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View Full Version : Would starting a repair buisness be profitable?


singleguy18901
01-16-2008, 07:50 PM
I read the 23 page novel concerning dealerships and am considering starting a repair business. I'm no expert but do enjoy it and seem to have a knack for it.

My concerns are with the current and likely future business models in the industry.

Seems as it is not a good idea to be a dealer at all, but only a service and repair facility.

Seems good mechanics are getting older with no new younger generation wishing or willing to step in.

Would enjoy a discussion of the pros and cons of what might be a good business model to try for.

Thanks

MowerMedic77
01-16-2008, 09:22 PM
I read the 23 page novel concerning dealerships and am considering starting a repair business. I'm no expert but do enjoy it and seem to have a knack for it.


Have you ever worked in a dealer or shop setting?

ed2hess
01-16-2008, 09:30 PM
I think I wouldgo work for a dealer for awhile until you learn the ropes in getting parts and an idea of what you can make.

singleguy18901
01-16-2008, 10:02 PM
yes, I worked for a dealer.

A very small dealer.

As in the other thread, which after 23 pages slowly boiled into an 'us versus them, versus them' scenario, we were also pressed between the LCO's/customers and the manufacturers. Parts availability from the manufacturer on a timely basis was always a problem.

As a business model concerning the internet and parts ordering; and the LCO's stocking some of their own parts; could a mechanic make a go without being a dealer?

I feel that a mechanic could open and do well with LCO's if all their equipment was computerized and wear-n-tear was noted. Replacement parts could then be purchased before failure and replaced promptly.

Kindof like the scenario from the other thread where the LCO hired the mechanic in his off time, but in my case the mechanic making a company out of it, and thereby serving many LCO's.

Another question. Storefront or mobile service vehicle of some sort?

Thanks for the quick replies.

All info appreciated.

AmsoilPower
01-16-2008, 10:29 PM
I firmly believe you can make it as a repair shop alone. Don't get sucked into becoming a equipment dealer as it will suck you dry of profit. The interest alone will eat you alive. Plus if you have no indoor storage you have the "weathering" factor on equipment sitting outside in the elements. Paint starts to fade, rust forms, you start paying interest and then you have Joe Blow walk in after he price shopped 3 other dealers and want your rock bottom price. Oh, and it took 2 hours to tell him the pros and cons of 2 different models/brands, fill out the financing papers, etc. and you made $500.00 on the sale BEFORE you figure in how much interest you paid prior to the sale.

Stay w/ parts and service only. Both are high profit margins. Waiting on parts for more than 2 days is absurd. I have all my parts in 1-2 days with very few backordered from manufacturers. The key is to order the parts when the equipment hits the door. Look it over and order your parts ASAP. Don't take in the equipment, let it sit outside for a week, then bring it in to check out what parts it needs and then order....wait 2 more days....so on....so on.....

Mobile service is gonna be key very soon. The problem is this.....Customer does not know what he has, therefore you don't know what you need as far as parts on the truck. You could bring in back to the shop, but then what good is a mobile service to do this every time?

Bottomline.......treat your customers the way YOU would want to be treated and your service business will be very profitable.

singleguy18901
01-16-2008, 10:44 PM
I was thinking for a mobile service to have some parts, but mainly for the customer to stock their own parts.

There are just too many variables. Makes and models, mid year changes, whatnot.

I'm thinking maintenance as 2/3 thirds and repair as 1/3.

Continual maintenance should show eventual wear signs, especially with computer records and digital camera photos. Early warning signs would be much less costly than down time.

PRO-active rather than RE-active.

Which brings me to this...

Do LCO's figure into expenses maintenance?

Not repair, but maintenance?

Grass Happens
01-16-2008, 10:51 PM
I'm guessing by computerized you meant something like how car dealers are set up? where they send you a notice saying "hey, our records indicate that you are soon due for X service". Its a good idea, but i haven't seen a program out there like that. Doesn't mean there isn't one. Look at Ideal computer systems and C systems, they seem to be the most popular for lawn and garden CS. Do take care of commercial guys asap, but make sure there bill is paid, and that they are really a business. Being service only is a blessing and a curse. Other dealers may not give you a discount, since you have nothing they want. However if you tell the customer what he needs, and then he brings it to you, I guess that wouldn't be a problem. Get hooked up with aftermarket companies like stens and Oregon, but make sure stens gives you their gold level pricing, otherwise its not so good. Rotary is ok too, but I like those two the best. The mobile service has been tried by sears and MTD, and neither have been very successful. The only time i have heard of it working was when a dealer had it, and only did services to units he had sold, so he was stocked with all those parts; everything else came to the shop. I'm sure I'll think of more later

Restrorob
01-16-2008, 10:57 PM
Seems as it is not a good idea to be a dealer at all, but only a service and repair facility.


Doing this would be a start, Line up a few aftermarket parts suppliers and learn the repair part of the business. Then as business and your knowledge progresses check with OEM's about a dealership.


Seems good mechanics are getting older with no new younger generation wishing or willing to step in.


Oh, You don't know how hard it is to find qualified people in this field, Young or older. I've been at the same shop going on 17yrs. and couldn't guess the number of guy's that's been through the door. Most all say they worked X years at X place so we hire them, They come in the next morning to start work carrying a plastic Walmart toolbox. That's a good sign of little to no experience and the sad part is they just didn't have it in them to even train.

