Bike Share Operations: The Secret to Success
Growth. It’s a measure of success, an indicator of resource & mission alignment, and a reason to celebrate. As we look toward our summer lineup of bike share program launches we are grateful for the many ways in which Tandem Mobility has grown. We’ve enjoyed developing new partnerships, supporting new communities in achieving their transportation goals, and expanding our own team to best meet the demand for bikes and bike share operations in communities nationwide.
Please meet our new Strategic Operations Manager, Kevin O’Brien. Kevin is no stranger to the micro-mobiltiy industry, having overseen operations within a diverse array of bike and scooter sharing programs over the past five years. Not only is he uniquely qualified to scale up Tandem Mobility operations, but Kevin also just has a really solid passion for data and the way we can use that data to ensure we are meeting the expectations of our partners, mechanics, and community of riders.
I spent some time chatting with Kevin about his new role here at Tandem. Since he’s a self-proclaimed “behind the scenes kind of guy”, it made sense to share these conversation nuggets here on our blog, providing a little peek behind the curtain at Tandem Mobility. Kevin’s reflections illustrate why and how we prioritize operational success for its fundamental impact on programmatic success.
What is your connection to the micro-mobility industry?
My most recent work experience was with Zagster, a nationwide bike share provider. I worked there for 5 years in a variety of operations-focused roles. I got my first job in the bike industry when I was 16, and have been continuously working with bikes for 9 years. Outside of work, I have been interested in shared transportation for my whole life. I have always lived in Philadelphia and spent most of my life figuring out how to get around without a car. In fact, I didn’t get my driver’s license until I turned 30. Because of this, I became interested in cycling and public transportation (Philly has some really neat and practical trolleys!). Working in micro-mobility has given me an amazing opportunity to combine my love of cycling with my interest in urban transportation while working with a really amazing group of people.
What does a Strategic Operations Manager do at Tandem Mobility?
As a Strategic Operations manager, my role is to facilitate day to day activities at all of our micro-mobility programs, while keeping an eye toward the future by planning for growth and improving our processes. Because operations is integral to so many aspects of launching a program, both before and after launch, I get to work closely with people in a wide range of roles. Aligning expectations between all parties is a key part of my role, so I spend a lot of time just talking to everyone. I also get asked to check in on every new project, to advise if it is practically feasible and will survive the frictions of reality. However, most of my time is spent on maintaining great day-to-day operations. This involves working closely with mechanics to make sure I support them with information and logistical support, and in turn I expect them to keep me apprised of goings-on in their market. I also have to plan ahead to be able to support future launches by hiring, managing our supply chain, and putting together project plans. While balancing all of this, I am also constantly looking for ways to optimize our processes and documentation so we can improve our service.
How do you keep eyes on the system health of all the Tandem markets?
One of my favorite aspects of being an Operations Manager is the wealth of information I have access to on a daily basis. Ridership statistics, maintenance reports, and customer service requests, among a hundred other things, all fly across my desk every day. It’s fun and rewarding to process it all and figure out where to look to get the results we need. As much as I love playing data detective, the best thing about my role is all the amazing people I get to work with. Most of our local partners and mechanics are mobility advocates who are invested not only in their program succeeding, but also in the growth of sustainable transportation in general.
As an Operations Manager, my greatest asset is our network of local mechanics. I’m proud that some of these relationships go back many years. I encourage our mechanics to keep an open line of communication with me, and I rely on them to be my eyes and ears in each market. Having a good relationship with our mechanics on the ground allows for reliable and consistent communication - they know that if they see something concerning, suspicious, needing improvement, or, especially, humorous, that they can and should contact me. Between the mechanics acting as information pipelines and the abundance of incoming data from each market, I am able to create a clear picture of each market’s health and act accordingly.
How does operations interface with the business development side of things?
Operations are critical for business development both in each market and at HQ. Positive user experiences, high ridership, and system growth all depend on great operations in-market. The solutions we offer our partners, our ability to maintain a reliable fleet, and our eagerness to respond to concerns all define who we are at Tandem Mobility. Operations also plays a key role in identifying new opportunities within a given market. While their primary focus is on operations, Tandem encourages and incentivizes local mechanics to be involved in growing their bike share program.
On the flip side our Business Development team at Tandem updates the Operations team every step of the way as new contracts move through the sales pipeline. With our communications processes dialed in, we are able to be strategic about our launch execution & ongoing operations planning without any crazy surprises. We have a small team, and we are effective and efficient because of our passion, experience, and commitment to keep improving. Cross-team collaboration is crucial in aligning expectations between all local stakeholders and Tandem HQ. We are able to be nimble and react quickly to opportunities and concerns without getting bogged down in the bureaucracy that comes with larger organizations. This also gives operations a chance to have an outsized impact on business development and growth on our smaller, non-hierarchical management team. Seeing what Tandem Mobility was able to accomplish in such a short time before I joined, I feel very lucky to be able to contribute so directly to business development by way of ensuring operational excellence across our company.
You oversee operations in each market, which means you’re responsible for enabling the in-market mechanics to perform their best. How do you ensure that your remote teams are successful?
It all starts with establishing what success looks like. This means setting expectations so that each mechanic understands the scope of work necessary to meet the service plan commitments we have designed and selected for each program. Once these goals are set it is important that we provide mechanics the tools and information necessary to accomplish them. This takes the form of our ever-unified onboarding process and ever-expanding library of training resource documents. We lean on our diverse team of mechanics to share their best practices, their challenges, and their successes with the larger team through our in-house communication channels, which we can then incorporate into our training materials ongoing. Our mechanics can provide all kinds of useful information: feedback from riders and partners, suggestions about our processes, information about the system and how it’s being used, and many other things. In turn, we are able to keep them informed about maintenance tickets, upcoming events, system trends, and new initiatives at Tandem. However, if handled improperly, all of this information just becomes noise. So it is important to establish channels of communication that allow us to capture this information, aggregate and analyze it where appropriate, and take meaningful action. Beyond improving operations, this builds trust with our mechanics, which is the last key piece to ensuring they are successful. The best results are going to come when there is synergy between all stakeholders, and that takes the trust that can only come when everyone is a part of the conversation.
Kevin, we are delighted to have you on the Tandem Mobility team. Thank you for taking the time to share some of your operational wisdom with me.
Interested in launching a bike share system in your area? Reach out to us by filling out the form at the bottom of our website.