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Can a one man shop make it today?


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So like the thread title says, can a one man shop make it in todays competitive marketplace? How many others on here are a one man shop?

 

I've been considering opening up my own place like so many others, but I don't want to deal with HR issues, nor the stress of having to find work to keep employees busy right off the bat when starting up.

 

Can one person do all the business stuff, service writing and wrenching, and still turn a profit?

 

Thanks,

Kevo

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So like the thread title says, can a one man shop make it in todays competitive marketplace?  How many others on here are a one man shop?

 

I've been considering opening up my own place like so many others, but I don't want to deal with HR issues, nor the stress of having to find work to keep employees busy right off the bat when starting up.

 

Can one person do all the business stuff, service writing and wrenching, and still turn a profit?

 

Thanks,

Kevo

It's a lot to do! It's possible but easy to get burnt out. We're a three person shop, a tech a helper and a counter person.

 

 

Sent from my SCH-I605 using Tapatalk 2

 

 

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So those of you that ran as a one man shop for a while, what kind of hours did you work versus the amount of labor you actually billed out? I was thinking in an 8-9hr day I'd probably only be able to bill out 6hrs if lucky.

 

Kevo

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I've been a one man shop for two years, it's been challenging but also rewarding and very profitable. My biggest problem is interuptions, answering the phone and waiting on walk in traffic. On busy days makes it hard to get work done. Still though I manage to bill 6 or more hours nearly everyday(flat rate), plus parts and accessories sales(besides auto repair I'm also a trailer shop and sell lots of parts). My other problem has been overbooking. I'm getting better at that though. I'm typically booked out a week, but I try to leave some slack time on certain days if possible for my own sanity, the job that runs long and those emergency repair situations.

 

Don't know how long I can hang on by myself nor how long I want to. It's a lot of work and I'm 51 now. I've been trying to avoid getting into payrol, you know work comp, taxes, 941's. I had another business for 25 years with 4 - 6 guys working so I know the drill and am trying to keep it simple this time.

 

So yes, a one man shop can make it, but be prepared to work hard.

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1 man shop bill out 6 hours a day??? Not consistently, no way. 

Exactly, not in general repair. As mentioned above a specialty shop that just does something like brakes or trailer work its much easier to turn more hours. Not to mention shop clean up and paperwork may take one full day.

 

Sent from my SCH-I605 using Tapatalk 2

 

 

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I do plan to try to specialize somewhat, but at first to keep the doors open I figured it would be good to remain flexible and do a much as possible.

 

My main interest is offroad 4x4 fabrication and suspension design. Unfortunately, its a niche market thats hard to find people willing to spend the big $$$ to have something that works well. I currently do some fabrication out of my home shop, but its not a legitimate business and I have no insurance for it either. Its sketchy to say the least! I need a real shop and business license!

 

I figure by being flexible and doing general repair work I can at least pay the bills the first year. That will allow me to get my name out there and get established. With a resale license I can also start selling offroad parts, lockers, lift kits, lights, and with a shop I can install those parts.

 

I also want to start doing driveshaft repair. This goes along quite well with the 4x4 shop theme. Every 4x4 has two shafts, and everytime you change the suspension or drivetrain they both must be modified. The only driveshaft shop locally is 45min away in another town and they don't understand whats needed for offroad shafts. I had a friend who did this for awhile and allways seemed busy. His downfall was his divorce. He also did a lot of shaft work for local farmers.

 

So yes eventually I would like to specialize somewhat. Depending on how busy things get I think I might hire also, but for now I need to keep things simple and just see if I can get it off the ground. I'll have to look into the trailer idea, thats not a bad idea around here and could go along with the offroad truck theme rather well.

 

Thanks for the input!

Kevo

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I am a one man shop. Been open since 2004. I have had times when I bring in helpers, mostly my son. Shop opens at 8 am and I have worked as late as midnight if the work is here. Generally I try to close by 6 pm. 2-3 nights a week I do paper work. I have been slacking but I try to spend a few hours a week on keeping up on the Facebook post and changing up the marketing to keep it fresh. I took off last weekend, first time in over a month. I am not married and my son is 34, so no real home life.

Without pulling all the reports I would guess I avg 4 hours billable in an 8 hour day. I have very low overhead compared to others but it is still a struggle. And just for reference I am 56 and have been in the trade since 1985 or so.

The biggest problem is scheduling work and hitting promise times. I also have been taking in some "project" type work. It is good for filling the slow days but gets in the way when busy. Right now I have a 1987 Grand National that had the engine pulled over 2 years ago.It sat at another shop till the owner became ill. Now I am restoring it to running condition, then off to the body shop. Also have a 93 vette with a dead short in the power seats. And finally a 2003 F350 6.0 for injectors (my first).

 

It hasn't been easy but I have managed to get by. I have quit, come back and threatened too quit again. The rewards can be huge but the stress can kill ya!!

I started out .. 30 or so years ago, by myself. Then one helper, then two, then three, then apprentices and more help. The shop got huge. I was working more hours than I did when I started out. Sure, I made a good paycheck but the stress was unbearable. When the economy tanked years ago guys moved on and I didn't replace them. Now, in the last 5 years I've been by myself with my daughter handling the phones. It has been a blessing in disguise. I go home when I want, I work as late as I want, and I have the weekends for myself and family.

 

Personally, I prefer doing the work myself. No payroll to speak of, no comebacks, and little to no stress. Quite a difference than when I ran the shop with a big crew. Yes, I don't make as much, but I make enough. Can't say I'd ever go back to a full crew again. Ain't happening.

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Gonzo- I did not know you were a one man shop. Your reasons for staying small are a lot of the reasons I want to stay small too,....basicly being able to control the stress end of things better.