One with little experience can be costly if having to cover their mistakes, Damage to customer's equipment as a result of improper repairs or having to pay another more experienced Tech. to straighten out the improperly repaired unit.

I still haven't found a qualified helper to this day, I just keep plucking away. But, Least I don't have to go behind somebody else or stand over them to make sure the job is done right and have disgruntled customers for having to return.

Good Luck

singleguy18901
01-16-2008, 10:59 PM
Grass Happens

Yes. Thank you.

I've seen the Sears mobile vehicle around here.

Not Ideal software, but as far as computerized I was thinking of contracting with LCO's and as I maintain their equipment, things would be noticed and noted, recommendations made, through spreadsheet or excel or whatever.

AmsoilPower
01-16-2008, 11:03 PM
Sounds ok in theory, but in reality......Most Joe Blow's only service their mower once a year, usually in the spring. More than half only service their mower after it does not run, because they think changing the oil is a fix-all. A mower is one of the largest necessary evils to the customer. They don't want to spend any money on it (routine REGULAR service), but the first time it does not start, or it doesn't "move" itself or whatever the crap hits the fan and the world stops!!!! Soon they will be the "laughing stock" of the neighborhood because the grass is 4" tall. All this while they are on the back 9 with 3 buddies drinking beer complaining it is taking 5 days for mower repair.

I say all that to say this----I do not think you will survive as a preventative service shop as your main money maker. Eventually the "service" work will run out, but stuff will always break.

Yes, I work at a large dealership. Just when I think I have heard or seen it all, something or someone else creeps up with one hell of a story!!!

AmsoilPower
01-16-2008, 11:08 PM
Routine service could be done with lco's much easier than homeowners. They are more willing to maintain the equipment much more than the homeowner that just wants it to start and make tall grass short.

singleguy18901
01-16-2008, 11:09 PM
Restrobob,

Thanks so much! I hoped you would reply. I have read many of your replies for help and am truly greatful to gain knowledge from you, and others from this site.

Do you think as a business model, it could be worthwhile to be a 'mobile mechanic' for LCO's?

No dealerships, everyone knows about Stens and other places, Plus with the internet, could it work?

By the way, after working with the guy I worked with, what I know most is that I don't know alot. Very huge learning curve.

Thanks to all.

singleguy18901
01-16-2008, 11:15 PM
AmsoilPower

Yes. I would primarily be interested in providing service to LCO's.

A routine maintenance schedule for their fleet, could be much cheaper than unexpected repairs and downtime

AmsoilPower
01-16-2008, 11:23 PM
AmsoilPower

Yes. I would primarily be interested in providing service to LCO's.

A routine maintenance schedule for their fleet, could be much cheaper than unexpected repairs and downtime


Let me ask you this. What about servicing your customer's equipment with Amsoil to further reduce engine downtime, eliminate sludge buildup and cooler running engines? There really isn't any extended drain intervals on mowers but you still would get all the other benefits of synthetic oil.

singleguy18901
01-16-2008, 11:39 PM
I'm afraid to say this, but I don't know enough, or anything for that matter, concerning Amsoil, whether good or bad.

Would LCO's hire, under contract, an independent company to do all their maintenance and repair?

AmsoilPower
01-16-2008, 11:51 PM
I don't know about the LCO's doing it under contract. Alot of them do their own repairs these days. I do know that nobody does that around here for LCO's. We do have a contract for the sanitary district for bi-weekly service on 4 kubota z-turns. As far as Amsoil, I can provide you with any info or answer any ????'s that you may have.

Breezmister
01-16-2008, 11:51 PM
[QUOTE=AmsoilPower;2102257]
Mobile service is gonna be key very soon. The problem is this.....Customer does not know what he has, therefore you don't know what you need as far as parts on the truck. You could bring in back to the shop, but then what good is a mobile service to do this every time?
QUOTE]

Exactly :)
It's a good idea...but I know of 3 guys here in South Jersey that tried it in the last 20 years. All have moved on to better and bigger things.
One is now working in a auto repair shop now. Two is fixings heavy equipment like Cats.
Three still does a few of his customers, but his money is now made setting up events on the road.
All three have worked in top of the line shops in this area but could not make any real money going to service LCO or home owners.
It's not like when you need a locksmith or a plumber or an electrician.Some blank keys, a slim jim or a key cutter, some pipe or a hot water heater, some wire and an outlet or switch..... There are just to many different machines out there and you could not carry all that stuff with you, let alone the tools. Unlike JD that has a mobile service for home owner equipment, they only have to carry JD parts for home owners.

Restrorob
01-17-2008, 12:04 AM
Restrobob,Do you think as a business model, it could be worthwhile to be a 'mobile mechanic' for LCO's?


It all depends on your area and the mentality of the LCO's in your area. Around my area you wouldn't get off the ground, They do NO maintenance just run um till they quit then bring them in for repair. Yes, I stop what I'm doing and get on their unit's soon as they get them off the trailer so it really isn't a long down time thing. I even pull parts off new units in the showroom if not in stock to get them back out mowing. They just use and abuse and then pay when it breaks.

Also, Keep in mind that you would most likely work when their not. That means nights and Sunday's.

It could help working homeowners as well because there are quite a few that have no way to haul their unit to a shop or are just too old to do so.


Again, It all depends on your area.

