The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by kikinrods, Aug 13, 2005.
Thanks Brent....PM'd you....
Wow Brent, you are very technical in your approach, which is probably good to a point. One thing about the majority of companys in this field that is often overlooked is that most of the shops and suppliers have all started out in a two car garage and progressed from there. The down side to this is that most guys are more hands on shop guys than business people. This goes all the way to the major suppliers in our trade,as well as my boss, with the exception of a few. I, like I'm sure you, deal with all the "names" in the business, and there is definately a lack of proper business knowledge. We all learn as we go, and right or wrong, we do what we think is right. One of the best things going for us was the seminars at SRMA, and SEMA. If any of you have the chance to attend, by all means do. I know nobody here has any love for Boyd, but consider what he has done for the buisness in general. When he was at his high point, he was working with the big three on everything from wheel design to concept cars. Where did he start?, a two car garage then progressed all the way to a Wall street traded company, then all the way back to nothing because of mismanagement, among other things. I don't think, in my opinion that there are very many business people starting rod shops, compared to hot rod guys applying their talents to earn a living. While you can do reasonably well with the right approach and talent, there are sure a lot more profitable ways to make a living within the car buisness. If I would have been smart way back when, I would have followed my dad through the collision business. But, who wants to work on wrecks when you can build hot rods. And to answer your question about shop rates, we are currently at $75.00 per hour, and that is based on any number of things form the area we live to overhead costs, and the type of clientel you expect to have come through your doors. At this rate, you better have a good crew capable of producing quality work. To answer another question about how you decide if a tech is good or not, that is something you have to monitor on a daily basis. We pay close attention to attitudes, neatness in their apperance, how well they work with others, and of course their skill level. We have certain guys that are good at some things like tig welding, and that is where I use them. I certainly wouldn't have a painter weld on a front suspension unless he has proved himself in that area. I also do a fairly extensive interview before hiring, and give them a 30 day trial. If they aren't up to expectations, then we either decide what they are good for, or send them down the road. You will find a lot of talented guys that build some neat stuff at home, but put them in a shop environment working against the clock, and some can't make it. We have had guys answer an ad in the paper when we do look for help, that feel intimidated when they come see the shop and what we are doing, and never come back! This trade is difficult to make a living, but is most definately very rewarding when you see a car that has gone through your shop featured in a major magazine. And not to brag, but last months Street Rodder had an article on a very traditional 32 roadster that we redid for a local customer, and this months Street Rodder has a very high end 39 Chevy that I personally have a tremendous amount of work into.I would never discourage anyone from starting their own business, but be aware of the up's and downs that are going to go along with self employment.
okay..bear with me...
So did you guys make it happen, by that I mean did you fill the shop with customer cars by advertising, or word of mouth? or hit the shows with completed cars? Probably all of the above i'd guess. Did you start by subbing out things like paint, or just try to hire people so you could do it all in house? Did you go get a big loan for a shop and equipment or just buy it along the way?
Seems like you'd better have a steady stream of cars to keep overhead from killing you in a decent shop. A compliant paint booth alone now is what now, 50 grand? The business managment end doesnt scare me, after surviving 16 years in my present business, I'm just wondering if its better to stay in my own 30x40 backyard shop or try to find a "location" to get something rolling.
Brent, based on what you're saying, I don't think we really disagree. It's just that in my experience in the shop I was in, we had some guys that were just plain slow. Usually they did good work, but just slow. You know how you can have 2 dudes doing final assembly on a car, say hanging fenders. One guy will have both rears done and aligned, and nearly done with one front while the other dude can barely get the remaining front fender done in the same time. If I was a customer, I definitely don't want the one-fender guy working on my car, and it certainly wouldn't be fair to charge a customer for all of his time. If it's bad enough that you have to send the slow dude on his way, it seems in this day and age, you have to be able to cover your butt as to why he got fired.
You bring up some good points about the billable hours though, but I guess I was looking for a fair and unbiased way to document this. (i.e. why you felt you could only charge the customer for 60% of my time vs. 95% of the other guy's time, even though we both logged the same amount of hours on actual cars.)
I am a firm believer in rewarding those who are standout employees, and we are implementing some things at the manufacturing plant where I currently work that will measure productvity by employee and by department... and we have rewards set in place based on these measurements. I guess I am looking for a way to take this from a manufacturing set up to something more like an old-world artisan shop.
Also, the subject has been brought up about using employees in areas they are best at. When I was there, I was very slow at body work (the filler stuff), but I did pretty good with patch panels and wiring. One of the best body guys couldn't wire worth a squat. But I'd like to think we both added value to the shop.
