I just found out that my old friend, mentor, and boss Tony Tom (of A Bicycle Odyssey) passed away this past week. 

I worked for Tony from 1994-2001. When I started at the shop, I really didn’t know that much about bicycles, other than what I knew of the sport. When it came to equipment, I was a complete and utter newbie. Tony taught me pretty much everything I know about bicycles.

Most importantly, I learned from him about how to treat customers; everyone who walked in the door got the same respect, whether they were just looking, or were about to drop several thousand dollars on a new bike. 

Our goal (at least in my mind) was not to just sell bikes, but to sell the shop; our inventory and especially our service. It wasn’t about selling the bike and depositing a check, it was about creating repeat customers/clients. And our approach worked well. 

When it came to the bikes themselves, Tony taught me that it all started with a proper fitting, and while I never developed the skills he had, he instilled a sense of pride in making sure that clients didn’t just get a bike, but that they got the right bike.

I tried to bring this attitude with me when I worked for Backcountry/Competitive Cyclist.

One might think that it would be difficult to sell bikes over the phone when you have as strong a belief about proper bike fit as I do. So, you work with what you’ve got.

For me, it was asking questions of the customers, lots of questions, but more importantly, listening to the answers. I got callers to email me pictures of their current set-ups, to send me measurements of their current bikes, asking what they liked and didn’t like about their current rides, and so on. 

And while I wasn’t the most prolific salesperson on the team, I did pretty good … and I often had the lowest return rate on the bikes that I sold; another source of great pride for me, because it meant I was doing something right. 

This attitude also served me well when working in investment services (and really, any customer-facing service role). Success is not defined simply by closing a deal and making a sale, but by making sure that the customer’s needs are taken care of, preferably from the get go. This is what brings people back to a business, what changes them from a “customer” to a client.

I’ve missed Tony over the past 20 years since I moved to Utah, but I will always have fond memories of my time at the Odyssey. I’d like to think that Tony would have been proud of the way that I took what he gave me and put it to good use.

Requiescat in pace, my friend.