MowerMedic77
01-17-2008, 08:50 AM
It all depends on your area and the mentality of the LCO's in your area. Around my area you wouldn't get off the ground, They do NO maintenance just run um till they quit then bring them in for repair.
It could help working homeowners as well because there are quite a few that have no way to haul their unit to a shop or are just too old to do so.


Again, It all depends on your area.


I started a mobile repair service this past year and is part of the reason I have not been posting as much on this site, just too damn busy. I have been in my area for over a decade in a shop setting and my customers know me and my skills and are willing to pay a premium for on site repair and no wait or little wait service. I am set up with aftermarket distributors and have a small stocking inventory of basic and crossover style parts, filters, belts, tires,recoil rope,plugs, ect. It is easy to get your customers to stock some basic parts for their specific equipment, besides I would rather make 100% gross profit on labor then a 30-50% mark up on parts. This year I will more then likely move out of my shop and work full time on the mobile end. I spent alot of time and personal money getting set up and this was not a rush decision for me, I have all of my own tools and purchased a box truck all in an effort to keep my overhead as low as possible. As far as a maintenance schedule, its a pipe dream I have few customers who are willing to set up that kind of service. You are better off getting your foot in the door with a repair and then convincing them to perform service to other equipment while you are there. Following this model has made me lots of extra money and the customers like that they are getting other stuff looked at and serviced with little down time for them. I don't limit myself I work on everything LCO's PCO's construction company's, plumbers, roofers and homeowners its all money and if they know it will get fixed that day or the next they have no problem doling out the dollars.

singleguy18901
01-17-2008, 09:15 AM
mowermedic77
Thanks for the explanation of your business model.

That's close to what I'm thinking. Too bad about the contracts and preventative maintenance schedules though.

Being mobile, how do you handle inclement weather?

How do you handle the long down times waiting for specific parts not normally stocked by you?

Thanks to everyone for the discussion.

MowerMedic77
01-17-2008, 09:40 AM
mowermedic77
Thanks for the explanation of your business model.

That's close to what I'm thinking. Too bad about the contracts and preventative maintenance schedules though.

Being mobile, how do you handle inclement weather?

How do you handle the long down times waiting for specific parts not normally stocked by you?

Thanks to everyone for the discussion.

The weather is not that much of a problem for me(NO SNOW:laugh:) the box truck helps it has a lift on the back and I can get most walkbehinds and smaller equipment in the back, working on putting a dropdown screen awning like on campers on the side for larger on site jobs, but most of my customers have warehouses and bays that I am able to work in and so far weather has not been an issue. As far as parts I am also lucky that I have a good relationship with most of the brick and mortar stlye shops in my area and I can get parts the same day in most cases or the customer can get them.
Example, the customer calls me and says hay the deck belt on my mower just broke and the dealer has the belt but cannot put it on today, ok pkup the belt and I will meet you at your bay in 30mins. Another example is they dont know what is wrong I just show up start looking at the unit and find out I need a part that I do not stock, being mobile I have a laptop and wireless card I can find most parts breakdowns online and can have the part# I need in a few mins. I place a call to the local dealers and find who has it. In most cases the customer will go and pkup the part and while they are doing that I do what I stated before, "hey while you go do that I will change the oil, grease and sharpen the blades and pop the belt on and adjust when you get back" and 99% of the time they say go ahead and now I have made extra on my parts that I do have and labor and the customer gets that little extra that he would not have gotten at the dealer to just put the belt on.

topsites
01-17-2008, 11:03 AM
With repair rates hitting the $60 / hour mark I have considered this more than once.

I think the main factor to consider is your location... I live in a residential neighborhood and so I don't think it would be a good idea to have cars and trucks slipping in and out my driveway all day long, at least where I live if anyone complains to the Zoning board then I have an instant problem operating a commercial business in a residential Zone, oh yes, a real serious problem.

So, mobile would be the trick, if nothing else just kind of do it like with lawn care, since you have a trailer you route your customers to swing past and pick up / drop off their stuff, maybe charge 5-10 extra but not much more. With a GPS you could likely hit 8 or 10 customers in a matter of 2-3 hours, then spend the rest of the day working on things.

Another thing to be considered would be stock and storage, I would think it highly helpful if you have some SPACE and shelving to stock up on various parts you'll need, obviously a high dollar air compressor is a must as well.

LindblomRJ
01-17-2008, 12:23 PM
A service van would fit the bill nicely.

As far as LCO's I really don't know. I think there is a certain amount of dealer loyalty warranty work, some will offer loaner equipment when theirs is being worked on.

If its small engine work, I wouldn't limit it to LCOs. Construction, homeowners, LCOs, perhaps agriculture- depends on how much is going on in your area.

You would want to have a good relationship with parts vendors, and have some supplies on hand just for the time savings.

If I have the parts on hand more than likely I will replace the part my self and be off and running again.

Breezmister
01-17-2008, 11:03 PM
I started a mobile repair service this past year and is part of the reason I have not been posting as much on this site, just too damn busy.


How do the other shops feel about you "taking " business from them ? Have you gotten any negative comments ? I hope you have great success with your venture :drinkup:

Breezmister
01-18-2008, 12:02 AM
Oh, You don't know how hard it is to find qualified people in this field, Young or older.


I've been in this hole in the wall for the last 6 years, I'm told by the regulars that there where 4 mechanics in the 3 years before I got here. The last good mechanic was here for 17 years before he retired


I still haven't found a qualified helper to this day, I just keep plucking away.


