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BFB Spotlight: Cogentes
The following post comes to us from the staff at Cogentes, an IT services company in Milledgeville, Ga., and a new Gold Bicycle Friendly Business. Read more about the latest awards here.
Tom Glover, president and CEO of Cogentes, an IT services company in Milledgeville, Georgia, is an avid cyclist and president of the local bicycling club. Since cycling was such an integral part of his life and of his family’s, it only seemed natural to make it part of his business too.
So, in 2012, Tom started working to make cycling a core part of his business culture. The company sponsored a mountain bike race team in the spring of 2012 with Tom and his daughter competing throughout the southeast for newly-formed team Cogentes. In addition to the race team, Cogentes sponsored the Bicycling Club of Milledgeville’s annual April Fools ride as well their newly created Deep Roots Charity ride. Instead of just providing money to these events, the Cogentes sponsorship was a combination of money and in-kind labor. Cogentes employees were encouraged to get involved in these events, helping with the fund raising, event management, and event day activities. At the time, no other company employees were cyclists, so enthusiasm was muted, to say the least.
However, Tom, his daughter Stella, and one other employee stepped up to the task and helped with both events. As a result, that employee bought a bicycle later in the year and started riding with members of the Bicycle Club of Milledgeville and also took on a leadership role in the club becoming the secretary and later membership director.
In 2013, Tom applied with the League of American Cyclists and became Milledgeville’s first Bronze Bicycle Friendly Business, becoming a catalyst for the community-wide movement that would result in Milledgeville’s being recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community in 2014. After receiving the Bronze level designation, Cogentes began a more aggressive campaign to bring more employees into cycling.
Starting in the fall of 2013, the company announced that it would pay the entrance fees for one organized cycling event each year for every employee wanting to participate. Then in the spring of 2014, Tom rolled out a more comprehensive incentive to get employees on their bikes. The 2014 Cogentes Bike Challenge encouraged employees to register for the National Bike Challenge and start logging miles. Employees who participated could earn extra vacation days for each 250 miles logged. And, a new netbook computer was set aside for the employee who logged the most miles by the end of the year. Finally, employees were promised a Labor Day weekend party at the lake if there was a 100% participation rate for the National Bike Challenge.
As many employees had not ridden bikes since they were kids, Tom implemented a weekly “Bike with the Boss” ride. This ride served as both encouragement and education. Tom worked with each employee to teach basic cycling skills and safety so that they would feel safe riding around town and around the Central State Hospital campus, where the Cogentes office is located. The weekly rides would take employees around the campus and downtown to a local restaurant where everyone had lunch together. This fun, casual ride became something that every employee looked forward to each week.
While all Cogentes employees participated in the challenge, a few embraced cycling to a degree that surprised (and delighted) Tom. These employees fell in love with cycling and encouraged their families to ride as well. The results were phenomenal. One employee, Tim Yates, not only started riding in the afternoons and weekends, he also decided to commute at least one day each week. Since Tim is an IT support technician, commuting to work took on a completely different meaning than it would for an office worker.
Tim’s weekly commute entailed making all of his service calls on bicycle. Tim also took advantage of the paid event registration and rode in the Bicycle Club of Milledgeville’s Red Clay Ramble, a 40 mile dirt road “gravel grinder” event held each year in August. Tim, like several other employees, earned two extra vacation days in 2014 and won the netbook computer. Tim’s family was not able to ride along with him in 2014 due to the age of his two young children. However, both of the kids now have their first bicycles and are looking forward to being able to ride along with their dad soon!
The biggest employee success came from Paul Still, an Atlanta area Cogentes engineer. Paul was not able to use his bicycle to commute to work like Tim since his service area included all of Metro Atlanta. He did, however live within a few miles of Atlanta’s Silver Comet Trail, a 60 mile paved rail-to-trail starting in southwest Atlanta. From day one, Paul encouraged his wife and two children to ride with him and help motivate him to get in the miles. As a family they rode several times each week and saw their ride distances start to increase. What started out as work, quickly became a family activity that they all looked forward to each day.
As fall approached and the days started getting shorter, Paul was not able to make it home in time to ride. So his wife and kids started riding earlier without him. Then, as winter approached, Paul bought an indoor trainer so they could continue riding through the winter. What started as just a way to get a few more days of vacation time transformed this family and opened up a whole new world of family activity for them.
Cogentes has launched its 2015 challenge and employees are already gearing up to ride more miles and get more vacation days. Several employees are even challenging each other to take on their first metric century in the fall. 2015 promises to be an even bigger year for Cogentes cycling, as employee Team Cogentes members and their families enthusiastically answer the call to ride.