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Just Here For The Party
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696 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm seriously weighing the pros and cons of opening my own shop, and would like input from everyone who has, or is, doing it already. Even if it's not motorcycle-industry specific, good advice is good advice. Any advice would be appreciated but some specific questions are:

What were your biggest mistakes starting out?

What were your biggest successes starting out?

What would you go back and do differently?

What would you keep the same?

What is the best lesson you learned from the experience?

Name the one thing in your shop that you wished you had bought sooner? Why?



Thanks everyone!
 

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4,653 Posts
I didn't own a motorcycle shop but I owned a restaurant.

If there was one thing I would have done differently it would have been to not do it at all. Don't get me wrong I was successful for 5 years and even when I sold we were still busy. The hours and BS was just to much. Best day of my life was when I signed papers and was done. Be ready to work long hours like 6-7am to 10-11pm sometimes later 6-7 days a week. Expect to not make profit or take home a paycheck for 1 year. Any money you do make needs to go back into the business for things you missed when you opened and advertising. Make sure you have enough capital in the bank to cover the first year just in case business sucks for a while. Also I dont know where you're from but remember if you're anywhere where it snows your business will really only be a 6-8 month seasonal business so be prepared to have enough to get through the winter.

As far as a motorcycle shop I've never owned one but your reputation will decide weather you fail or succeed. Hire a good mechanic (who will require a hefty salary) who takes pride in his work and is willing to sometimes bend over backwards to make sure the customer is happy. Every single job is important no matter how small. If you put one wire wrong on someone's bike and something as small as a taillight doesn't work perfect they'll tell all their friends how you suck and can't even put a tail light in right.

Expect to have a lot of people owe you money. My friend opened a shop and now has around 15-20 bikes that people dropped off paid for half of the job and don't come back for 6 months because they don't have the money to pay you the rest to get their bike back.

Like I said the biggest thing is your rep. My friend that open his shop was doing ok at first till he wrecked my friends busa on a "test ride" then he ripped off a couple other friends and did some half ass work. Now even though its the only shop within an hour to hour and half non of my friends will go there. Which screwed him big time because the groups I ride with are really big 200+ guys in 2 groups. Reputation is HUGE.

good luck if you decide to go for it ill be rooting for you.
 

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Rollin hard in Wiscompton
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3,698 Posts
As a current shop owner, the biggest thing is money. Without the proper resources to get a building, tools, supplies, and help, it will be a LONG struggle against everything. I do mostly mobile work, and it has the benefit attracting a lot of positive attention because a lot of folks don't have the means to bring their equipment to me (I do a lot of small engine work). However, by not having a physical location where people CAN come to me is killing me, because the only place people see me is Craigslist, my cards on public billboards, or word of mouth. I live in smallsmalltown, so the pool of potential clients isn't particularly large to begin with, and the lack of public visibility is the biggest thing keeping me down.

Find an investor or business partner, find a decent location, get stocked up, and keep a tool budget. Every job you do in the first year is gonna need a tool you don't have yet. A lot of jobs after that will also need tools you don't have. There's a reason something as simple as a socket has 30 different variations lol.

Keep really good paperwork. Keep all your reciepts, log mileage, etc. Not as much stuff is writeoff anymore, but you have nothing to lose by having it all at the ready.

Good luck!
 

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i cant fart
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10,917 Posts
Do u have a gmail? I have my business plan written up on google drive. I'm willing to share it with u. It's still a work in progress but it will help. Or if u already have one written up, u can send it to me if u want the extra eyes and I'll see how it looks.

Good luck.
 

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Just Here For The Party
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696 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the input and moral support. YZF that's impressive you were succesful for five years, the restaurant business is no walk in the park.

Fight Everything, the tool budget is something I would have overlooked had you not mentioned it. Hope business keeps growing for you.

Jelly, I'll PM you my gmail account.
 

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30,512 Posts
I've never owned a shop but I know a few guys in San Francisco that do. They get a lot of business from the bay area riders forum. They are very active on there offering advice to guys with maintenence questions. If the poster can not get it fixed then a lot of times they take the bike to the guy who was helping them on the forum. They get lots of advertisement that way and when the dude with the bike goes back to the thread and posts how helpful the shop owner was. They build lots of reputation that way.

Good luck with the shop!!!
 

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Registered
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299 Posts
I haven't ever ran my own business of fixing bikes but as far as other folk's whips, I've worked on my old man's Harley and a ton of friends/acquaintances bikes for odd jobs. My piece of advice is that if you're looking for work, go to biker club meets and their parties to socialize like a rock-star. Make some cards and network really.