You will hopefully always have standout employees. But, ther is a fine line between slow but good, or fast but not so good. I have a young guy right now that goes like mad all day to the point of sweating in an air conditioned shop, but at the end of the day I can only account for about two thirds of his time. I have another young guy that is really in slow motion but does a really good job. You will never have a perfect crew, but you do have to weed out the ones that just aren't making you money. Am I going to get rid of these two? Not for now, because as you stated you were slow at some things but fast at others. I am trying to be patient and realize both of thes individuals are under 20 years old, and therefore lack the experience. But with carefull training, they could turn out to be the best of the best.
THIS NEEDSTO RE-READ AGAIN. IMO there is a 'sermon' that needs to be absorbed by each of us in this post!
For me I had a head start by the fact that my father was a car collector that let me play with him in the garage as I was a youngster. I later went on to become a line mechanic at a dealership and then I went to work for the Pigford Bros. who owned a couple of Buttera cars and rubbed shoulders with Boyd & Diane back in their early days. I think each "chapter" of your life allows you to build yourself. Maybe compare yourself to a set of stairs. The goal is to reach the top tread but most of the time what we find is that when we step up tread by tread, we arrive without being out of breath or without tripping. Sometimes we have been guilty of trying to take a run at the steps skipping a couple of steps going up. Usually we are either out of breath or have tripped on the way up and really did not accomplish getting to the top any faster.
Now the rest of this is strictly my opinion but I do not think it is prudent to go into debt just to say you are bigger. Egos will get you into trouble faster than anything in business!! There is not a thing wrong with working out of a 30'x40' backyard shop unless you can justify a larger, more modern facility. I do think it is foolish to go out and borrow money for tools and operating capitol. I think the proper way is to secure enough collateral over time where when you need a larger facility, you can justify the loan and then if something happens to you, the facility can be leased to make the mortgage payment. A game that I always like to "play" is to look at successful business owners and decide if they are a tite-wad or not. I find that most successful business owners dress successful, drive successful looking cars, live looking successful, and etc. That is because their clients are very judgmental. I think the rest of this is because "Success is Attitude".
Let me also point out that it does not take $50K to buy a booth. A "legal in most areas" type booth can be had for less than $5K. It does not have all of the accessories that can be had but again you must be realistic how much you actually will be spending in the booth as compared to a collision repair facilty who is cranking out paintwork on a daily basis.
I know this is not an easy answer but to me, building a business is like building a car. A goal is set and then you tackle areas that you can do efficiently and sublet other disciplines that you cannot until you have a completed project. Then you will always find areas that need a "tune-up" or that you just want to rebuild again.
To me it is the "value" to the shop that will get him into problems and send him down the road. If the shop has a policy that all employees must maintain an average of 75% or greater productivity for a given period (month, quarter, annually) then this is strong enough to send them down the road if they do not produce profits for the shop.
Taking that to the next level, explain that to be eligible for salary increases they must be able to maintain 35 billable hours in a 40 hour week (86%??). Also explain how good housekeeping (being organized and working efficient) on their part allows them to make more productivity, --as does being able to write everything on their timesheet so their time spent is justified to the customer. Something else that may be a little controvercial but it has a way of bringing an employee to the next level. Explain to the potential employee that their success with your firm is based on value. Remember the Value to the Customer and value to your bank account. If they are only fast at wiring, show them that you only have enough wiring & electrical for them to stay busy for 20 hours a week. Their options are to take 40 hours to do 20 hours of work ...which is unacceptable as your policy states you must maintain 75% productivity, or they can come work for 20 hours and then bill for 20 hours. If that is unacceptable for them, then explain that maybe they should look for ways to be more valuable to the shop ...like attending welding school, or attend metalshaping classes where they can learn a new craft.
Now while I talk a good story, I am not without productivity problems either. It is VERY easy to let personal feelings intervein between productivity and employees. I have also looked at ways to offer incentive or commission based off of productivity. What I have considered is offering a "5th Paycheck" each month by adding up productivity for the month and then if your hours billed were between "such and such" I would pay $XX amount for each of those hours, and if they were even higher I would pay even more. The downside is that most commission mechanics usually figure out a way to beat the system or cheat in some manner or another. The problem I have is I don't know whether this is the signal I want to send to my employees by opening the door for this type of thing.
Oh man! Brent, I just checked your web site and saw that you are in Elizabethton! I lived there for about 5 years when I was a kid! Still have some friends in Roan Mountain.
Thanks, Brent and everybody for the insights here. And k-rods, sorry we hijacked your thread, but it does look like you have some cool stuff going on!
"just a few shop owner questions" ?
Where are the questions?
