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About bantar

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  1. Finally opening the shop

    They have a demo version that you can play with. Before I do anything complex, I test it in their demo database, then do it live. And, you can always call me. I'd be happy to help if I can. The little things tripping me up have solutions as they explained today. Now, I need to go test, then fix my inventory snafu's. Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
  2. After years of work to get to this point, we are finally opening the doors to my new shop on Monday. I did a small friends and family test on Friday. We stubbed our toes on all procedures but the actual shop work. It was horrible, but a great learning experience. Most issues were procedural in nature, so this weekend was procedure repair. We really weren't ready to open, but it needed to happen. Still not ready on all fronts. My website is built, but awaiting my detailed review to go online. It'll happen in the next day or so. We're still buying shop tools. Many are in, but I wanted to let my staff be part of the tool choices. (Yes, we're going to have to pare back some of their big wish list). Hiring is still ongoing. I had my 3 critical positions covered for a while now, but I still have more left to hire. I chose Protractor as my SMS. I'm mostly happy with this decision. My biggest gripe is that the software is unforgiving of mistakes and new users make many mistakes. I now need to learn how to undo my mistakes so that the accounting part remains accurate. Today, my entire computer network went down and it took us over 2 hours to get it back online. Next on the list is to practice recovery procedures. One of my major marketing spend items was to be on a busy corner. It appears that this may indeed work out for us. We serviced about 9 cars on Friday and turned away about 15 drive-up customers. Have 1 appointment booked for tomorrow. Wish me luck!
  3. Probably because RO Writer corporate hated them. They bad-mouthed AMS when I spoke with them, making me think less of themselves as a result. AMS has a great online reputation for helping folks with RO Writer issues. I think that they were the last remaining RO Writer distributor. I'd imagine that AMS will offer great service for Protractor folks. I spoke with AMS, but they couldn't sell to me and handed me off to corporate. Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
  4. Who wouldn't want a better cruise control? But that's a far cry from giving up your car altogether. Unless you live in an area where a car is not required for daily living, I don't see this ever happening. Why don't we all car-pool? Where do I keep my toolbox (currently in my trunk) after I exit that taxi? Where do I keep the kid's favorite DVDs? How many taxis would you need for rush hour? If not enough, what's my average wait time? How can others see my ego, when I'm in an unremarkable taxi? "I bought that new Corvette to cruise low and slow, not cause it goes fast". (Not me, I don't have a slow gear). Speaking of that, I have to get to the airport in a hurry. "Go fast taxi!" Its programmed to obey the speed limit and thus goes slower than the prevailing traffic. Here's the best analogy that explains this. If you own a boat or have ever owned a boat, you know damn well that renting said boat would have likely been waaay cheaper than owning it. However, if you had to rent it every time, it might not get used as much. Personally, I would value each trip and ask if it was a reasonable expense for my budget on this day, week, month. It's why I quit flying - today's 1.5 hour leisure trip is just $150 (30 years ago). What's the value of this trip? This resulted in few trips, making me less safe due to less practice. It's far easier to spend 1000's upfront while it's shiny and exciting, but harder to do after a few nicks. Once you own it, you tell yourself that you must use it because you spent so much on it already. When's the next boat show? I'm ready (again). I have a friend with 7 different cars and just him and his wife. None of these cars are special (overly expensive, very fast or very pretty/sporty). But he got a "deal" on each one. He bought a truck, because... it's a truck. He'd never go rent a truck, and is paying more for insurance than it would cost him to rent it for the few times it will get used. But it's always there, always ready to be used, just like his airplane. Nuff said. We have cars for convenience. Sometimes, a taxi, bus or train is better, but not always.
  5. You're concern is fairness. How better to be fair than to use a 3rd party? You could pay for an appraisal, which will cover both the business and the real estate. I have a few samples, both over 95 pages. They are pricey - mine was $4K. It looks at the business in multiple ways, such as would the real estate be more valuable with a different business use. It compares all combinations of business and RE and creates a value. Probably pricey, but it is an arms-length transaction so it's fair. Another way to get a value is to go visit your local SBDC (Small Business Development Center) office and ask them for sales comps. They can provide sales multiples for actual sales that help you with the 3X multiple you suggested. This won't help with the real estate valuation likely, but it gives you a number. The SBDC is an arm of the SBA and will help you with these basic queries for free. Risk taking: There's no way to say this without putting my foot in my mouth, because nothing is ever black and white. This is a statement on perspective. If it was black and white, I'd say this: If you are currently giving your family members fair wages for their work, then they are contributing nothing to the startup of the organization. If they are taking less wages to help start the business, or similar, then they are contributing in some direct manner. Assuming no: They are not taking on specific risk, so they would not be entitled to anything (ignoring the many family nuances that might exist). They may be the best employees in the world and are helping you greatly succeed, but they are employees - not the risk takers. Therefore, you build a great business and sell a working / proven business to your family members. Buying a known quantity with a good reputation is immensely valuable to them. They will appreciate being the ones to continue the business. Don't feel guilty, feel proud! It seems like you are looking for an early exit or maybe family members expectations have been set wrongly. Why is this troubling you today? Hopefully, they know your timing on sale (e.g. 3-5 or 10-20 years from now). By then, with 3X, you'll be walking away with Donald Trump type of money!
  6. Cheap Chinese Equipment

