Surly came about when QBP employees saw a hole in the market for single-speed mountain bikes. All-City was pitched to QBP’s management team due to a lack of quality urban bikes on the market. The 45NRTH brand was created to meet the demand for winter riding gear. Each of these employee-created ideas serves as a testimony to the type of people employed by QBP, according to Engineering Supervisor Thor Shellum. “We really try to employ and hire people here who are riders,” he says. “We’re all avid riders, and a lot of our ideas really come from within. They’re passion projects.”
There are currently 13 “passion projects” at QBP. Behind every house brand is a team of industrial designers and engineers working to bring their ideas to life. While many designs make it to the market as finished products, others don’t. “Sometimes you might run a part through all the analysis and it passes, but you get on a bike and it just doesn’t feel right,” says Industrial Design Manager Katie Thompson. “There’s definitely that gut-check factor—it’s too stiff, it’s too wide. We’re not afraid to say, ‘Alright, we’re not going to do it then.’ If we don’t feel it’s right, we’re not going to launch it.”
For as much pride as QBP takes in its products, it considers its company culture and work environment equally important. Examples of this can be seen at the company’s LEED-certified headquarters, which is outfitted with solar panels, premium parking spaces reserved for carpoolers, and of course, a massive employee bike parking rack. Energy is conserved in the warehouse where aisles only get illuminated when forklifts drive through.
In addition to the eco-friendly atmosphere is an employee-friendly vibe that’s largely represented by QBP’s very casual, anything-goes dress code. “Our dress code is pretty casual because the leadership really wants to see people bike to work,” Roering says. “They really want to make it as easy as possible. If you bike to work and get all sweaty and have to get into a three-piece suit, it makes biking to work that much less appealing. So they tried early on to remove all those barriers. We have a full shower facility, lockers, and you get paid to ride to work.”
And then, of course, there’s the beer. “When we hire people who don’t drink beer, I always kind of laugh and ask, ‘How did you get through the door?’” Haraldson says. “Beer is definitely a social aspect of the job. For a lot of people, if you work in a bike shop, that’s always just a part of life. Since you get a fair amount of people who worked in bike shops moving into QBP, some of that same sentiment carries over. Being able to have a beer in the evening at the end of the work day is totally acceptable.”
For QBP, the formula is simple: Cultivate a team of happy, invested employees and they will create and sell the best bike products possible. Since 1981, they’ve done just that, each year coming one step closer to fulfilling their ultimate goal to “Bike-ify America.”
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