Every messenger feels the need for speed - but a Vancouver company believes fast motorcycles can separate the top operators from the everyday milk runners.
"Our clients are looking for more than just an ordinary courier," says Rob Hadley, founder and president of BC Bikes Express. "We cater to a clientele who might need a legal brief delivered in minutes, or something like blood or pharmaceuticals sent off immediately."
Hadley claims his company is the province's fastest courier service. "We offer a whole range of services, from next-day delivery to our 'super-hot' service, which is what we call the fastest possible delivery time we can offer - from under two hours down to a matter of minutes."
As the company name implies, most deliveries are done on the back of motorcycles. But for larger delivery items, BC Bikes Express fleet also includes cars and, in the summertime, Hadley employs a student rider who completes a route on the back of an electric bicycle.
|Karen Dyer, Business Edge|
|BC Bikes Express franchise owner Chris Mackie is ready to make a run.|
The company specializes in message services for legal, medical and biotech companies, and Hadley's seen his share of interesting deliveries.
"We've transported a freshly euthanized, transgenically mutated mouse," he recalls. "We've also moved a pair of prosthetic legs on the back of one of our motorcycles."
Hadley has also recently opened up his service to the transport of fine wine, one of the few commodities he does not try to balance on the back of a speedy motorcycle.
Motorcycle deliveries are common in Hadley's native London, and his first job was delivering courier items on the back of a bike. He worked for Interlink Couriers in London for several years and used their company structure to set up a template for his own business here in Canada.
"The woman who ran the company there had such a great setup that since I've got things rolling here there have been no real surprises," he says. "The only surprise has how easy it has been."
Most of the other courier services in the Lower Mainland use fleets of cars, with a bicycle being the vehicle of choice for most downtown delivery companies.
"We used to have a driver who rode a motorcycle, but he quit a while ago," says Sharon Lee of City Core Messenger service. City Core no longer uses cycles at all and instead maintains a fleet of about 15 drivers.
Hadley put BC Bikes into gear in January of 2003 and hasn't looked back since. He notes that he billed $57 in his first month of business and now bills more than $30,000 for the same period. The company includes franchises in Burnaby, Langley and Richmond, and won the Surrey Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award in 2004.
Chris Mackie owns the BC Bikes Express franchise in Langley with his wife Rebecca. While Rebecca acts as dispatcher, Chris hops onto his motorbike for deliveries. "The relationship between the main office and ours is really close - we work well together and we all have to support each other by necessity," he says.
Mackie likes being on his bike so much that he often completes all his deliveries in Langley and then heads over to the main office to help out with deliveries around other areas of the Lower Mainland.
|Karen Dyer, Business Edge|
|Rob Hadley, founder of BC Bikes Express.|
"We have a really young staff and we're proud of it," says Hadley. "Most of our controllers are under the age of 20 - they're totally on the ball and completely comfortable with the technology we use. We pay (about) double what their friends working at fast-food places are earning, and they get bonuses and enjoy a level of prestige in the company that is unprecedented in most other places."
Motorbikes are a way of life for Hadley's staff. Insurance for the couriers is covered by the bikers themselves, who are considered sub-contractors by the company. "We don't really have to search for workers - the good riders all seem to find us," says Hadley.
One of the ways the bikers learn about the company is through its promotional material on the racing circuit. Motorcycle racer Jennifer Bleza competed in a race under the BC Bikes Express banner last month in Mission. She has been riding competitively for several years and plans to ride in a total of six races this season with the BC Bikes Express logo on her machine.
"They are fantastic sponsors," Bleza says from her day job as the branch manager of a local finance company. "Racing is extremely expensive and BC Bikes Express helps me keep down the costs."
When Bleza first heard about the courier company, she considered taking a part-time job with them in order to have a chance to ride her bike on evenings and weekends.
In the end, the hours didn't work out, but a bond was forged that helps both rider and sponsor.
"Jennifer helps raise our profile in the motorcycling community, and we consider her just another member of our team," says Hadley. "But right now business is going so well we are actually looking to control our growth.
"Our drivers can use HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, and don't have parking issues. They use less gas than cars, so it helps to keep the prices down and is environmentally friendly at the same time."
"For a courier business, motorcycles just make sense," he adds.