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What surprised you the most in your first 5 years of business ?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by CHOPSHOP, Nov 12, 2007.

  1. graveyardsledder
    Joined: Oct 30, 2006
    Posts: 294


    I have worked with mostly independent shops with maybe a maximum of 4 techs down to just me and the owner. I've never really worried about how much money I've made just as long as I had plenty of work and I enjoy my surroundings. With every shop I have worked at I have become really close to the owner and learned the way of the repair business. I still have a close relationship with all of them. Hell I go to my old boss's sons birthday party every year and he is well over 4 hours away. He has been holding a 4 speed Saginaw for me for almost 3 months because we just have that relationship.

    Now not to toot my own horn but I feel that I have a very strong worth ethic, I'm usually the first one there and I'm always the last one to leave. I try my best to get the jobs done on the same day. I really don't like leaving anything over night. The places I've worked at have always taken care of me. When I didn't have a place to go/live my old boss set me up in the shop until I got money saved up to get a place.

    First lesson was it's more profitable to keep an existing customer happy than let a new customer nickel and dime you to death.

    Second lesson never let a customer bring his own parts unless you called and ordered it for him to go and get.

    Third lesson (automotive repair) get in good with a body shop and machine shop because not only for your personal stuff but it's a circle. We have a body shop that subs all it's mechanical repairs to us after they finish with the body work. And the machine shop turn around for us is usually a day tops.

    Fourth Lesson: Do whatever it takes to do the job right the first time. I don't like comebacks at all. Unless it's nothing in your control.

    Fifth lesson: no matter what you do try and make everyday fun at work. A positive attitude makes the day go so much better. I try my damndest to leave my personal shit on the doorstep because it will make for a short fuse kind of day and that is not productive.

    Sixth Lesson: if you take care of your employees they will take care of you.

    Seventh lesson: no matter how hard you try you can not make every customer happy.

    Sorry that was a little long, but if I think of more I'll post more.
  2. Patrick46
    Joined: Nov 26, 2008
    Posts: 565


    Eighth lesson: there's no money to be made doing warranty work on your own stuff!!!
  3. When Starting your own business you get to work half days... meaning 12 hours a day.

    DTA- Dont Trust Anybody.

    Anybody you pay money to is not your friend. Employees, the gov't, insurance companies, banks, lawyers, anyone. They always act in thier best interest, not yours regardless of how much you pay them.

    Always lookout for out for ol number one first (yourself) because no one else is or ever will be.

    Trust your gut and dont sell to customers you think will cause major problems. Many customer involved headaches and lost money can be avoided by just saying "I cant help you".

    Good luck
  4. yruhot
    Joined: Dec 17, 2009
    Posts: 564


    Don't under bid yourself out of business. Be fair and competitive but not to the point that you are busy and broke. Some jobs you have to be able to walk away from. Don't listen to NA-Sayers. I'm so glad I never did. I'd listen to others for a second and then write what they said off. Keep your Fricken overhead as low as you can. I bought a used van in 1995 for like $1500.oo to start my a/c company out of. I'm still driving Sometimes I look at a new work truck and think that would be nice but I always swore I wouldn't be a slave to work van payments. My old cars is another topic. Replaced the motor. Had the trans overhauled last year. Worked great but leaked like a sieve on my customers driveways. Whoops. Enjoy what you do. Expect to wear many hats. I'm the CEO/CFO/lead service tech/pr man/purchasing agent/ plus many But take baby steps if you can. Maybe have a day job and ease into your own business if you can. But keep on dreamin and try and develope a plan. Talk to successful people. Don't be afraid. I'm not bragging but last year with all the doom and gloom I had my best year in 16 years. You may fall on your face a few times...........But at least you are headed in the right OK later yruhot....Doug
  5. found out that my business after 7 years is a non profit wasn't meant to be though lol
  6. 48FordFanatic
    Joined: Feb 26, 2011
    Posts: 1,335

    from Maine

    As a Mechanical Engineer I worked for about 25 years for companies in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maine. I'd say that 50 % of the work and working conditions was good, but none compares to working for myself. For the past 6 years I've been self employed and loving it. The money is good and I can pick the work I want to do. But , the absolute best part of my situation is the freedom I now have to come and go as I want. No more need to ask for a day off , or to get permission to leave early , or to budget my vacation days, etc, etc. And no more need to ask for a pay when I feel it necessary to raise my pay rate I just inform my clients what my new rate is... no problem.
  7. Did five years as a management consultant to the UK Department of Health. What amazed me was that when I worked for them as an employee no one cared what I had to say. However, when I became a self employed management consultant, they paid me 4 times as much for half the work and hung on my every word.
  8. well I have to put my 3.5 cents in
    I have been in Business for about 45 years working in the
    Automotive Trade, First as a Repair Shop, then I started
    a Speed Shop which I built my own Race Car
    the First couple of Years I learned is Get a Good Accountant
    and you can find one by asking him one Question
    how much is 1 & 1 if he says 2 You Dont whant Him
    if he says " what ever You want it to Be" thats the
    right Man.! Next is a Good Lawyer.
    Than you can Make Money & like somebody said put some away
    and put back in the Business and Treat your Help write
    but remember they are your Help not your Freinds
    and When you get to big Incorperate the Business
    Corp. have Better deals the one owner Bus.
    mine was D.S.S. Inc.
    just my 3.5 cents
  9. mrconcdid
    Joined: Aug 31, 2010
    Posts: 1,157

    from Florida

    Re: What surprised you the most in your first 5 years of business ?