Look's more like a shop owner free advertisment.
well if you would actually read the thread you could see the questions. and in my opinion there is no advertising here i just feel pretty good about my shop and i just thought i would show it off just like most everyone here does with their cars. and then it changed to asking questions on how different people run there shop and there past experienes.
Interesting comment there Mr. Brewer.
Since it took you all the way down to post #17 before that comment was even mentioned, I am guessing you either had a chip on your shoulder or hatrid (jealousy ) towards us shop owners when you made that post. I doubt you would have been as 'vocal' in public if we were all standing around in a circle speaking about the same thing as what you just read.
The truth is that you made your living in the hi-tech world where your F500 rated, Wall Street traded former employer spent mega-money on training for you guys. Also provided retirement, "bene-ies", insurance and etc. as your salary. We don't have that luxury so I like to network with anyone that can share their experiences. I also doubt seriously that I would ever capture any business from this website. On the flip-side, those of us that have posted on this thread do learn from this website on other threads --and so when we can offer suggestions that can help our fellow H.A.M.B.-ers who also make their living doing what you do as a hobby, I am "All In" to help as my contribution. If what we have spoke about here has offended you, please accept my sincere apologies and may we kindly ask that you please refrain from clicking on this thread in the future.
I for one, did not join the HAMB or this thread looking for work. I joined the HAMB to possibly share some of my knowledge, and take advantage of the other knowledge shared here. I am amazed at some of the threads that go on here and the answers that come up. I scratch my head wondering where you guys find some of the info, and how fast you can get an answer to a question. This thread could go on forever, but I think we should wind things up and quit using up space. Trying to tell someone how to start and run a buisness here is virtually impossible. Sharing a few ideas is a good thing, but I think we have gotten way off track. First Kikin, you should be proud of your accomplishments at your age. Your shop looks professional, and looks like you have plenty of work. Don't overwhelm yourself and try to take in more than you can handle. To address another question previously asked about how you get started, I started in my driveway working on cars for friends in a car club I belonged to and it took off from there. Once you reach the level of opening a real shop, hang on, it's a wild ride especially if you are going to have employees and payday is coming. I can tell you ther were more than a few sleepless nights wondering how I would make payroll, but these things have a magical way of working themselves out. I can honestly say when I had my shop in Tucson I never missed paying my guys. Lots of times I didn't take home a check, but thats self employment. A very successful friend once told me, you pay your employees, your payroll taxes, and your rent, everything else can wait. I don't know if thats a good policy or not, but it's pretty close!
I have not even posted the name of the shop where i work at and if anyone can tell me I would be surprised. So My involvement is the same as every one else. This has been extreamly usefull to me and provides perspectives that I can use to determine what is best.
Brent, using MS Project is no different than your current system except for the fact that you are using a computer, you can track your time and resources(work & materials) & establish pay rates for workers, you can track project percent completion, determine work calenders and schedules, develop gantt charts to show visuals of work completion, ect. I will do my best right now to explain why MS Project is benificial but with out visuals it may be difficult. MS Project allows a PM to map out a project. When doing this it is important to try and separate all tasks and group them specifically. This process is basically developing an outline of how and in what order to proceed in a project.
Also I should note that the information gathered with this system is just one component of a project plan.
An example project plan would include:
Project: Complete Restoration of 1930 Model A Ford
The work statement is what is going to be acomplished. XYZ Restoration will be completing a complete frame off restoration of a 1930 Ford roadster. The proposed completion date for this project is tomorrow, and our budget is unlimited.
The restoration will meet Model A Club of America's 100 pt inspection. This restoration will... bla bla bla
You should include a Productivity Plan which identifies who will be completing what work and a work break down structure that is broken down into phases that are further itemized for what needs to be completed in each phase. Once this information is completed you will have a pretty good idea of the who, what, where, why, and when. All of this is necessary for MS Project.
When each task is being entered in the fields in the program the information collected above is referenced and is entered appropriatly.
I can't link an example file but I am still working on getting on transfered to a PDF and posting.
Actually this is going to be harder than I thought...
thanks for the 'peek behind the curtain'
I don't run a shop, nor do I have the money to have my dream rod built. But, I have read every word entered in this thread. It blows me away, when I read a thread and half way through it, some jackass has to start complaining about why they don't like the thread or they try to insult someone for sharing their knowledge. If you don't like what you read, just leave the thread. If you disagree with someone on the thread, why do you have to insult them if your opinion is different from theirs. Maybe other people joined this site because they need a place to bitch, because they can't do it at home; but I joined it to gain knowledge. You don't get that if you are constantly insulting the ones giving it.
Hot rods are so cool, they don't have opinions. Hey, let's have a race and see who wins. Hi Brandt!