Make friends with shops around, like when you're getting your tires rotated or something bullshit with the tire guy, or the oil guy when your oil is being changed. A lot of people ask those kinds of folks where they can go for someone to work on their shit.

The success of your shop hinges majorly on your reputation; give people a good experience. Hire people who will do good work, a major part of a job is presentation; the goal is to make it be as if there never was a problem with the bike and meeting that will keep people coming back.
 

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42
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746 Posts
What were your biggest mistakes starting out?

General lack of professionalism
Worked on WAY to many bikes at "mates rates", devalued work
Started shop with personal friends, only myself and one other are still on speaking terms.
Lack of overhead for commissioned builds at first
Getting fucked by flaky customers after sinking tons of my resources into their bikes
Having to put liens on said bikes.

What were your biggest successes starting out?

Building really nice, trendy bikes (cafes and then street trackers) with great ascetics and handling
Selling complete, finished bikes to older, more financially stable customers.
Building bikes that younger people liked and could ride. (i.e. no liter bikes ect.)

What would you go back and do differently?

Pick a crew based on actual talent and not friendship or street cred
Save more money for larger initial investment
Build and sell complete bikes only. Commission builds always a HUGE hassle.

What would you keep the same?

For a 2nd try? Nothing.

What is the best lesson you learned from the experience?

Build it and they will come. Take pride in your work and instill value into it through craftsmanship and creativity. Separate your social life from your business endeavors a bit or it will do so for you.

Name the one thing in your shop that you wished you had bought sooner? Why?

Pipe bender.
 

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I haven't owned a shop but used to manage a pub from when it first opened...

My advice would be pick your staff very carefully - like others have said, try to avoid hiring friends as that tends not to work - work is work and getting friends involved can blur that line between work-time and down-time. You're much better going for people who want the job because it interests them - that way they'll be much more likely to give it 110% because they'll be in their element. Make sure people you do hire are great with people - the last thing you want is to go into a shop to be served by some miserable person who clearly doesn't want to be there. If you provide the customer with great service they'll be so much more likely to return - people are so used to crappy service that when they receive service that goes way above their expectations they're so shocked that you'll stick in their mind and they'll keep on coming back to you.

Think about your marketing too - instead of just focusing on the customer's experience when they're in the shop, think about it before and after too. Before - how to get people in the shop - send out promotions in flyers, online advertising, magazine advertising etc with an incentive to get them into the shop. During - like I said, when they're in the shop give them a great experience that exceeds their expectations. Try and get their email/home address too. After - assuming you got their contact details, you can now send them info each week/month with different deals you have, info about new products you have coming in etc to keep your shop fresh in their mind - the last thing you want is people forgetting you exist then they won't come back to you!

Another good tip is to give out freebies - (think this is called reciprocity) if you give someone a gift, 9 times out of 10 they feel they have to return favour by giving you business.

Hope that helps.
 

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Remi's Dad
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17,593 Posts
my advice, (own a service sho with dad)

Dont sell yourself short. Taxes, material, warranty, overhead, your salary and shop profits are incorporated into each job

Treat customers like family. Be professional and honest even if it hurts.

over quote your jobs. Its always easier to surprise them with a lesser bill than to go ack and ask for more.

When in doubt change it out. When troibleshooting verify by 2-3 ways the part(s) is/are bad.

Cover your ass. Paper trail everything, have the client understand and sign papers explaining work performed or quoted.

If its unsafe be very very clear.
 

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Just Here For The Party
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696 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you everyone for the ongoing input, it's helping me really hammer out details.
 
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I dont own a shop but work in one at the moment & have worked in a few bike shops over the years, heres my take on it all ....

Dont go looking for the big money for a start, giving good service at a reasonable price day in & day out will build your rep & pay the bills, ive seen a few fall foul of this going for fancy builds & big jobs at the expense of the bread & butter work

Dont take on jobs you are not sure of it just leads to hassle, its better to pass the work off to someone more suitable than cock it up or spend hours on a "half hour" job, we turn loads of chinese bikes & scooters away for this reason just not worth it to us to work on them when others local have the spares & are used to the bloody heaps

Decide what your core business will be & stick to it for a start, servicing, fork seals, wheel bearings brakes etc etc is a good start if your overheads are not too big

Make sure you have good suppliers who deliver on time as nothing pisses off a customer more than the part he wants not being there when you say it will be & you take the flack for it

Be prepared to put right anything you cock up, it will happen!
 

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perfectly imperfect
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611 Posts




What would you go back and do differently?


Save more money for larger initial investment
My wife and I own our own business. This lesson Bailz mentioned is very true. It's easy to get eager and want to start a business to work for yourself and make money. We borrowed a large portion of our startup costs and now even though business is doing fairly well, all our profits go to repaying loans.
 
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