 

Having time to think about things though I realize how difficult that is to stay a one man shop, and there are benefits to having people work for you. It might be better in the long run to have 2 techs and a service writer that handle the auto repairs, then I can be in the background doing more specialized tasks. Either that or try to specialize right at the start.

 

Kevo

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1 man operation is very stressful but yes you can make money. If all you want is to,own a JOB with a lil freedom then its the way to go. If you want a BUSINESS that makes money even if you're not there then you need qualified Help. Just depends on your retirement plans. I say go for the gold. Build a biz so you can work 1 day week if you choose.

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Gonzo- I did not know you were a one man shop. Your reasons for staying small are a lot of the reasons I want to stay small too,....basicly being able to control the stress end of things better.

 

Having time to think about things though I realize how difficult that is to stay a one man shop, and there are benefits to having people work for you. It might be better in the long run to have 2 techs and a service writer that handle the auto repairs, then I can be in the background doing more specialized tasks. Either that or try to specialize right at the start.

 

Kevo

I've been big, and the stress of being bigger was the key to getting small again. I can work 1 day a week or 7. Next to no stress these days. My bays stay full and I stay busy. My wife put it best, "You work the shop...don't let the shop work you!" If your goal is to make the shop into something more than the one man shop...all the power in the world to you. I prefer the one man shop and at my age I don't see me changing. I think ... if you're bold enough .... do the BIG shop. It might be just what you want.

 

Right now, if I'm called to go to a convention, I just close the doors for a few days. Ya'd think my customers would object, actually the opposite. The more classes I attend the better I am at servicing their cars. And, they appreciate that.

 

All in all, it's a decision you have to make for yourself. I made mine and no regrets about it.

 

Good luck! Happy wrenchin! Gonzo

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I've been big, and the stress of being bigger was the key to getting small again. I can work 1 day a week or 7. Next to no stress these days. My bays stay full and I stay busy. My wife put it best, "You work the shop...don't let the shop work you!" If your goal is to make the shop into something more than the one man shop...all the power in the world to you. I prefer the one man shop and at my age I don't see me changing. I think ... if you're bold enough .... do the BIG shop. It might be just what you want.

 

Right now, if I'm called to go to a convention, I just close the doors for a few days. Ya'd think my customers would object, actually the opposite. The more classes I attend the better I am at servicing their cars. And, they appreciate that.

 

All in all, it's a decision you have to make for yourself. I made mine and no regrets about it.

 

Good luck! Happy wrenchin! Gonzo

I often wonder what the consequences would be for locking the doors for a couple days. Being a one man shop I never get a day off, except for Sundays, although sometimes I will take a Saturday off. Or what if I get sick and just can't come in? Nice to hear your customers are OK with you shutting down occasionally.

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I am a one man army who occasionally brings in help. THE TRICK is knowing when to say no. Some people are afraid to say no to certain jobs because they think they will lose the customer. I regularly turn down jobs because of complexity and when you wear many hats every day, it becomes stressful. The most profitable way is to do more small jobs like brake and suspension work, and less big jobs like engine replacements. The big jobs pay big but often take a week or more to complete because you are juggling jobs. The smaller jobs have larger profit margins like brakes, maintenance and such. I would rather do 5 brake jobs a wee than two tranny swaps.

 

Many times i tell a customer no due to the complexity and keep it simple but usually have a recommendation on where they can go. Then they usually come back for the other stuff. When a customer is low on money, you have to stop feeling bad for them and stop trying to be the hero. then you get involved in junk work that they want used parts and such. Tell then ahead of time what it costs or MAY end up costing and if they go away, then good cause that is less headache.

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Kevo,

 

Yes a one-man shop can make it. I've been doing it for nearly two years. But, there is a catch; I have part-time help. More and more I'm going with 5-day weeks, and even closing my doors for a day's vacation.

 

As others mentioned, you need to be aware of your own limits on how much stress you can take. Screen the jobs, at least when you are busy. When you are slow you can afford to do the less desirable jobs.

 

My experience has been that customers feel safer dealing directly with the owner/technician. It's a real handful to do most everything yourself but very rewarding! After all, we didn't choose this occupation to just loaf around, but to meet the challenges of the automotive repair world!

 

So I give you my best wishes and if I can help you out anytime, let me know. Looks like we are geographically not too far apart.

Regards,

Jon

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I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately. I feel if you have a strong customer base already established a one man shop can do great and make a lot of money with not too much stress. Ideally a one man shop is never "open" to the public, but rather a customer calls your cell phone and you do the job, maybe have an independent contractor type helper. No waiting room, no sign, just an anonymous shop. Ideally it would be at your house so you can share the utilities. I am talking about a legit shop, not a backyard evader. In NY they allow these types of simple shops, some states don't. Cash only. A shop like this can do just 10% of the work of a 5 man shop and make the same profit. The downside is 1. you have to do all the work, 2. you really can't sell this type of business and 3. it would be hard to attract new customers. Like someone said you are just giving yourself a job which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

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I always thought I was in the minority on here, being a 1 man shop, but it appers there are quite a few who have also found it to be possible...maybe even satisfying as well. I think all of the pros and cons have been adequately described. I must say that my wife does a GREAT job of handling the front when the kids are in school, (answering phones, greeting customers, ordering parts, collecting payment, etc.) and that is a HUGE advantage that I miss dearly when she's out for the summer months. She does allow me to concentrate on getting repairs diagnosed and done PROPERLY, which is something that was more work for me to achieve when I had (2) guys in the shop. SO many variables that will effect this question, but it CAN be done and a modest living generated from it.

 

Great topic. Very interesting/encouraging to hear others situations.

 

Dwayne

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         5 comments
      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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