No. 966



You no doubt have heard the saying, “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” This is really a cliché that simply means to not waste your time doing something or working on something that has already been perfected, more or less.
The key thought here is “don’t waste your time.” While this sounds logical and even practical, I am here to tell you that if you take that saying at face value and do not move beyond it, you are going to miss some tremendous blessings and rewards.
Take the word “wheel,” for example. Where would we be today if we had taken the first wheel that some person had chiseled out of stone or wood and stopped there? To be sure, we would not have chrome wheels with rubber tires that had just come off a balancing machine to make sure they ran true, with no bounce or wobbles.
There are other examples as far as the eye can see. What I am really saying is, “don’t reinvent the wheel” if you are not willing to think creatively about ways that wheel, regardless of the form it takes, can be improved in some way. And it should be understood that the “wheel” is just an example that you can apply to anything, be it tangible or intangible. As I thought about this concept I did a little research and was richly rewarded.
I found a book written by Chris Zane, founder and president of Zane’s Cycles based in Branford, Conn., titled “Reinventing the Wheel.” What Chris did was take a simple idea, like the bicycle that had been invented years ago, and applied some simple marketing techniques that have made his name a household work in the world of cycling. Here is a portion of his story that will give you some insights into what I am saying.
“At age 46, Christopher J. Zane is already a 30-year veteran of the retail bicycle industry. He got his first sales tax ID number at age 12, buying his first bike shop at age 16, and building Zane’s Cycles into the largest bicycle shop in Connecticut by age 30. Today it is one of the largest retail bicycle stores in the nation.”
As one would suspect, his plaques, awards and achievements would fill a large room, but the key to his success, and how he reinvented the wheel, was his approach to customer service -- more about that in a moment. His marketing techniques have been used as case studies in more than a dozen college textbooks worldwide and have been the subject of several articles in such publications as the Harvard Business Review Inc., The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many others. Today, his annual revenue exceeds $15 million and his company is growing at a brisk 23.5 percent per year.
The key to his success is customer service: he offers his customers a lifetime service guarantee. All parts and labor are covered for the life of your bike, meaning tune-ups are free. He provides flat tire insurance -- everyone knows that tires go flat, so for a small one-time fee Zane’s will fix all your bike’s flat tires free forever. He also has a free trade-in program for kids’ bikes -- yes, even 10 years (or more) later, your kids can get full credit for their bikes to purchase new ones.
But these things are just for starters. He seeks to have a lifetime relationship with all his customers, including their children and grandchildren, with each one valued at around $12,500.
Here is the icing on the cake. When new people join our church the pastor says, “It’s time for handshakes and hugs.” This is the kind of atmosphere that Chris Zane has created in his business. People will come back for that time and time again, and he provides outstanding customer service to back it up. What I hope you will see here is that he is reinventing the wheel that someone else had perfected years ago.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)