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Need advise on getting started


wmgatorfan's Avatar
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Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 58
TN

08-31-10, 09:26 AM   #1  
Need advise on getting started

Hey I really enjoy working on small engines as a hobby. Ever since I was a little kid I have been fascinated with engines and power equipment. I have been working at a go cart place for several years and have learned to do anything with small engines. My boss was comfortable letting me do everything from simple fixes to complete rebuilds. This summer i started getting lawnmowers and other equipment to fix up and re sale and i really enjoyed that. I am in college right now however I would really like to start up my own repair shop on the side from my house. There are a lot of things to consider and i just thought it would be wise to ask you guys for advise. What would be the best way to get this started and if i did what would be the best way to order parts? I am willing to spend time reading books and learning more and more about how engines work. I am very mechanically minded so I pick up things fast. Thanks in advance
-Will

 
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bontai Joe's Avatar
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08-31-10, 11:35 AM   #2  
Some big stuff to consider, if you plan on operating out of your house, will your neighbors be ok with it? Any zoning problems that the local govt. will hassel you about? Will this business be "on the books" or under the table? Insurance? collect sales tax?

Will you have storage space for several machines at once? A way to store and properly despose of/recycle old oil and gasoline? Will you have to deal with inspectors for storage of old oil and gas?

I mention the above stuff, not to scare you, but from my experience in working in restrictive places with too much regulation. Maybe you are lucky enugh to live in a place free from such worries.

 
wmgatorfan's Avatar
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TN

08-31-10, 12:24 PM   #3  
Posted By: bontai Joe Some big stuff to consider, if you plan on operating out of your house, will your neighbors be ok with it? Any zoning problems that the local govt. will hassel you about? Will this business be "on the books" or under the table? Insurance? collect sales tax?
Neighbors would not be an issue. More than likely under the table but I would not be opposed to running it legit. How would I go about getting everything legit and would it be worth it if I am just doing it on the side for right now?

Posted By: bontai Joe Will you have storage space for several machines at once? A way to store and properly despose of/recycle old oil and gasoline? Will you have to deal with inspectors for storage of old oil and gas?
Right now I have a garage big enough to hold several machines at least. It should be plenty big for what i would see. Dealing with inspectors would not be an issue. I will have to get a drum or something to put the old oil and gas in but that shouldnt be too hard to find. What would you suggest using?

Posted By: bontai Joe I mention the above stuff, not to scare you, but from my experience in working in restrictive places with too much regulation. Maybe you are lucky enugh to live in a place free from such worries.
Thank you for your input. I might be young but i am eager to learn all i can about small engine repair. Any input you guys have is greatly appreciated.

I am going to school for engineering but honestly my dream job is owning my own full time shop. Some day in the future I plan on doing this full time just because i love it and it would not be work to me it would be fun.
Thanks, Will

 
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08-31-10, 01:16 PM   #4  
Just a few things to add from my own experience.
Unless you are doing large volumes of work and can benefit from volume parts sales, there is not much use of getting a biz license until you start requiring volume of parts. Not many distributors will sell to you even with the license unless you have a store front, several thousands dollars a year in purchases.....etc. etc.
You will have to buy parts retail and count your labor as self employment. Might be different where you are but, those are things you need to look into. State Dept. of licensing should give you that info.
Many of my customers are more than willing to run for parts if I do the research and locate the part, give them the info and they bring it to me. All taxes are covered that way, no money for you to transact except your labor, and the customer feels good they have the receipts and a wake up to the price of parts.
Old parts I keep for the customer, if they want it or not, at least its there to see. Many will offer to take it and put in their own trash or recycle.
Oil n such, I use old gallon oil jugs and laundry soap bottles. Some auto parts stores have recovery stations and I recycle at my local NAPA.
Inventory is very difficult since there are so many types of OPE, and so many different parts. If you think you will be doing lots of pushmowers, keep a box of the common spark plug and pull rope on hand, fuel line and other common items but find a good resource locally for other common parts like filters, belts and blades. Unless you have a big wad of cash, you will never have what you need when you need it if you try to inventory for it. That local resource is also likely to dry up once you become competition, and that might be the time to get your own biz license. I do know of one wholesaler that will give you a dealer ship as long as you have that UBI. Until you can get a wholesaler to deal with you, it will mainly be a hobby and never an income

Best of luck to ya

 
wmgatorfan's Avatar
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08-31-10, 01:29 PM   #5  
Thanks BFH I will look contact the state department and see what i need to do. I figured parts would be hard to keep inventoried. So you would say just try to keep the smaller things of what you expect to be working on in stock and find a source for filters, blades and other things? Hopefully with yalls help i can get somethign started this spring!
Thanks, Will

 
wmgatorfan's Avatar
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09-01-10, 02:10 PM   #6  
I am looking for any advise positive or negative so dont be afraid to post guys I need your feedback

 
wmgatorfan's Avatar
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09-01-10, 02:45 PM   #7  
How reliable is this website for ordering parts? http://www.mymowerparts.com/manufacturer/1079.php