    I've managed a team in mainland China for a number of years. The Communist culture encourages cheating, especially if it furthers their personal position. Unlike here, cheating is a proud accomplishment that you brag to your friends while at your local bar - to cheat and not get caught or have it matter. I also had Chinese working for me locally that "escaped" and they would tell horror stories and certainly knew who not to trust. They were my cheapest cost center, yet my most ineffective producers (oddly, they had terrific made-up status reports). Lack of production made them the most expensive in the end. We tend to think that quality issues are by mistake, but in fact, these are often by design. There's a huge difference between a Chinese Design and a Reputable Design (NA, Europe, etc). (Also, don't equate Taiwan to mainland China. They are both Chinese, but have different value sets. Taiwan has a better reputation and pretty much hates China).
  7. Did you manage to get any relief on their pricing? They are a bit pricey at $400/month and another $250/month for digital inspections? I like their base product, think I want to use it, but I am wondering about value? The one thing that Protractor does is update their software. They make updates every 2-4 weeks, adding new features and fixing problems, which I find to be a positive. Even though they are cloud based, Canadian law mandates that us users maintain ownership of our data. They allow you to download the database weekly and back it up in their cloud much more often. (With cloud systems, one always needs to ask about data ownership, because this is not cut and dried in the US). Also, Protractor is month-to-month, with no contract. They believe in themselves. I was ready to go with RO Writer, but I've started seeing a lot of internet noise regarding a total lack of response from their tech support on critical issues. When you couple this type of problem with their insistence on a 3 year contract, it seems very dangerous. Many using RO Writer are using their older software. I'm guessing the growing pains are with their new SQL system because the complaints seem to have ratcheted up recently. When I ask them about this issue, they dodge this question hard.
  8. Self-Driving Cars: Good News, Bad News

    My Mario-driving-style self is looking forward to these things. They should be easy to pass. If I want to get in front of one, I simply start pulling into it's lane. The computer will want to avoid my impending crash and will likely take evasive braking action, leaving me room to advance my position. Instead of hollering "Get out of the way!" to regular slow drivers, I'll be hollering, "Get a self driving car!". Of course, if I owned one, I would want to have a go-fast turbo mode, but then would need to hack the computer. It will be interesting to see if the software drives safely with the flow of traffic, or puts around doing the speed limit in areas where this is not the prevailing speed. Will it drive in the right, left or middle lane? Will it use its blinkers in Boston and thus never be allowed to merge over? Driving in Dallas, letting someone in your lane due to a blinker is not a miracle parting of the sea, but rather a gradual back off allowing just enough room to complete the maneuver. Or would the computer wait for a more inviting response and thus be making a correctional U-turn 10 miles later when an accidental gap appeared? If you are interested in some of the decisions that need to be programmed into the car, consider crash scenarios where there is no right or safe answer. Here's a scenario generator, "Moral Machine", that is interesting: http://moralmachine.mit.edu/
  9. Technician Pay Structure

    I just listened to this podcast yesterday. It sounds like it might resonate with you. He discussed getting his employees directly involved in the business numbers on a daily basis. Remarkable Results Podcast Episode 193: Kirk Richardson from South Street Auto Care
  10. I don't see this ever working in an environment that contains hammers. After a few arguments with this device, it would be dented and might not work as well as the factory model. But, this is just my take. Everyone else on this forum are way more patient than me. 😜
  11. Unfortunately, getting insurance quotes from industry veterans might be a bit misleading. You and I, as a startup operations, are inherently more risk to the insurer than these experienced operators. As well, I've found that our options are more limited with some insurers flat-out saying no thanks (this happens at underwriting, not necessarily at quoting). As a result, I've found a broker, with direct auto experience, that I trust who can match my needs with the market offerings. For now, these lower rates are a fantasy, but a cost to be managed with time and reputation. My broker indicated that 3 years of experience stops the teenage driving rates. For your planning, plan on the high side. Also, a semi-real quote seems to need 20 pages of Q&A along with driver's licenses, etc. To get around this, my broker brought me blacked-out (names, addresses) quotes for a few similar sized businesses to review. I don't see this mentioned, but depending on whether buy or lease the building and the terms of your lease will also impact your insurance needs. For instance, your landlord may impose additional insurance requirements on you. This matters in how you make comparisons as well.
  12. RepairPal

