Alison Littlefield Of Contender Bicycles On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Efficiency: By adopting digital tools such as point-of-sale (POS) systems and online booking platforms, we can automate repetitive tasks, minimize paperwork, and streamline transactions, allowing staff to focus more on customer service and strategic initiatives, ultimately leading to increased productivity and operational efficiency.

Digital transformation has become a crucial component for businesses striving to stay competitive and relevant in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. As technology continues to shape industries and redefine business models, companies must adapt and leverage digital tools and strategies to unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation. In this interview series, we aim to explore various aspects of digital transformation, including best practices, challenges, success stories, and expert insights. We are talking to thought leaders, industry experts, entrepreneurs, technology innovators, and executives who have firsthand experience in driving digital transformation initiatives within their organizations. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Alison Littlefield.

Alison gradually fell into her role at Contender Bicycles. Shortly after starting to race on the road, she met Ryan on the way out to the local criterium series. After they married, Alison continued to race bicycles and establish her career as an engineer. Experiencing some success racing, Alison decided to put her career on hold and race bicycles full-time. However, a severe spinal injury resulted in multiple surgeries which derailed her plans in cycling. In between surgeries and during recovery, Alison started to work at the shop. Over the years, her role has steadily grown to where she is now an integral part of Contender Bicycles. With her recovery behind her, she still loves to ride and feels lucky to still be on the bike. Like Ryan, she enjoys spending as much time as possible with their twin girls, Dylan and Hannah, and their corgi Tia.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My backstory starts with meeting Ryan, my now-husband and co-owner of Contender Bicycles, just before he took over the bike shop. Back then, I was an engineer with dreams of pursuing graduate studies in biomedical engineering, all while deeply immersed in bike racing. However, a series of back surgeries disrupted my plans. During recovery, I found solace in helping out at the shop, prompting me to heed my advisor’s advice to fully commit to one path. This led me to put my graduate studies on hold and focus on racing and the bike shop. Despite enduring five major spine surgeries, my involvement in the shop grew, eventually becoming a fulfilling career path. Throughout all of the challenges I faced, my dedication to the shop remained steadfast, shaping the course of my life.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

When I first began working with Google Ads, I made the mistake of blindly accepting the parameters without fully understanding them, which resulted in poor performance for our campaigns. Looking back, I learned the importance of thoroughly understanding the settings of any advertising platform before launching campaigns.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Our long-standing relationship with our developer, spanning over a decade, has been instrumental in our journey. One particular instance stands out when, during the early stages of our website’s development, we encountered numerous challenges. In those moments of uncertainty, our developer was always there, answering our SOS calls promptly and providing invaluable guidance and support. Their expertise and dedication not only helped us navigate through rough patches but also played a significant role in shaping the success of our venture. We owe a great deal of our accomplishments to their unwavering assistance and partnership over the years.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Kara Swisher’s podcasts provide valuable insights into business and leadership, serving as a prime example of female representation in these fields. I’m fascinated by her background in tech.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Yes, we’ve recently completed a significant revamp of our website, which was a substantial undertaking. Our focus now is on continually developing high-quality content centered around cycling, aimed at enriching the experience for our customers and providing them with valuable insights and resources.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. Digital transformation can mean many things to many people, from your perspective, how do you define digital transformation in your industry?

In the context of our local bike shop, digital transformation entails leveraging technology to enhance our connection with the cycling community while maintaining the essence of our small business charm. This involves implementing digital tools and platforms to streamline operations, improve customer experience, and strengthen community engagement. Whether through an intuitive online store, interactive cycling forums, or social media outreach, our goal is to harness digital resources to better serve our customers, foster meaningful connections within the cycling community, and uphold the values of supporting local businesses and nurturing a sense of camaraderie among enthusiasts.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

Companies in industries that rely heavily on traditional methods and have yet to fully embrace digital tools and practices stand to benefit significantly from digital transformation. The real estate industry is a prime example, as it still largely operates using methods that have remained unchanged for years. Implementing digital transformation in real estate can empower consumers by providing them with more information, transparency, and control over the buying or selling process.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

Integrating digital transformation for companies with both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce presence can pose challenges, particularly in maintaining a cohesive brand identity and messaging across platforms. Technical integration issues, resource constraints, and aligning internal processes are common hurdles. To overcome these challenges, strategic planning, clear communication, and a willingness to adapt are key. Investing in omnichannel retail platforms and providing comprehensive staff training can streamline operations and enhance customer experiences. Embracing a flexible approach and learning from trial and error are essential for navigating the complexities of digital transformation and maximizing the benefits of an omnichannel presence.

Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”?

1 . Spread Network: Expanding the online presence through social media platforms and community forums to connect with cyclists beyond the local area, fostering a broader network of customers and enthusiasts.

2 . Better Customer Feedback and Communication: Leveraging digital channels like social media, email newsletters, and online forums to broaden the reach of customer feedback initiatives, enabling the local bike shop to gather insights from a wider audience and enhance communication with customers, ultimately improving services and fostering stronger relationships.

3 . Efficiency: By adopting digital tools such as point-of-sale (POS) systems and online booking platforms, we can automate repetitive tasks, minimize paperwork, and streamline transactions, allowing staff to focus more on customer service and strategic initiatives, ultimately leading to increased productivity and operational efficiency.

4 . Customers Can Pre-Shop: Through the implementation of an intuitive e-commerce website with comprehensive product catalogs and detailed descriptions, customers can browse and research products online before visiting the store, saving time and enabling more informed purchasing decisions, thereby enhancing the overall shopping experience and increasing conversion rates for the local bike shop.

5 . Teach Staff Better Product Info: Implementing digital training modules ensures staff have immediate access to updated product information, improving their ability to assist customers efficiently.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

To create a culture of innovation, companies should prioritize continuous learning and staying updated on industry trends. Encouraging experimentation, risk-taking, and collaboration among employees fosters creativity and idea generation. By nurturing a culture that values curiosity and empowers individuals to explore new approaches, companies can drive innovation and gain new competitive advantages.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Absolutely. For me, it became particularly relevant during a time when I was juggling multiple commitments. I was trying to balance my professional career with personal interests and found myself spread too thin, unable to excel in any one area. It was then that the wisdom of “Don’t do two things halfway” really hit home.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.