely a financial relationship is wrong. From the start, both companies intend to share knowledge and experience. This is where the characteristics of both family businesses come together nicely.
Mark Vriend: “Louwman is just a good fit for us. Because they are also a family business, albeit a step bigger than we are, we speak the same language. You understand the dynamics of each other's organisation”. “It's much more about the relationship, about trust in each other and how you can build on that together,” adds Wendy. “It is really more than a shareholder construction or investment. And because of that trust in each other, it is also much faster to really learn from each other, to help each other further. And that goes both ways.” Mark confirms this: “Even though we may be younger, a company like Louwman can also learn from us. We help each other".
“And that is really characteristic of a family business,” he continues. “The culture, how you treat each other: That says a lot more about you than who is a shareholder, and whether there is a family connection there by chance. There are so many organizations that call themselves family businesses, but ultimately function as a corporate. Neither of us have that.”
Focus on the future
In the meantime, Fietsvoordeelshop.nl continues to grow rapidly. In addition to the sale of new bicycles, the services are increasingly expanded: a rental branch has been included since the beginning of this year and in the coming period we will look at how the company can grow internationally. Because the ambition certainly does not stop at the national borders: by 2030, the company wants to be the European market leader in bicycle mobility.
And with all those ambitions and expansions, we are once again looking at the brand: “We are continuously looking at how new activities fit under the current brand. We are one organisation, but does everyone feel that way too? And how will customers experience that? We have to test it again for every new step we take,” explains Mark.
“And that again shows how valuable this process has been. With this positioning we can better direct what we do. That works inwardly, but also outwardly. With every new step we take our own core with us. You will always be greeted in a friendly manner with us, as if you were an acquaintance of ours. Online and in store, in all our stores, with existing and new concepts. And whether we grow or not, we will not change this.”