One of my buddies works in a very busy shop, one of the biggest dealers around here, he has the same complaint. What are you looking for in a new hire ?

Just a personal observation; I've worked most of my life for 2 well known commerical LCO in this area, Their shops where so much better equipped then most of the dealers around here. My buddy still works on the floor. When it rains they have to get the cardboard out to put on the floor. Is this just up here or is this the way of most dealers ?

MowerMedic77
01-18-2008, 07:40 AM
How do the other shops feel about you "taking " business from them ? Have you gotten any negative comments ? I hope you have great success with your venture :drinkup:

I'm not some shade tree working out of the back of a truck, I have my legal structure and all of my licenses and liability insurance so its legit.
And to put it bluntly, they don't like it! I'm not just some dumb wrench in the back and they know it. But its more for the reason that they have wanted to hire me to work in their shops for years and I have not moved. Everyone is in the same boat, they all need GOOD techs. I have been in the same shop for the last 10yrs and been in this industry for the last 15 and I just turned 30 last Aug and have a large loyal customer base. So I still have a long career ahead of me. I have talked to a few about even doing some subcontracting work for them, but we will see all depends on how busy I stay when I go full time.
At this point in my life and my career, and with the state of this industry I know what I am worth and no shop around here is going to pay it. So I'm gunna give it a go, cause I would rather say I tried and failed then regret never trying.

Jay Ray
01-18-2008, 09:36 AM
I've mowed for customers who have to wait four to eight weeks to get their equipment back from the dealers in this area. Their main focus is sales and service to the commercial market. The stuff sold at HD, Sears, and Lowes seems to be tolerated at best.

Here the lawn tractor, 22" cheapo push market is underserved. There is a couple guys working out of their sheds in the country who appear to be growing pretty fast. I see ads in the little town crier for maint. and repair service with pickup and delivery but surely there has to be a charge for pickup with today's fuel prices. I think if you want it fixed in a reasonable time these startups would be the guys to go to. It looks like they sell a lot of abandoned lawn tractors also, but we all know overhead and parts are very expensive and you can't give labor away. I have not seen a mobile service but it looks like it would be very doable to me.

MowerMedic77
01-18-2008, 10:00 AM
I've mowed for customers who have to wait four to eight weeks to get their equipment back from the dealers in this area. Their main focus is sales and service to the commercial market. The stuff sold at HD, Sears, and Lowes seems to be tolerated at best.

Here the lawn tractor, 22" cheapo push market is underserved. There is a couple guys working out of their sheds in the country who appear to be growing pretty fast. I see ads in the little town crier for maint. and repair service with pickup and delivery but surely there has to be a charge for pickup with today's fuel prices. I think if you want it fixed in a reasonable time these startups would be the guys to go to. It looks like they sell a lot of abandoned lawn tractors also, but we all know overhead and parts are very expensive and you can't give labor away. I have not seen a mobile service but it looks like it would be very doable to me.

Here is an example I found online of a large company doing the mobile model http://www.mowermd.com/default.htm
Anyone familiar with them?


At this point I have stayed away from lots of homeowners equipment but that's not to say I am turning the work down, its just not my main focus. I would say 70% so far of the work I have been doing is for Pest Control operators and fertilization companies. Spreaders,sprayers,pumps etc. have been good to me and they like getting back up and working the same day.

Grass Happens
01-18-2008, 12:13 PM
I'm fairly certain that mower MD is an MTD deal. There was an article in Yard and Garden awhile back about them.

newz7151
01-18-2008, 12:55 PM
I'm fairly certain that mower MD is an MTD deal. There was an article in Yard and Garden awhile back about them.

There's no fairly about it:

Registrant:
MTD Products Inc.
PO Box 368022
Cleveland, OH 44136
US

Domain Name: MOWERMD.COM

Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
MTD Products Inc. domainsmtd@mtdproducts.com
PO Box 368022
Cleveland, OH 44136
US
330-558-3200

Record expires on 07-Sep-2008.
Record created on 22-Aug-2005.
Database last updated on 18-Jan-2008 12:54:29 EST.

Domain servers in listed order:

NS1.MTDPRODUCTS.COM 208.0.27.30
NS2.MTDPRODUCTS.COM 208.0.27.35

Registry Status: clientTransferProhibited

lucforce
01-18-2008, 04:58 PM
Jay Ray, I know the legitimate shops over there. Each of them has their own "interesting" business ideas.

Restrorob
01-18-2008, 08:22 PM
One of my buddies works in a very busy shop, one of the biggest dealers around here, he has the same complaint. What are you looking for in a new hire ?

Well, My boss the owner does the hiring (which is no mechanic) then comes out and tells me he has someone going to start.

Myself, I look for anyone with a mechanical aptitude (any field) and takes their mechanical profession seriously. What I mean by "seriously" is having invested in their chosen career by OWNING tools to work with and not a carry around box full of Chinese stuff. I will NOT have MY tools scattered all over the shop. Also one that's willing to learn and not be afraid to tackle any job that may come their way.

I'm there to help/teach anyone that the boss hires and have never had any problem with that because I could USE the help. But, When they screw up more than they get repaired (lack of basic mechanical skills/proper tools) and I end up doing half the job for them it's time for them to hit the road.

I moved to this rural tri-county area from Tampa to get away from the bustle of big city life, I only wish someone else would as well because we've already been through all the backwoods boa-hunk, knuckle-draggin redneck mechanic wanna bee's for the surrounding four county's.


