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Old 02-20-2014, 01:04 AM   #31
PJay
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Yup - the third generation of my family in the trade.

I bailed and went back to my original profession once I found my father was not joking when he used to say, "It's such a shame that motorcyclists breed for neither looks nor intellect".*

He was referring to customers more than our family...but I decided to get some intellect back and return to what I spent 8 years of university/post-grad study for.

* the "intellect" bit being so often borne out on motorcycle forums.
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Old 02-20-2014, 06:47 AM   #32
vecchio Lupo
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Shop

Friend,

In 1990 I turned my love of motorcycles to a business. I purchased a struggling British bike shop that was itself the remnant of the old BSA Triumph dealer, so i had some legacy credentials. We (2 of us) did all right for a year doing low level maintenance on bikes the big dealers ignored, it was a struggle but lots of fun, we moved to a larger building and hired another mechanic as well as taking on a Moto Guzzi franchise. I was too small to take on a franchise and it began to pull me down. I failed as a business after a total of 4 years. I should have stayed small and concentrated on service and the odd used bike. I found it is hard to collect payment once the bill on an old bike gets close to its value. Customers are quick to say "yes, I love the bike and want it fixed" even when you say it could run $500 or so. They push you to finish the bike for the weekend or whatever and then don't pick it up for 2 months or more because they have more pressing needs for disposable income. You call, they make excuses, and you wait, and your shop gets clogged up with ready work. You can't seize the bikes because once word gets out that you are the shop that takes bikes from people, business slows even more.I loved it and was never happier on a day to day basis.

Then I discovered lawnmowers, easy to work on and no matter the economy, people have to cut grass, no matter what. They don't sit around the shop and there is always a strong demand for used mowers (not riding mowers...avoid those) . I would rather make an easy $50 bucks 10 times a day with mowers, then a $500 top end job on a Moto once a day. No extensive parts inventory or supply chain issues. Then you can dabble in bikes and only do what you want to do. Plus, people who have old mowers tend to have old bikes in the shed, I would drop off a mower and come home with a mini bike or scooter as payment every so often, now that is fun.

I fell out with my partner, and went back to school and went another direction, but always with an eye on another mower shop.

Best of luck in your future and even unemployed guys have to cut the grass, but they may not need their bike back for a while.
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vecchio Lupo screwed with this post 02-20-2014 at 06:53 AM
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Old 02-20-2014, 07:04 AM   #33
LowInSlo
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Passion is good. No great, when running a small biz. And yes, it is also about the money, has to be, but seems you know that. I would consider apprenticing in another shop, see how it feels.

Owning your own small biz is more work than most have any idea. People are always saying it was nice that we retired to our fabulous little town and now run a shop. I always laugh and say if this is retirement, I"m going back to work.

Yes, also understand that the business you open may be very different in 4 years. Hard to plan for that, but that's where the fun comes in.

That said, we're having a ball. Making tiny money, but the place is profitable.

I always encourage people to follow their passion, but do it with their eyes open.

Good luck! Let me know how I can help.
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Old 02-20-2014, 07:15 AM   #34
Hawk62cj5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vecchio Lupo View Post
Friend,

In 1990 I turned my love of motorcycles to a business. I purchased a struggling British bike shop that was itself the remnant of the old BSA Triumph dealer, so i had some legacy credentials. We (2 of us) did all right for a year doing low level maintenance on bikes the big dealers ignored, it was a struggle but lots of fun, we moved to a larger building and hired another mechanic as well as taking on a Moto Guzzi franchise. I was too small to take on a franchise and it began to pull me down. I failed as a business after a total of 4 years. I should have stayed small and concentrated on service and the odd used bike. I found it is hard to collect payment once the bill on an old bike gets close to its value. Customers are quick to say "yes, I love the bike and want it fixed" even when you say it could run $500 or so. They push you to finish the bike for the weekend or whatever and then don't pick it up for 2 months or more because they have more pressing needs for disposable income. You call, they make excuses, and you wait, and your shop gets clogged up with ready work. You can't seize the bikes because once word gets out that you are the shop that takes bikes from people, business slows even more.I loved it and was never happier on a day to day basis.

Then I discovered lawnmowers, easy to work on and no matter the economy, people have to cut grass, no matter what. They don't sit around the shop and there is always a strong demand for used mowers (not riding mowers...avoid those) . I would rather make an easy $50 bucks 10 times a day with mowers, then a $500 top end job on a Moto once a day. No extensive parts inventory or supply chain issues. Then you can dabble in bikes and only do what you want to do. Plus, people who have old mowers tend to have old bikes in the shed, I would drop off a mower and come home with a mini bike or scooter as payment every so often, now that is fun.

I fell out with my partner, and went back to school and went another direction, but always with an eye on another mower shop.

Best of luck in your future and even unemployed guys have to cut the grass, but they may not need their bike back for a while.
I was going to post something similar , never owned a motorcycle business but I have been self employed and my family owns 7 different companies . If it was me I would be open a one man small engine shop ,lawn mowers , weed eaters and chain saws ect and not advertize I do motorcycles but maybe accept a few bikes or quads on the side. We had a tractor dealership and shop and did stihl equipment along with cub cadet lawn mowers . No more tractors but the shop mechanic stays busy on small engine stuff and has more than he can do .
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Old 02-20-2014, 07:32 AM   #35
Rucksta
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Make it about the money

Once the business is profitable enough that you can work the business compared to working for/in the business.
At this point you can again indulge the passion.

Do you think the passion will last the 5-8 years it typically takes to get a return on your investment of capital & time?
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Old 02-20-2014, 07:33 AM   #36
Stephenmarklay
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If it were me I would start very small and not quit my day job. I think on small scale a moto business could be fun and rewarding.

