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.
In any crowded marketplace, businesses seek ways to differentiate themselves from their competition. Signaling values is one way, and it is a potent strategy when one’s clients are universities and mission-driven organizations who might care about the values behind their vendors.1 Philadelphia web development studio Message Agency creates interactive websites for public sector organizations and sustainable businesses. While this sector focus is grounded in founder Marcus Iannozzi’s personal values, making those values part of the company ethos also helps attract clients. So Message Agency is a B-Corp, its developers contribute to the worldwide Drupal community, and it features the team’s commuting bicycles on the “About Us” section of their website.
“We are all extremely proud of our commitment to and love of cycling,” says Iannozzi. “We identify so much with our rides that we took a collective photo of them and featured it on our home page, rather than actual mug shots.”
Iannozzi biked to work when Message Agency got its first (and currently only) permanent space in 2000, but he says the studio’s bicycling ethos arose organically. “We had a few key hires, and they said, ‘Oh, we bike’.” Iannozzi does not look for bicycle commuters when making hiring decisions, but things tend to work out that way. “People get inculcated. It’s such a no-brainer especially if you live in town. It makes sense on so many levels…we don’t proselytize, it just becomes part of our rhythm.”
Today each of the ten employees at Message Agency uses either bicycles, public transit, or both to get to work. Iannozzi tries to hire Philadelphians as part of his commitment to providing jobs to the local economy. In a city with one of the highest rates of bicycle commuting in the nation, it follows that local talent might arrive predisposed to car-free commuting.2 “We often bike to meetings and basically convert new employees to cyclists very quickly after their hire.”
As founder, Iannozzi must balance his personal principles with the necessities of keeping Message Agency healthy and growing. Fortunately, fostering a sustainability and community-oriented workplace pays dividends on both the client and team fronts. “We have purposely focused on serving organizations that promote the public good,” says Iannozzi, and he credits Message Agency’s values with landing new work. Meanwhile, a staff that bikes to work saves their employer money. “Biking definitely keeps us all healthier. And it has saved the business a substantial amount of money because we aren’t paying for taxis, public transportation, parking, or other costs related to other forms of transportation.”
The web development firm that bikes together stays together. “It’s also something we really bond around,” says Iannozzi. “We all cycle to Phillies games together and even rent bikes when we go to conventions (like a recent Drupalcon in Denver) and take joy rides to explore new cities.” The company ranks high in the National Bike Challenge and individual staff members are involved in the Philadelphia bicycling community as members of the Bicycle Coalition3 and volunteers with Gearing Up.
Message Agency is growing and Iannozzi is looking for new space near their 1533 South Street location. He gets excited when discussing the bike parking of one possible location: “There’s these awesome bike racks all hanging on the side of the building.” As bicycling continues to grow in Philadelphia, it is increasingly likely that the clients Message Agency courts will themselves be bicycle commuters. And that will make Iannozzi’s values-oriented business look all the better. “We show up to client meetings a little sweaty, but everyone seems to forgive us.”
- No university wants to receive a reporter’s phone call asking why the university hired Dead Baby Seal Solutions to make a website. It’s every Director of Alumni Affairs’ nightmare. ↩
- Philadelphia’s bicycle commuting mode share was 2.3% in 2012, tops among the country’s 10 biggest cities and #11 among cities > 200,000 population. Via our 2014 Bike PHL Facts report. ↩
- Note: we would have profiled Message Agency even if its staff were not Bicycle Coalition members. But did we mention how handsome everyone in the firm is? ↩