I My buddy still works on the floor. When it rains they have to get the cardboard out to put on the floor. Is this just up here or is this the way of most dealers ?


Well, I don't know about other dealers. But, Our shop has a up-stairs loft for new equipment storage. My work area is under this loft, Years ago I built a over-head "I" beam trolley system and mounted a electric wench. I can stand a Z mower straight on it's back side or nose if I need. I also have two air tables positioned so I can lift the equipment from over head while the tables are up, Along with having the loft we have a indoor fork-lift that I built fork extensions for so I can raise a whole unit up high enough to walk under.

Not only are we a lawn and garden equipment dealership but also a ATV and UTV dealership and contractor equipment rental store. So I have two all terrain fork-lifts I use often to raise equipment out doors to pressure wash the under side to check for hydro leaks ect....

I'm just gettin too Ole to be crawling around on the floor if there's a easier way. :)

singleguy18901
01-18-2008, 08:38 PM
As more of you respond, it gives me more incentive to keep building a business model towards this end.

A few ???

How do you schedule your time effectively? On call 24/7? Vacations? If you're not scheduling, but waiting for a failure call, how do you have personal time to schedule in?

I think homeowner market could be good, if, enough standard parts could be stocked in the service vehicle, but how would you handle the "2nd" trip if the part isn't on the vehicle and needs to be ordered? Then you become no more effective than the store front mechanic or dealership?

Mowermedic77, you seem to be zeroing in on a specific clientele. Why is that? Because parts are more readily available, smaller, more generic, and non engine related?

As I keep moving forward with this business model, do I need to be much more specific in the areas of repair?

Thanks for all the ideas!!

singleguy18901
01-18-2008, 08:44 PM
I'd also, if you can, like to see pictures inside your box truck, Mowermedic.

Thanks

lucforce
01-18-2008, 08:54 PM
Here is how I handled this:
(and you do need to school the customer)

Charge "x" for a service call plus the going labor rate and parts markup.

Charge "x" plus nominal "y" for pickup and delivery of equipment for repair.

Tell the customer that if the part that you need is not standard stock that you will pick up the mower and return it when the repair is completed. They get the chance of immediate service, and if not you are there to take the machine. Pile the machine onto the trailer and continue the day on your "service calls." At the end of the day you can unload the machines that you had to pick up and take with you. Once finished, you get to load and deliver the machines while you are already out on the future service calls.

Find some cheap rental place to work out of and insure it for the contents, many area have large mini-storage buildings that have metered power. If you end up mostly mobile then you don't have to worry about signage, landline phones, etc and you can make this work.

kandklandscape
01-18-2008, 09:00 PM
Started one in August 2007, doing pretty good. We are working on getting warranty work now threw briggs and tecumseh... And also going to start selling product by April.

singleguy18901
01-18-2008, 09:15 PM
Lucforce,

Thanks for your response.

What seems to be a little different in what Mowermedic is doing and what I am contemplating is a completely mobile service, as much as possible. Not pick up service to simply bring back to my shop/bay/garage/etc.

Of course it would be part of the scenario however, so please know that I'm not discounting it.

I'm attempting to figure out how to maximize my day and minimize 'windshield' time. 2nd. trips will probably be a necessity, unfortunately.

To Everyone, thanks again for this great discussion. I'm learning and taking notes.

ed2hess
01-18-2008, 09:32 PM
Restrobob,

Thanks so much! I hoped you would reply. I have read many of your replies for help and am truly greatful to gain knowledge from you, and others from this site.

Do you think as a business model, it could be worthwhile to be a 'mobile mechanic' for LCO's?

No dealerships, everyone knows about Stens and other places, Plus with the internet, could it work?

By the way, after working with the guy I worked with, what I know most is that I don't know alot. Very huge learning curve.

Thanks to all.
That was tried in our area and the guy used local dealer for his parts. The problem is the expectations is high that you can get the unit running in the field and most times he had an overnite parts delivery. Cost were high... The guy also repalired tires on site. Don't see him around any more.

singleguy18901
01-18-2008, 10:24 PM
"The problem is the expectations is high that you can get the unit running in the field and most times he had an overnite parts delivery. Cost were high..."

This is some of what I'm battling in my head. I want some standard parts on my truck, but what IS standard? I don't foresee a SnapOn type vehicle in the business plan.

So how can I serve LCO's service and repair needs? It's not like being a plumber or an electrician, I wouldn't think. Too many variables and parts.

lucforce
01-18-2008, 10:44 PM
Lucforce,

Thanks for your response.

What seems to be a little different in what Mowermedic is doing and what I am contemplating is a completely mobile service, as much as possible. Not pick up service to simply bring back to my shop/bay/garage/etc.

Of course it would be part of the scenario however, so please know that I'm not discounting it.

I'm attempting to figure out how to maximize my day and minimize 'windshield' time. 2nd. trips will probably be a necessity, unfortunately.

To Everyone, thanks again for this great discussion. I'm learning and taking notes.

I realize that, but many have attempted this in the past. I am not saying that it can not be done, I am just saying that it is not the most profitable way of doing the deed. Only a few landscapers believe in the concept of maintenance and inspection. You have to sell the idea, and many don't buy the idea until after several catastrophic failures.

You will have losses in time and money with the strictly mobile business. Here are a couple of scenarios:

1. You go to the machine and find that you need part "A." Leave, order and receive "A" and return. Install "A" on engine and you find that you need "B" and "C" for the drive, deck, etc. Leave and order more parts.

