Follow the Leader: Brooke Tully


In the first of our series of interviews with business leaders about their business journey so far, we speak to Brooke Tully, an Australian who moved to Dublin just over 18 months ago to launch BikeExchange Ireland.

The venture is part of a wider group that began with the wildly successful BikeExchange Australia, which launched a decade ago. Together with BikeExchange UK, of which Tully is also CEO, the two new online marketplaces now have more than 200 bike retailers onside.

What is your business’s elevator pitch?

“We’re an online marketplace for everything bike. I sometimes ask people who have no idea what an online marketplace is to imagine a shopping mall that brought together all the country’s bike stores and those traders had their doors open 24/7. Shoppers knew they could come in for anything and everything bike related. You put that online, and that’s what BikeExchange is. We also enable private sellers to sell their pre-loved bikes.”

What was the key motivation and raison d’être behind your business?

“For me, it was the business challenge of bringing the established, successful BikeExchange business from Australia to Ireland and the UK as a new brand and start-up. Ireland and the UK each bring its own legislation, tax systems, currency and market dynamics, some are quite different from those in Australia – so there was lots to learn – and quickly. I am a keen cyclist, so there is a personal interest also, but the business challenge was the primary motivator.”

Looking back now at the early stages of your business, would you do anything differently leading the business?

“From a leadership point of view, I’m fairly comfortable how that rolled out. We’re very good at scrutinising ourselves regularly and implementing changes when need be. In terms of launching the business, I would have delayed my arrival in Ireland and done more in Australia, pre-departure. There’s a vast amount of work that’s required from the content management side and our development team is very much based in our Melbourne head office. I think having that physical proximity to them at the crucial stage of pre-launch probably would have made my life a lot easier.”

What’s your driving force? What keeps you motivated to drive the business on?

“I come from a family of generations of apple growers so I understand intrinsically the importance of small business to a nation’s economy and the impact small business has on families and communities. So being involved in an innovative business that is helping other SMEs – the bike retailers – to not only prosper but in some cases stay afloat, is a significant personal motivation to me.”

What does achievement and success look like for your business?

“I think it’s when people start contacting you and reaching out to you rather than the other way around. We have the luxury in Australia that we’re a known name; every retailer in the country knows us and we’ve got market share. When launching in Ireland and the UK, we had a vast challenge on our hands, and one way of looking at success is knowing that people are now reaching out to us.”

“I come from a family of apple growers so I understand the importance of small business to a nation’s economy and the impact it has on families and communities”

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever been given?

“‘The strength of the wolf is in the pack.’ I read it in a really good book that my boss gave me and it was written about the success of the All Blacks rugby team. Rugby is not something I’m a follower of, but this was a fantastic book looking at the success of the team and what made them tick. It applied everything to the world of business and the writer places a huge emphasis on the collective ambition of a team rather than a single person, which resonated with me. It’s how I like to work and it also has a nice synergy with professional road racing where a single cyclist, no matter how talented, can never win without the work of his or her teammates.”

What has been your proudest achievement with your business to date?

“We have quite a small team and I derive a lot of pride in seeing where those people have got to since they joined us. We have a culture to recruit people who are high in values rather than just high in talent, the idea being if you’ve got the right person who is ethically on the same page, it will be a lot easier to have them succeed in your workplace than someone who has talent but might not necessarily share the same values. Seeing some of those who have been with us from the start get to where they are now is fantastic.”

Your approach as a leader is best described by which three words?

“Inclusive. Integrity. Navigator.”

How are you preparing and planning for Brexit in your business?

“I think that, up until recently, Brexit has largely been a political discourse, and now, after stage one, it will probably shift towards an economical one – and I think that’s when it starts getting interesting for people like me. It’s of particular interest to us, given that we have a foot in either side of the camp. We’re in quite an interesting situation, so it’s something I’m watching carefully and there’s lots of researching, reading, absorbing, understanding. I know it will have implications, and that’s all the more reason to absorb as much as you can and ask the right people the right questions.”

What have you come to learn about connecting with your customers?

“You have to be relevant. You have to have what they are looking for and show them something that is going to make them want to look a bit deeper. Any feedback that we get from retailers and consumers we give to our editorial and development teams and we do everything that we can to see what can be done with it.”

Which part of your working week do you enjoy the most?

“Friday afternoon for us is called ‘Retro’, where we all get together and brainstorm things that have and haven’t gone well for us that week and things that we would like to change. We put that up on the board and we talk about it. We usually sit down with some drinks and it’s a good way to gauge how everyone’s feeling – it’s a real highlight of the week.”

Parting shot: what’s next for your business?

“We’ve laid our foundations and have spent time in getting our product right for our market and building our base. I see 2018 as a year for some very significant growth. We’ll be introducing new models such as an omnichannel, where we’re going to be giving brands an opportunity to have an account on the site that will showcase all their products the way in which they want, and then link into all the retailers in the particular country that are selling their product. It’s going to be quite exciting for us.”


Comments 2

Colin O'Sullivan on Friday, 19 January 2018 13:09

Great to see Bike Exchange establishing in Ireland. Great read.

Great to see Bike Exchange establishing in Ireland. Great read.
Tara De Buitlear on Monday, 22 January 2018 13:10

An interesting read - thanks Brooke.
Nice to hear from a business leader here in Ireland, with a global business and brand and to get a sense of personality behind the business too.

An interesting read - thanks Brooke. Nice to hear from a business leader here in Ireland, with a global business and brand and to get a sense of personality behind the business too.
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