Jeff Thompson, Star Tribune

How biking can help a company's bottom line

  • June 7, 2011 - 8:16 PM

Fresh air blowing on your face. Sun hitting your neck. Your heart pumping. These are just a few of the feelings you experience while riding a bike.

But let's talk about what happens when we get off our bikes and get to work, as we once again experience Bike Walk Week in the Twin Cities, an annual celebration of calories burned, gas money saved and carbon emissions cut -- thanks to the simple act of biking or walking.

Since the Twin Cities area has become a national leader in extolling and supporting the virtues of biking and walking, I think it's about time we add another important data point to bike walk benefits: profit.

I have always been passionate about biking. That's in part due to my grandfather, who owned a Schwinn dealership, and my father, who at 67 still bikes an average of 2,000 miles a year. Biking has always been part of my life.

However, it wasn't until I became president and CEO of Colle+McVoy, a Minneapolis-based advertising agency, that I discovered that biking is also good for the bottom line.

During the past few years, our agency has steadily added infrastructure and other ways to make it a cinch to bike, walk or run to work. We moved from the suburbs to downtown Minneapolis to allow our employees to take advantage of the area's many trails and to put the office in a more convenient location for commuting by pedal or foot.

We've added showers and lockers. And our employees can use our free bike rental program, a 50 percent discount on buying bikes and gear, a no-interest bike purchase program, agency bike rides and ample storage.

I was surprised to learn how many employees were eager to turn in their car keys for a bike, bus or light-rail pass with a short walk to our office in the Wyman Building. Currently, the number of Colle+McVoy employees who bike to work is about 20 times the national average for a business, according to the U.S. Census.

Sure, these changes were the right thing to do. But a funny thing happened along the way: Our employees are healthier, happier and more productive. We're attracting some of the best talent in the industry.

And, most important, we're attracting new and exciting clients to fuel the bottom line.

But let's take a step back and look at this from a more analytical perspective. A business is only as great as the sum of its parts and, therefore, a healthy business needs healthy employees. What is a healthy employee? For too long, black-and-white spreadsheet calculations deduced employee health to numbers such as sick days and health care costs.

But, as all doctors know, health is multidimensional, including both physical and mental factors. That's why supporting biking and walking is only an effective business strategy when it's part of a larger strategy of cultivating creative and healthy minds.

At Colle+McVoy, we fuel healthy minds through our open, inspiring space that has only one office door (for HR). We have our own in-house masseuse and yoga on our rooftop. We celebrate victories big and small.

I know there are many other local companies -- big, small and medium-sized -- crafting new ways to foster their employees' health. This is an exciting time to be a member of the Twin Cities business community, as more companies learn that a dollar invested in employee health is a dollar earned.

Putting it simply, fueling the soul fuels the bottom line.

Christine Fruechte is president and CEO of Colle+McVoy.

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