I manage a pretty big dealership and it is a pretty tough business. It can be done but not haphazardly. A passion for bikes but without the proper skill set WILL leave you disheartened and broke. People can be difficult and running anything retail is a challenge to say the least. Worse your employees will steal from you and make you bitter.

The situation with OEMs is difficult. Expensive inventory demands, floor space requirements and expensive build outs. It adds up very fast.

I personally would not own a shop.
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Old 02-20-2014, 08:24 AM   #37
grahamspc
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Interesting stuff...my comments come from a different direction...in 1977 I made my hobby (motorcycles) my job and started working for a dealership(parts sales etc)...did that for about 10 years(to 1986)...then I got into wholesale distribution for the next 26 years...my hobby was my hobby again(my passion)...retired in 2012...got bored quickly and started working parttime at a friends motorcycle dealership(2 days a week)..within 3 months I decided that I really did not like dealing with retail consumers and resigned(with no hard feelings) and became a retail consumer myself again...my hobby continues to be my passion.....what does this say...hmmm......I guess what it says is that when you make your hobby your job it changes the complexion of your hobby...hope this anecdote helps.
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Old 02-20-2014, 09:17 AM   #38
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I really appreciate all the responses, this is really helpful.
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Old 02-20-2014, 12:43 PM   #39
lvscrvs
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Many, many wise comments above. I work part-time in a small moto shop, we do service, have some parts and accessories, and have a FSBO area with some bikes. I know the owner of the shop pretty well, and I think he enjoys a lot about the business, but he would probably tell you he wishes he was doing something else, mainly because there just isn't much money in it. He has been a bike guy his whole life, been a shop owner for many years, he knows a lot about bikes and bike repair, and he has a loyal local following. It's still tough. The internet has made things very hard of course, and the economy.

Maybe carve out some space where you have minimal or no overhead, start playing around on a very part-time basis with your passion and see where it leads.
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Old 02-20-2014, 02:19 PM   #40
judobiker
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I turned a passion into a business, had fair success at it, then sold the business. It's true that you shouldn't start a business in a market that you have no interest or experience in. However, if you aren't in it to make money, it's not a business--it's a charity or a hobby. If you have enough wealth to not need cash flow, that's fine. If you're like I was, it can be really challenging when you've got bills to pay and you're finding that other people in your community don't share your passion. The first part of starting a business has to be developing a business plan that has a realistic estimate of expected revenues,defining the market, and projected expenses. There are a ton of unexpected costs and taxes that come with running a small business.

That being said, I've never run a motorcycle business. But I feel like I've invested way too much in several of them
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Old 02-20-2014, 02:30 PM   #41
randyo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spaced_ghost View Post
I really appreciate all the responses, this is really helpful.
You may want to look for an established business that the current owner is at retirement or soon to retire, give you a chance to transition, it can be a win win, you get an established customer base, owner gets to retire without feeling he has forgot his customers needs
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Old 02-20-2014, 05:02 PM   #42
cccolin OP
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I really appreciate all these thoughtful responses, guys. This has really helped clarify my thinking on it. For now, I'm going to primarily pursue the other path I had in mind, which is to move towards becoming a project consultant/designer for structural fabrication/engineering projects. I'll be able to challenge myself mentally and not have to deal with retail hell. In the meantime, I'm going to do the part time small garage version of this, fixing bikes, flipping some used ones, and building a few customs, as a hobby. I really love motorcycles, and I would like to continue loving them. I'm already really good at the other stuff and know how to make pretty decent money at it without getting in over my head in terms of capital investment. It's just a matter of setting myself up to work in an advisory capacity rather than the daily grind on the shop floor I've been doing for the last 10+ years. It'll be a challenge and a lot of hard work, too, but that's ok with me. I don't want to lose my favorite hobby and large sums of money in the process.

I've looked into apprenticing in another moto shop, in NY it's basically impossible. Everything is so competitive and expensive here that no one wants to take a risk on creating a competitor down the road. I'll just do it my own way on the weekends as a PT hobby for now.
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Old 02-21-2014, 04:29 AM   #43
KingOfFleece
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Good move. One thing not mentioned is that when you have your own shop your annual mileage drops about 90%!
All the fun stuff you used to do with your riding buds-well, sorry, gotta run the shop, can't go.

Not to mention that you'll hear 500 times a day "but it's .45 cheaper at Ted's discount cycle superstore."
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Old 02-21-2014, 07:59 AM   #44
Bar None
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I do all my maintenance on my bikes and enjoy it but hate working on chain saws and weed eaters so I take them to shops.
Don't seem to have much trouble with my lawn mowers or tractors and don't mind working on them.

Just saying that getting in a small engine repair business as some suggested sounds like a good idea. Cherry picking bike repair jobs for fun/income also sounds good.

I started a IBM main frame consulting business after I retired from IBM in 1992 and it was so nice to be able to turn down some customers that I had to put up with when I worked for IBM. I was the boss and the sole employee.
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Old 02-21-2014, 08:39 AM   #45
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Having been in the motorcycle business for 30+ years as an owner and employee I second guess my choices almost daily. First and foremost this is a double edged sword right now. It may be the best time to start a business and it may be the worst. You location and financial abilities/reserves are paramount.

Before commenting directly on your plan let's hear your plan. If you don't have one you're done before you start. I don't mean a loosely gathered box of ideas I mean a strictly constructed orderly plan of action including projections and numbers. And most of all a Mission Statement.

I will say if you have to borrow to do it don't. Wait and save.
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