Is the customer happy because the machine needs more work?
Is the customer happy about the many trips to their location?
Are you happy about the many trips at this point?
Do you bill them daily, or at the end of the entire job?
Are they going to take the machine elsewhere because "you took too long" repairing the machine?

2. You take the machine apart for diagnosis, you neatly box and store the parts with the mower, the nephew of the owner is visiting and wishes to "fix the mower." Parts are lost and damaged. You return with your ordered parts and attempt to assemble the machine and discover that something is amiss.

How do you explain the mysterious damage and missing parts from the machine to the owner?
How do you charge for this scenario?

3. You on site for a service and spill a quantity of oil.

4. Then my favorites: You are injured while working on the equipment due to the actions of the owner. How about if there is a fire.

5. You return with the parts to fix a machine only to find that that the owner's neighbor "came over and fixed it."

These are a few of the things that I can recall happening (except number 4). It was not cost effective 14 years ago to make multiple trips to any location and I can see how it could have improved. We only had a couple of people that we did on-site repairs for regularly. They paid a premium for that level of service. For everyone else: If it was a simple repair, the parts were on the truck, and the customer was a regular that we billed or was standing by to pay the bill-We did on-site repair; else we checked the machine out and loaded it up.

Another issue psychology. Many people will not pay for labor if they did not see you spend three hours on their machine. Legal: in many states you do not have the immediate lien granted to you by law on equipment repaired on their site. If you fix it and they do not want pay for it, you have no choice but to leave. If you had the machine, you have the rights to it until they pay you.

At the end of they day, a business comes down to numbers. You need to figure out your costs and then determine what you will be able to charge. If the prior is greater than the latter then you have a problem. What does that truck cost per hour and per mile. How much inventory and and how many tools can you fit on that truck.

Sure you can get "some" portable compressed air cheap but what do you do about: press, welder, torches, carburetor cleaner, parts washer, waste oil, waste fuel, hoist.

MowerMedic77
01-18-2008, 11:35 PM
This is some of what I'm battling in my head. I want some standard parts on my truck, but what IS standard? I don't foresee a SnapOn type vehicle in the business plan.

So how can I serve LCO's service and repair needs? It's not like being a plumber or an electrician, I wouldn't think. Too many variables and parts.

This is were my experience comes in and what works for me my not work for you, as far as it not being like a plumber I don't know I talked with service plumbers and looked at their trucks and some have quite a bit of inventory on their trucks for multiple apps. How they bill customers and how they get paid is also something you can ask guys in your area.

As far as variables that you may run into, I don't believe that there is much differnce in a shop setting how many LCO's have dropped a piece of equipment for days at a shop just to get it back with another issue or the same issue not fixed and now they have driven back and forth and still have all that down time. How much does it cost a large LCO to have his crew load up and drive across town to drop of the piece of equipment they need to finish a job? Salaries,gas,insurance days lost with unit in shop not making money?

Not saying its a perfect concept but its an open market in my area and I have a customer base and a name,good or bad:laugh:

MowerMedic77
01-19-2008, 12:00 AM
Sure you can get "some" portable compressed air cheap but what do you do about: press, welder, torches, carburetor cleaner, parts washer, waste oil, waste fuel, hoist.

Bench arbor press, small powerful and has worked for all I have put in front of it.
Welder/generator combo kills 2 birds with one stone.
Torch set with peanut tanks saves tons of space.
Carb cleaner(soak) is sold in a paint can sized app.
Table top parts washer with Simple Green(non-toxic) still keep a MSDS file on it for legal purposes as for all liquids on your truck.
3gal pump oil sucker for onsite oil changes(OSHA approved spill kit on truck for large spills) Catch tank that the pump sits in during travel and old 5gal oil bucket for excess and I drain them @ the parts store when I go to get new oil and parts(know the manager and he signs a log I keep for my records)
No hoist(yet) lift gate works for most jobs, aluminum(very lite) race jack and stands and jungle jack style lift for mowers.
Portable bead breaker for tires.
Blade grinder/chain grinder
3000watt power inverter to power little things and for all the battery chargers for the handheld drills,light,impact
3 Fire extinguishers,first aid kit, road side truck kit.

probably forgot alot of things:laugh:

Jay Ray
01-19-2008, 10:45 AM
Jay Ray, I know the legitimate shops over there. Each of them has their own "interesting" business ideas.

There's a guy north of the bay that has sold over 3000 exmark z's in the last fifteen years or so.

I used to go in to get homeowner parts and he would always say to fix that junk, then sell that junk, and come back a get yourself a real machine. As a homeowner I thought it was too much money, but it must have been working for him. He is a good guy, he just don't like junk.

Restrorob
01-19-2008, 11:40 AM
MM, Sounds like a sweet set-up you have there !

The fact that your down there where grass grows nearly year round and people living a bustle life style you shouldn't have any problems making a go of it.

Best of Luck to Ya !

BTW, May just look you up next time I visit my sister in Lauderdale to check your rolling shop out. :)

MowerMedic77
01-19-2008, 01:14 PM
MM, Sounds like a sweet set-up you have there !

The fact that your down there where grass grows nearly year round and people living a bustle life style you shouldn't have any problems making a go of it.

Best of Luck to Ya !