"Living a Strange Existence"
Nice amount of work and the quality looks great. Here's to a prosperous new year.
This thing laid dormant since 2005....did you guys in the last couple days notice the date that this thread was?
Dang....I spent the last hour reading everything.....lotsa good points though....it made me realize that I like my car addiction as something I do for me....time to regain my sanity....
Me and my wife have talked about opening up our own business...she suggested a hot rod shop...I told her no. My reason? I wouldnt make any money and I'd relearn to hate working on cars...(worked at a body shop alot of years ago and hated every minute of it...did fine with the work, did fine with the people...HATED the cars that ultimatly wernt mine...) Anyway, my comment on not making any money....I'm a perfectionist....it'd be great for the customer....not so much on me. Perfection takes time...most guys dont pay for perfection (correct me if I'm wrong) but expect it none-the-less.
Anyway....lots to think about here not just as it pertains to cars, but business in general.
And BTW I never thought Kikin was spammin....least he's an alliance member and I can speak from experience....helped a brother out on the phone with all my stupid questions and gave me a killer price that saved me bout $700 from what everyone else was askin...
He's good in my book....so for the dude with the shitty comment....go fuck yourself.
Jeez, does it really matter how old this thread is there '333'? Seems to me that most of us here like, --and own "old stuff", so whats the problem if the topic is "old" or has been laying dormant?
Since writing this, I have been to a couple of Project Management workshops and/or seminars, and what I have concluded is exactly what you just said. "It is tougher than we thought!" The toughest thing to determine is the Critical Path because it is ever changing. This is especially true when all of the shop projects are stacked. At almost every seminar I went to, after showing the instructor my templates, and my real projects stacked, they were just sitting there staring at the computer screen. I literally have each and ever major task 'line-itemed' along with the operation and time allocation. For example;
AXLE ASSEMBLY - Rear:
Disassemble Rear Axle Assembly
Clean, Assess, & Order Rear Axle Parts
Degrease & Clean Rear Axle Assy. Parts
Inspect & Assess Rear Axle Assy. Parts
Order Rear Axle Assy. PartsSandblast Rear End Parts:
Sandblast Rear Axle Housings
Sandblast Torque Tube
Sandblast Center Housing (Banjo)
Sandblast Radius Rods
Sandblast Rear Spring Leaves
Sandblast Spring Hangers (Shackles)
..Repair Housing Assembly:
Check / Straighten Driveshaft
Repair Differential Housing Gasket Surfaces
Replace Spring Perch Bushings
Replace/Repair Shock Link Balls
Repair Axle Housing Gasket Surfaces
Repair Axle Housing Hub Races
Straighten & Repair Radius Rods
Rebuild Rear Spring Assy
Rebuild Speedometer Drive Assembly
Bodywork Rear Axle Housings, Torque Tube, Radius Rods:
Bodywork Axle Housings
Bodywork Torque Tube
Bodywork Radius Rods
Powdercoat Rear Axle Housings, Torque Tube, Radius Rods:
Powdercoat Axle Housings
Powdercoat Torque Tube
Powdercoat Radius Rods
Assemble Rear Axle Assembly:
Install New Races & Seals in Axle & Diff. Housings
Install New Race & Bearings, Assemble Pinion on Driveshaft
Install New Race, Driveshaft Bearings & Seal in Torque Tube
Set Pinion bearing pre-load
Assemble Differential Carrier
Set-up Differential to Rear Axle Housings
Install Torque Tube & Safety wire bolts
Install Rear Spring Assembly
Install Radius Rods
Install Speedometer Drive Cap
Each of those tasks are set where I can have an individual Resource do one specific task and it also links to predecessors and following tasks. There are also lead times built into the operations to allow for parts deliveries fom vendors. Like I said, my lists of task operations goes from the beginning when the vehicle is brought into the shop, --until delivery & sign off by the customer. The problem is they all agreed that this detailed amount of information is needed or otherwise tasks that follow could be compromised, yet when they saw me stack 10 projects with 7 available resources, they were just blown away. Then when I explained that each project had budget constrictions that did not always allow for continious flow, they just shook their heads and told me that much of this I wouldstill need to do in my head, and all this data really is, ...is a tool to assist me. I guess the biggest thing I have learned from these seminars is that writing down what the tasks are makes them have meaning. While I, and my employees know the steps to rebuilding something such as the rear end, it is the check list that brings reality to what must be done. What I have also learned is an Excel spreadsheet will do the same thing as what Project will do. One of these days, however, I will hire a good PM to make my life easier and less stressful!!
I am also a big fan of quickbooks. But tired of their interface and integration problem. This accounting software is not mac friendly. I tried both parallel and wine.
I'm impressed! Lots pretty colors!!
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