“Accepting Software Processes the Way They Are”

PG Bikes "Blacktrail"-eBike

Mr. Ostner, you started up your own company at the age of just 14. Today, you’re the managing director of PG Bikes. You are a successful retailer of electric bikes and you recently added electric roadsters to your product range …

I wanted more independence from my parents and I wanted a chance to earn more than the 20 marks I was given as pocket money every month. So I set up a newspaper wholesale business and employed people to do paper rounds for me.  When I was 15, I started buying old Vespa scooters, pepping them up, and reselling them.

So your fascination for two-wheelers began at early age?

Yes, and I was drawn back to them again later. In the meantime, I worked for “Nice Price Finder”, where my job was to locate the lowest prices for companies who wanted to buy IT equipment. I also ran a wellness distribution business for a Japanese company.

… and then it was back to the world of two-wheelers …

Correct. In 2004, I founded the “Pimp Garage” where – as the name suggests – we bought, pimped, and resold bicycles. We installed free-to-customize osCommerce software for our online shopping website and spent 140,000 euros on it in just three years. We just didn’t have the experience, and it was important to us to start out with an inexpensive solution. But then we started adjusting and adding bits on; adjusting again and adding more bits. The system steadily got bigger and bigger and less and less transparent…

Manuel Ostner, CEO of PG Bikes located in Regensburg, Germany

So you began looking around for an alternative?

Yes. In 2007, we looked at various systems, including Microsoft and SAP. We needed a system that would cover everything from merchandise management and sales though warehouse logistics and financials. We wanted all these areas to be integrated.

When did your idea of setting up a company to build and sell exclusive bikes start to ripen?

During 2008, our ideas for bike design became more and more exclusive and, in October, we founded PG Bikes and began focusing on developing, producing, and marketing our own, totally unique range of electric bikes. We also deployed SAP Business One software for the first time.

Why SAP?

For one thing, the SAP solution was the one that most extensively covered the processes we needed.  For another, my experiences of the free-to-customize software we used at Pimp Garage were still fresh in my mind. All in all, we spent maybe 50,000 euros on the SAP Business One software, which is a third of what we’d previously spent. But this time, we didn’t start customizing left, right, and center.  We accepted the software processes exactly as they were.What made you decide to stop online sales in 2010 and restructure your system?

We stopped operating our online shop because our high-price products were not suited to online sales.

What lessons have you learned from your experiences with IT?

The key thing is to familiarize yourself with the software before you deploy it. Also, you need to be able to link up all your processes cleanly.  For our part, we benefitted enormously from accepting the SAP software as it was and from adapting ourselves to fit it. Apart from our letter paper and some specific reports that we needed, we didn’t have to customize anything. That obviously helped keep cost and effort levels within reasonable limits.

PG Bikes was founded in October 2008. In 2009, the Regensburg, Germany-based electric bike specialist garnered revenues of half a million euros. By the end of 2011, this figure had risen to two million euros, plus, says Ostner, “an order backlog worth one million euros”. The company reorganized, the 22-strong workforce was slimmed down to 14, and graphic design work was outsourced to an agency. To complement its top-of-the-range electric bikes, the company now sells custom-built electric roadsters. Ostner anticipates revenues of between three and four million euros in fiscal 2012.

SME businessman Ostner has been relying on SAP Business One since 2008 – with great success.