BTW, May just look you up next time I visit my sister in Lauderdale to check your rolling shop out. :)

Yeah I hope so, so far so good and would be more then happy to show you the rig :drinkup:

Allens LawnCare
01-20-2008, 04:34 AM
I've been trying to get my cousin to buy a box truck and do a mobil operation.....less overhead than a shop, no rent or mortgage

Breezmister
01-20-2008, 10:06 AM
This is some of what I'm battling in my head. I want some standard parts on my truck, but what IS standard? I don't foresee a SnapOn type vehicle in the business plan.


Funny you should mention SnapOn :) My new guy ( Jeff ) does not carry everything, but he doesn't BS me about not having the tool I need like the guy before him (Shaun)

Service is very important, but how you interact with you customers is very important too. Shaun started out good, came every week, if he didn't have it on the truck, I got it the next week. But he was like wet limp news paper, no personality, could not relate to what I was doing, never turned a wrench in his life....
Then the BS started..."UPS came last night and I didn't look to see what was there, I'll have it for you next week"
then when next week came around..."Oh I forgot to put it on my truck"

I don't have a problem paying $50 dollars when he showed up to pay my RA account, but I was POed after this happened a few more times.

Then he would not show up for 2 weeks, then 3 weeks or a month at a time.
"my kid is sick and in the hospital" Okay.....Or.."my wife and I are getting divorced" Been there done that, so what ?

The other mechanics in the area where having the same problem with him...
Then he got better for a month or two, because a few of us complained about the poor service to SnapOn...

I call him up the day before he was going to come, I need a 2 1/2 inch deep socket. "yea I have one, it's X dollars" I said see you tomorrow.

He walked into the shop empty handed " I had to order that socket for you, I must have sold it to someone else" Like I believe that one, I didn't get mad, I just got out my Northern Tool catalog, found the best set of 3/4 dr deep sockets they offer, picked up the phone and ordered them the whole time he was standing there. His loss, but I made out better in the long run, I now have a set of 3/4 dr deep impact sockets that may or may not get used
again, but I do have the socket I need that day, and it only took 2 additional days to get it.

Then the old BS started again, missing 2,3 or 4 weeks at a time, then I didn't see him from Nov to March, then only to tell me he was getting out of the mobile tool business......

Now my new dealer (Jeff) has not missed a week in two years unless he tells me he is going on vacation, no BS about forgetting to load the truck and never more then 1 week to get what I need if he does not have it on the truck.

On top of that, he was a motorcycle racing mechanic before he took over this route, so he knows how to turn a wrench and knows what tools to offer me, as well as knowing what they do. Besides that he is a ball breaker :laugh:

The moral of this story is this...Good service is important, but a good personality is important too. Jeff has a customer for life. If I didn't like him, I'd have gone to Mac or Cornwall.

Breezmister
01-20-2008, 10:43 AM
And to put it bluntly, they don't like it! I'm not just some dumb wrench in the back and they know it. But its more for the reason that they have wanted to hire me to work in their shops for years and I have not moved..

One of the reasons that one of the guys in my area failed was because he POed some of the dealers taking business from them and got frozen out, could not get OME parts. Are you not worried about this ?



I have talked to a few about even doing some subcontracting work for them, but we will see all depends on how busy I stay when I go full time.

This is great. Subing can get you in the door for parts when you need them.

MowerMedic77
01-20-2008, 02:27 PM
Look so far the people I deal with want their stuff FIXED! I sell my skills and that is what most of the local dealers are missing. I have customers that buy new equipment from the other local dealers and even under warranty will bring the stuff to me to fix, cause they have had issues with repairs at those shops. Many of my customers OFFER to go get me the parts I need cause they know I will fix it and they will be back up and running. There are plenty of dealers who will sell me parts and if someone wants to try and slow me down how does it look to the customer? "Wait your the big X brand dealer and YOU can't get the part?" " I need to be back up and running after I bought this mower from you?" Why should a large dealer be afraid of little old me:laugh:
Maybe I will push the local dealers to be better!

Grass Happens
01-20-2008, 03:09 PM
:
Maybe I will push the local dealers to be better!

Tis the point of competition....:usflag:

Dave
01-20-2008, 08:01 PM
Let me know if you want to buy some tools for small engines, belts aswell as some parts I was in business for about 6 years , I had my shop at my house , garage is 28 +36 , two floors, I work a ful time job besides and it did not help matters , I had people come on sundays , after 5 when i got home from my other job, while i was sleeping, I was a bobcat , shindaiwa ,jonsered , and redmax dealer, b/s , kohler , tec ,kawi, cert. even though I had aprox 300 belts it apeared that every time I needed one I had to order it, One has to remember there are so many parts , briggs has about 70 air filters , tec, probally 25 , kohler the same kawi the same , so on and so on,this goes with blades as well, Most people wait until there grass is over do to be cut and drag there mower out , this happens on a sat morning , you get called on the following mon, pick it up on tues or so , look at it on fri . order parts for mon , get it back togather for them by wed , this makes there grass three weeks behind or so. I had and still have a decent inventory , but it always seemed I did not have the part to do the quickie job , so it had to sit , plus 7-10 dollars to ship ups no matter the size. Ins is about 2k a year , business phone , rent if you don,t own or go mobile, I did make money ,and I still do a few jobs a year to keep up my updates with manufactures. The business has changed alot as one can go to the big box and buy the air filter / plug , for the price of what you would charge just for the filter. Also stay away from being a dealer for machines as the interests will eat you up on things that haven.t sold and the distributer will most likely drop you if you are not selling there product. I picked up 18 lawns a week to mow and nw I can enjoy my summer . Thaere are more dealers that have closed than opened in this area . Like mentioned I do have some parts , tools and manuals for sale if you are interested . good luck.

dutch1
01-20-2008, 08:25 PM
I'll throw in my two cents worth but but I'll not offer a nay or a yea.

