Ed. note: Whether they deliver products by bicycle or locate on a bike lane to attract employees who value bicycle commuting, Philadelphia businesses are finding that bicycles help their bottom line. Our Bicycles Are Business profile series continues; read the full series here.
Five years ago, Robert Moore and Jake Stein sat in Moore’s attic in Collingswood, New Jersey, dreaming up an ambitious plan for a technology company. The company’s software service would provide online businesses with a streamlined “single source of truth” for their data, allowing those clients to make informed data-driven decisions. Fast-forward to 2014 and Moore and Stein’s ambitious dream is now an ever-increasing success, with 80 employees, a host of clients, and a new office directly in the heart of Philadelphia.
A tech company can locate anywhere. According to Moore, RJMetrics is in Center City for one simple reason. “At the end of the day, it was all about talent. It was all about a very specific profile of person that we knew was the key to us scaling a really successful business.” Moore knows what thousands of other companies are discovering: “Young people who are early on in their careers are moving to cities right now.”
Two examples of that attracted talent are Analyst Jonah Coste and Account Manager Andrew Hoagland. They both bike to work almost every single day. Coste turned to bicycling after finishing a career as a highly competitive rower. Now he does local road and track races as well as commuting on two wheels. “Driving a car every day would be a big hassle and a lot of money in parking since I work in Center City,” Coste says. “Riding the train is a little less expensive but still $7-plus a day and I’m at the mercy of the train schedule. Biking to work takes virtually the same amount of time and I can leave whenever is best for me. Plus it’s free, eco-friendly, and a bit of a workout! I really enjoy [it]. It forces me to be unplugged from everything for 30 minutes prior to starting my day.”
Hoagland, an active triathlete living in the Art Museum area, has been commuting by bike for years.
Coste and Hoagland are not cherry-picked employees, either. “Literally, not a single person here drives to work,” says Moore. “So it’s people who walk, people who take their bikes, and people who ride the subway or some combination. We’ve got a couple people with folding bikes who take the ‘El’ in and then ride the rest of the way. At least a third of our staff at some point of the year is in a mode where they’re biking in … It’s part of our overall wellness strategy and I think it makes a really big impact.”
The ever-increasing bicycling culture in Philadelphia may be helping RJMetrics in two ways. By making the company appealing to young professionals who value short, active commutes, RJMetrics is attracting home-grown talent which grew up in Philadelphia’s bicycling culture. “We had a thesis that if we could build a world class technology company in Philadelphia then we would have access to a really amazing proprietary source of talent,” says Moore. “That’s absolutely come true. 85% of our staff today lives in Philadelphia proper, and over half of our staff holds a degree from a Philadelphia-area college or university.”
RJMetrics sees encouraging the health and wellness of its employees as an important ingredient in the company’s success. The company has a robust health and wellness program, in which biking plays a role. “That strategy in general is something that makes a lot of sense to us,” says Moore. “There’s plenty of scientific research you can find [showing that] people who exercise are more alert, they are in a better mood, they are more productive, their mind is more clear and less cluttered.1 A healthy and active team is one that’s going to perform better, so we do everything that we can to promote that, including being extremely bike friendly.”
RJMetrics recently moved offices to accommodate its voracious hiring, and their new building at 1336 Chestnut does not provide bike parking. Moore is looking at options for increasing the bike parking immediately near the building, either by placing racks atop SEPTA grates or waiting for new parking options at the soon-to-open Dilworth Plaza. But the less-convenient bike parking hasn’t inhibited employees from bike commuting anyway. “It’s an active crew, so it’s not the kind of thing that’s a deal killer for anybody,” says Moore.
Thirty years ago it would have been unfathomable that a rapidly-growing, 80-employee Philadelphia business would not have a single employee driving to work. But in seeking competitive advantage wherever it can, RJMetrics has found that a bicycle, walking, and transit-friendly office location makes them attractive to the talent they need to scale their business. As young professionals put down the car keys and pick up bike locks, they will be looking for employers who share their values. As Hoagland says: “I have never finished riding my bike and thought, ‘Man, I wish I didn’t do that.'”