    The Sixth year.

  10. falconsprint63
    Joined: May 17, 2007
    Posts: 2,358

    from Mayberry

    I went 3 years on my own before going back to museum work.

    1) 8 hour day's don't exist, but the flexiblitiy of working for yourself is nice
    2) it's feast or famine and it takes a while to build a client base/reputation
    3)if you make your hobby your job you no longer have a hobby
    4)my back can't handle building cars full time
    5) the right tool for the job makes all the difference

    several of the guys mentioned other things I'd echo too--with regards to business plan, personal salary and general managment but that's more than my 5
  11. Patrick46
    Joined: Nov 26, 2008
    Posts: 565


    This is the exact reason that I could never work at a chop shop. I'm way to passionate about what I really love, and I won't stand for anyone ruining it for me.
  12. cmbrucew
    Joined: Jul 25, 2011
    Posts: 30

    from Socal

    Steady stream of CHP and fireman stopping in with little freeby jobs.
    One guy got pretty regular, so when he asked how much do I owe you, I told him,
    all together one hour shop labor. Last I saw of him.

    Works good
    Lasts long time
  13. Zed
    Joined: Dec 4, 2005
    Posts: 952

    from FRANCE

    very interresting ! keep them coming ! :D
  14. y-oh-y
    Joined: Feb 14, 2012
    Posts: 116


    Here in California... The amount of time and money spent on Local, State, and Fed government BS.
    Joined: Jun 11, 2006
    Posts: 548


    After uncle sam gets done with me I make 50% less than I did working for someone else doing the same thing, and I have to work 50% more hours to make it happen...
  16. Hemi Joel
    Joined: May 4, 2007
    Posts: 1,437

    Hemi Joel
    from Minnesota

    I've been in business for over 25 years doing commercial and industrial roofing, and I stil get surprises.

    What surprised me most in the first 5 years?

    How brilliant some employees can be.

    How easy it is to get customers to line up for a chance to pay me big bucks if I:
    return their phone calls promptly;
    answer their questions inteligently with a genuine concern for their interests;
    show up on time in clean clothes and looking like a proffesional;
    am 100% truthful and honest as well as tactfull;
    accept responsibility for everything my employees and I do;
    treat there project as if it was my own;
    ask to be paid fairly for everything we do.

    Who would have thunk it?
  17. Carnuba
    Joined: Mar 19, 2012
    Posts: 430


    I was surprised how well it went. I thought I'd really have to struggle/borrow for an uncomfortable period of time. Luckily I was wrong. Keep a few things in mind....don't take on more than you can handle. Nobody wants to see their car sitting untouched in your shop week after week. Also, these cars don't fix themselves. So, get off your ass and earn your money. I had a guy wanted a 4 speed conversion. He took it to another shop because I told him I wasn't ready for it. It sat there for 6 weeks untouched. He pulled it, waited for me another 3 weeks, brought it to me, and loved getting progress pics emailed to him almost EVERY day til it was done.

    Attached Files:

  18. rowdyauto
    Joined: Jun 1, 2005
    Posts: 358


    After over 30 yrs. of being in buisness I'll tell you this,one of the first things you should do is walk across the street from your shop and take a real good look at your facility then walk back to the front door and take a good look inside.Now would you want to leave your car here and pay hard earned money.If so be a little more honest with yourself and get to work and clean up your act,if not well that's obvious.Someone smarter than me told me this and it was some of the best advice I ever got.The next is if you run an HONEST establishment you'll stay out of trouble with customers and the law.Gut instincts mean alot don't second guess yourself.What surprised me the most is I could really do it and be successful and it really wasn't that hard.If you ask me tomorrow I might change my mind tho.
  19. 56premiere
    Joined: Mar 8, 2011
    Posts: 1,445

    from oregon

    there has been some great advice and experiences on here.i'm 61,worked for myself most of my adult life,and some before that.started my upholstery shop at 22.if you treat people with respect,fairness,you will be o.k.that means you,your employees cutomers,even looky-loos.every person that walks throuh your door or calls,has the potential of signing your next paycheck.always keep a clean shop,clean body,look are a pro,be paid like one,pay your employees like they should be paid.always check over anything that is ready to leave the shop,it can be fixed before it goes,or you might find a tool that you'll need in the next car.if you are way too busy and your competition isn't you are probably to cheap.i never thought of other shops as competitor,they were freinds ,mostly anyway.remember your shop rate is not your wages,most of it goes to something others have said if you can't work on it yet,don't take it in.hope all of you have a good one. jack

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