I turned wrenches in a dealership after retiring from my initial career and got to know a gent who worked for a company providing mobile repair service. They had 4 or more mobile units covering the various quadrants of the city. The guy was in our shop 6-10 times per week picking up/ordering parts. His biggest complaint was adequate parts supply on truck, returning 2 or more times to the same job and glass time. With all the different manufacturers out there, in my opinion, stocking anything but the very basic parts is pretty much out of the question or you're going to have some very deep pockets. Now, to him it wasn't a big deal since he was on an hourly wage/commission basis. He had no investment thus all the added expense was passed on to the consumer by the company. A lot of the higher end clients probably didn't mind paying the inflated repair bill but I definitely think that factor limited the client base. I don't even know whether they are in business anymore but I haven't seen any evidence of their units in the area.

I would say that to get set up as MotorMedic is, the investment in a truck, support equipment and parts stock is going to be quite sizeable With fuel prices as they are you'll have to put a very sharp pencil to the numbers in order to make an informed decision. A lot will depend on the number of possible clients you can profitably serve as well as their willingness engage your service. Most of the commercial guys in our area have their own shop and perform their own preventative maintenance service. I see a few of them for major service problems.

I had thought of starting a mobile service when I left the shop envoirnment in 2004 at age 65. I still had a desire to have something to occupy retirement time as well as to challenge me and keep the mind active. While I was still tossing this option around, one day I was in the local NAPA picking up some small engine air and oil filters. The owner ask if I did small engine work and if so, would I accept referrals. The rest is history. I haven't solicited any customers, haven't stolen any dealership customers, haven't advertised nor do I hand out any business cards. In that short period of time I have seen over 150 different customers with many of them being repeaters, along with 4 landscape/commercial mowing customers. I was fortunate to have a 28X40 metal building behind our home so there was no additional expense involved.

It's like the movie, "Field of Dreams". If you have the skills and expertise, they will come. I believe a person could make it work either way, but to me working out of a single location would be less risky, financially. Like someone else mentioned, if you look around, you should be able to find a "hole in the wall" to get yourself a start.

Best of luck, whatever path you choose.

Dutch

MowerMedic77
01-20-2008, 08:47 PM
Thanks for the offers and your experiance I like hearing from guys who have been there and done that. I have ZERO plans on doing anything at my home besides my paperwork. And no intentions on selling any thing but parts, I have tons of manuals and books and luckily most manufactures are begining to post parts and operators manuals online not to mention all the cr@p in my head:hammerhead:
Have a little over a grand in inventory already and it has been selling steady and anything that does not move I will sell online so I'm not stressing. As far as tools, my tool truck guy can tell yeah I don't need anything:laugh:even he says "Never thought a small engine mechanic would have more tools then most of the auto mechanics I deal with"
I already do the late day repairs and weekends but the money is hard to turn down especially as my cost of living keeps going up:cry:

RGM
01-20-2008, 08:51 PM
I can never find anyone to work on my equipment

Restrorob
01-20-2008, 10:14 PM
I can never find anyone to work on my equipment

OK,

I'll bite, What kind of equipment do you have that you can't find anyone to work on ?

singleguy18901
01-21-2008, 09:10 AM
Thanks everyone for all the opinions and experiences you all are sharing.

So besides the usual needs, like being a good mechanic, having excellent customer service skills and attitude, a good business plan, and things like that, that the key to make this work is to have the correct parts on hand to reduce or eliminate 2nd trips and windshield time.

MowerMedic77, you have a little over a grand in parts inventory. Can you share your mix, and how you made those choices?

RGM
01-21-2008, 05:48 PM
its just hard to find smeone that is reliable around baltimore thats not allway backed up with work i had a guy i used to take my equip. to tim taylor talors small engine repair but he went out of buisness

MowerMedic77
01-22-2008, 09:48 PM
Can you share your mix, and how you made those choices?

Wow I took over a month between all my parts catalogs checking price on similar items trying to keep my costs down. As far as the mix I just kept it real basic @ first. I started with the things I felt were most important, tires, recoil rope, oils, plugs, filters air and fuel for what I see as the most common mowers and engines in my area. The tires I stock are 24x12-12 down to 9x3.50-4 all in 4ply which covers almost all the equipment I see. Plugs cross between many types of motors if you don't know I'm not going to go thought them but I carry around 10-15 different style plugs from NGK and champion. I carry fuel line for 2cycle and 4 cycle engines the recoil rope is a range of sizes #3---#7. Chain saw chain in rolls of the most common sizes I see used in this area. Some common belts and blades for walkbehinds 36-52. I have lawn battery's and all the common oil weights, carb spray and penetrating oils. I have lots of little stuff like spark plug boot and clips, universal throttle grips, I have lots of 2cycle stuff carb kits and primer bulbs. I have assortments of stuff like hose clamps, roll pins, e-clips, bolts/nuts,electrical connectors, etc.etc. It is a lot of stuff and still alot I did not post.