 
Rob R.'s Avatar
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09-01-10, 05:09 PM   #8  
I think youíve made some wise decisions thus far. Getting your college education in engineering will give you a sound base to later work from, and open up options that might not otherwise exist. It will also train your mind to think analytically and help develop problem solving skills . . . these are attributes directly transferable to business. I like your idea of getting some hands-on experience as a business person by starting out on the side. Regardless of how financially successful youíre in a first venture, you will learn and think differently when those decisions effect your wallet.

Concerning personal and/or financial satisfaction. A first big step to financial success is finding something you really enjoy doing. It is to difficult to excel at what your doing if not strongly motivated by personal satisfaction, and being top notch is what has the potential to draw in big dollars. Understand as you get older and possibly wanting to have a family, personal satisfaction may only take you so far before financial considerations or desire to be financially independent kick in.

Concerning education . . . given your interest in running a business, evaluate whether any college business electives might further your long-term goals. A starter course in general business principles or other basic courses in finance or marketing may help promote success. Since there may be trade-offs involved between course work in your primary field of engineering vs. a couple of business electives, your first business venture is not complex, and basic business courses offered through college or high school night courses may be adequate unless you have higher aspirations in building a larger company.

From several folks I know in this type business, they struggle financially to make it work. They have shops which have financial overhead involved. One is a dealer of equipment, and this helps provide a stream of income beyond maintenance and repair work revenue. As an OEM certified dealer and authorized repair shop, this helps draw in customers. Another guy is a great mechanic but a terrible businessman . . . shop is completely disorganized with piles of old equipment he has collected over the yrs., and hopes someday to salvage . . . I shutter every time I need some help as I fear heíll never find my equipment when returning. While he too had been a Stihl dealer and authorized repair shop, he lost that status, and had to downsize to a small repair shop . . . he couldnít make that work, and is now working from his home. The message is that this is a business with virtually no barriers to entry meaning many can work from their homes, or use it as hobby business . . . price competition can be intense. These types of businesses are difficult to make financially rewarding, especially if catering to retail clientele as they are more price sensitive and often take more time to service by having many questions to answer. Commercial businesses often need strict reliability, dependability, and have specialized needs, and willing to pay up for that added service. Taking your experience in go-karts compared to working on expensive race or vintage cars may help you see how specialized market niches often offer much higher profitability as compared to mass market stuff.

I like your idea as a launching platform . . . I think a college educated person will become bored over time working only on small engines. I often see technical people who enjoy the work but donít like all the baggage that comes w/ running a business . . . this first venture will give you a glimpse into whether running a business is to your liking or not. Life is a journey, and having a multiplicity of skills may prepare you for opportunities you cannot imagine today . . . when working in corporate finance in a company largely geared toward engineering of large projects, a good number in group had college or advanced engineering degrees who crossed over to economic evaluation and financing these projects.

Some ideas for getting started . . . I reside in a rural area but close to large cities. There are needs for small engine repairs and a broad array of other needs like repairing tractors, riding mowers, dirt moving equipment, trailers, etc. Two guys advertise in a local community paper as mobile maintenance and repairs of such equipment. One is hooked up w/ my local HD store who refers customers needing parts or repairs of their equipment purchased from such store. Other needs include large landscaping companies having many crews. If you could hook-up with these type businesses you might be able to do maintenance and minor repairs on site, and transport equipment to your place for more major repairs . . . this may alleviate some storage issues for you if only working from a garage.

Buying parts cheaply will be important in order to compete effectively. Most of my local dealers sell at list or w/ a small discount . . . over the years, Iíve searched out Internet sites who sell OEM parts considerably cheaper than buying locally. At one time, locals offered an advantage of having parts available when needed . . . many today, order them eliminating one of their advantages, and I can get them just as quick by ordering over the Internet. Iíve not found one OEM parts suppler that can supply parts for all of my brands. I generally prefer OEM parts unless Iíve encountered repeat problems w/ that part, and then I may switch to an after-market part. Much of the routine maintenance parts are probably available locally but you may need to set-up a commercial account in order to buy at wholesale.

Finding used equipment to enhance your skills . . . one guy advertises heíll pick-up old lawn equipment no longer wanted by people . . . I see it offered all the time for free on Freecycle.com, and some seems to be in useable condition.

Hope this helps, and good luck.

 
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