Tuesday, 28 January 2020
JASON ACOCK is the managing director of Henley Cycles in Duke Street. He and his wife Julie, who is a solicitor specialising in commercial property, moved to Henley seven years ago. They have two children, George, 12, and Sophie, 11, who both go to Gillotts School. He is a keen cyclist and enjoys fly fishing.
Describe your business
We are passionate about cycling, which is at the heart of our ethos. We aim to share our knowledge and enthusiasm, supporting customers’ goals and achievements. We have products for everyone, ranging from toddlers and children’s bikes to mountain bikes, e-bikes, racing and track bikes. We stock a large range of accessories and also carry out servicing in our workshop in the rear of our store. We support individual brands, not multiple brands, and give impeccable customer service.
How many people does it employ?
We are a small team — me, Gary and Dom, our mechanic.
What did you do before you started this business?
I was born in Devon and left school at 16 to become an apprentice motor technician at Volvo. I then worked on engineering projects at Princess Yachts International in Plymouth, where I stayed for 14 years. I played semi-professional football until a ligament injury forced me to give it up. When I met Julie we moved to Bristol, where she was practising law. I really got into cycling and became a personal trainer and cycling coach with David Lloyd. It was Julie’s career that brought us to Henley when she was recruited by a local firm of solicitors. I initially worked for the Getty family and then at A W Cycles in Caversham.
When did you start your business?
After several weeks of preparation, we opened the shop on March 9.
What was your objective?
We all have a passion for cycling. We saw a window of opportunity and decided to “go for it”.
Who and what influenced you?
It was a dream of mine years ago but it was Gary who drove the decision. He has experience of running businesses.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
There are people in life who inspire me, such as Mark Cavendish, Roger Federer, Lewis Hamilton and David Millar. Not only did they get to the top but they stayed there consistently. And they’ve given huge amounts back.
What would you do differently if you could start again?
Not very much really. Maybe a few tweaks in hindsight.
How is your business doing?
So far, it’s very positive.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
Being in charge of my own destiny. I feel that I have a duty of care to my customers and believe in the saying that “if you live by the sword you die by the sword” so I have massive respect for those in business who thrive and survive.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
Online competition but there is no substitute for actually seeing the products we offer and asking advice. I’ve ridden all the bikes we stock and have lots of experience to share.
Where is your business headed?
I plan to be here until the end of my working life and if either my son or daughter, or both, want to carry it on I’d be very happy.
Do you set any goals for your business?
Yes, to make a profit. It’s early days obviously.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
Getting to understand the customers. Never take anything for granted. And that you can’t stand still, you have to keep following the trend.
What advice would you offer someone starting a business?
You’ve got to absolutely love what you do and it has to come from within you.
What three qualities are most important to success?
Empathy, sympathy and having a genuine interest in people.
What’s the secret of your success?
Being true to myself. I also believe you should always treat people in the way you want to be treated yourself.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
I’ve made many mistakes but the biggest mistake anyone can make is not to learn from them.
How organised are you?
How do you dress for work?
We have a company uniform with our logo on our shirts.
What can’t you be without every day?
My family and friends.
Lunch at your desk or going out?
At my desk here in the shop.
Do you continue to study?
Yes. I keep up with all the product development in the cycling world.
What do you read?
Lots of cycling magazines. I’m currently reading the autobiography of David Millar, who was a professional road racing cyclist who competed in the Tour de France several times. During his career he won four stages of the Tour and had the honour of wearing the Maillot Jaune.
How are you planning for retirement?
I’m not. I don’t ever think about it.
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