“Repetition is critical to remembrance. I’ve worked in marketing my entire career but for large companies like Philips and Tivo, which were household names before I joined. With Tempo, however, we’re building a brand from scratch and we’re finding it’s critical to repetitively expose buyers to our brand before they remember us and our brand attributes.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Van Nguyen, the founder of President and CEO of Tempo Bicycles, an innovator of human-powered personal mobility and an advocate of healthy and sustainable everyday living. Designed with the needs of commuters in mind, Tempo hybrid bikes let you travel farther and faster than conventional bikes while still providing health benefits of cycling. Tempo hybrid bicycles enable more people to bike and help people to bike more often.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
A friend encountered ebikes during a trip to Europe and bought one. I tried it and was instantly hooked. At the time I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in over 20 years, but it addressed all the reasons I had stopped riding: the bike was comfortable, auto-shifting made it simple to ride and the motor removed all apprehensions I had about hills and getting sweaty on my ride into work. I had experience marketing high tech and electronics, and thought then as I do now, that ebike technology could make a positive change for people’s health, the environment and snarled traffic.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
Never thought it would be so much fun (and a lot easier) to ride in heels.
My Tempo bike gives me more confidence and helps me to balance my life — both physically and mentally. The more I ride, the more I feel confident in everything I do — whether it be climbing the hills or going long distance. I feel great after every ride because I know I’ve done the right thing for my body, my mind, my community, and our environment.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
One of our dealers posts a sign in his shop, “No shoes, no spandex, no problem.” It reflects his attitude about running a non-traditional bike shop that’s friendly, unpretentious and inviting to non-cyclists. A bike shop for the rest of us, I call it. Tempo is all about making cycling accessible to everyone. Our hybrid electric bicycles offer electric motor assistance to climb hills, ride into the wind and go farther and faster than pedaling alone.
We believe in making electric bicycles that fit into a rider’s daily live. We build bikes that are comfortable as well as practical for commuting in normal shoes and clothes. For instance, our pedals are perfectly suited for heels, and our stand through frames are easy to get on and off even in a skirt or dress slacks. We include racks for carrying purses, briefcases and packages, integrated lights for safely commuting early in the morning or late at night, and built-in fenders because weather doesn’t always cooperate. Tempo bikes will never win the Tour de France, but we strive to build the most reliable and comfortable bike that people will enjoy riding every day. At Tempo, we believe that when we make cycling more accessible and enjoyable, we are enabling more people to ride and as a result, we are empowering everyone to live a healthier, greener lifestyle that’s good for their mental and physical health, as well as our environment.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My grandfather lost his son (my father), his home and his business during the Vietnam War. He led our family out of Vietnam on a boat, to a refugee camp in Malaysia and eventually to start over from scratch in the United States. He taught me that through character, commitment and compassion we can overcome any challenge life throws at us.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Two years ago we started our Pedal Forward program advocating for bike transportation and commuting. We support over a dozen local charities and advocacy groups. As we’ve toured the country promoting Tempo we’ve donated bikes for charity raffles with causes ranging from helping children with autism to the Humane Society to victims of last year’s devastating Florida hurricanes. At the heart of our caring programs are bike advocacy groups that we sponsor and support for working to build more bike lanes and make biking safer and more popular in our communities.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Early in my career I read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, which I consider a classic life improvement book. I was very young, unconfident and felt uncertain about what I wanted both professionally and personally. One chapter in particular explained that making choices because we want to be popular or want to be loved won’t lead to real happiness; we need to make choices based on principles and what we know is right. It’s a lesson that I’ve never forgotten, and try to pass on to my boys through example.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Repetition is critical to remembrance. I’ve worked in marketing my entire career but for big companies like Philips and Tivo, which were household names before I joined. With Tempo we’re building a brand from scratch and we’re finding it’s critical to repetitively expose buyers to our brand before they remember us and our brand attributes.
- Don’t take rejection personally. At Tempo we love our products, and it’s easy to feel like everyone else should too. While the Tempo culture and our products reflect who I am, I had to learn that losing a sale is not a personal attack.
- Everything will take longer than you expect. I had unrealistic expectations about time frames when I started Tempo, expecting to be an overnight success. When you’re developing a new market, especially when you’re trying to change consumer behavior, it takes time. We’re fortunate to have taken a conservative approach, which allowed us to persevere through those early years.
- Love what you do. It’s hard to start a new business, and there have been numerous times I’ve felt exhausted and frustrated. Fortunately I feel passionately about our mission, our products and the people I work with, which has helped sustain my enthusiasm and commitment. Like the old saying goes: do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
- Don’t miss opportunities to network. I’ve always enjoyed people and networking events, but it doesn’t mean I always feel comfortable in a group of strangers or wouldn’t rather spend time with friends and family. Businesses are built with connections, and some of the most helpful connections I’ve made have been at events I didn’t expect would be important. Yes, social media is important, but it’s not a substitute for meeting people face to face.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I admire Michelle Obama’s efforts to improve children’s health through better diet and exercise. I’d love to hear her advice about how to lead and influence positive change on issues that face our future and our children’s.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.