    So, what you are really saying is that the callers looked at the price range of $179-$429 and then went looking for the $179 guy? 😁
  13. This post is a mini-how-to that some might find useful on the topic of Password managers. If you are already using one, skip this. In another thread, @Marksas said: This is a great practice and in my case very-very important, because when I die, the business needs to be sold. My wife can't run it and my kids don't want to run it. She can probably keep it afloat for a very short period. So, I too keep an encrypted file and in this file, there's an entry entitled "Brian Died. Now what?". I've left a printed piece of paper in a known safe spot that says to open Keepass and find this entry. It is a roadmap of what to do, who to contact and everything else that needs to remain confidential. The first item is the name of a business broker, then the life-insurance policy, etc. Some of this can be printed, but the advantage of being here is that I can update it as needed and it's current. Now, I'm a forward-thinking kind of guy, so in the URL field, I've left my new address: http://www.heaven.com. (I sure don't want to have to do an address change). I use a program called Keepass (http://keepass.info/). It is an open-source password manager. For the longest time, I avoided these tools like the plague to make sure that they are safe. They are now at a mature stage. Another similar and good tool is LastPass (https://www.lastpass.com/) And there are others, but I've only used these two. Lastpass might be easier for some to learn and use. I can give you my encrypted password file and I'll be dead before you are able to break in if ever at all. The great thing about these tools is that I have to remember one reasonably complex password and it stores a unique password for every site I visit. I have well over 100 personal passwords in there now and it just keeps growing. All of my passwords are 20 random characters unless the website won't take that many. I don't worry about one password being stolen anymore. I'm going to mention many downsides below that might seem daunting, but they are just learning challenges. The upside is way better than all of these downsides. There is a downside to using these tools. You need to learn a new process to login. And if you have to login via mobile phone, it's even harder still and also a different process. But, once you learn these two methods, it's the same login procedure for every website you visit. When I introduce people to this tool, I make them put 3-4 passwords in for sites that they might visit sometimes (Amazon, ebay, craigslist, whatever), but not often. Then practice logging in and out over and over until they get it. The reason for this practice session is that if you complicate their lives too much all at once, then it's an instant quit. If they can't access a needed site right now, the tool is too complex. I've gotten my dad and my father-in-law to both use this tool and they are both mostly computer illiterate. My mom would burn the computer before trying to learn it. After fighting it for over a year, my wife is finally almost on-board. It's like breaking horses for many, but hey, even I started with a practice set. There is one more downside to this type of tool and it's the typical startup issue. You have 10's if not 100's of sites that you log into. You will need to login to each and every one and change your password to take advantage of computer generated random passwords. The good news is that you can do this ever so slowly, or in bulk, but still one at a time. Just today, I found another site that I had a login and it wasn't in my database. I updated my password file and changed the password on that site. For this one, I had to issue a forgot my password request, then change it. Now, I can't forget it. The process to changing your password is different on every website. Create the password entry in keepass, then copy the generated password to the website when it asks for a new password and save the changes. I always follow this by logging out of the site and logging in again with this new generated password. If I did it wrong, I know right away and fix it. One more downside is that automation is spotty. In other words, for some websites, I can click CTRL+ALT+A and my password is auto-filled. On others this shortcut does not work. In a number of cases, I think the webpage is purposely trying to defeat automation to protect itself from bots. When the keyboard shortcut does not work, then I resort to drag-and-drop or copy and paste. This always works, but it's more work. If I'm teaching a novice, I prefer to have them use a method that ALWAYS works rather than letting them try to understand failure modes and yet another method. In the password manager, one can create entries for anything, but mostly, one entry equals one website that you visit. It has a shortcut name, your username, your password and a URL to the site. It also has a notes section that lets you put freeform text. For instance, you can note a PIN number associated with an account. Or, sometimes they ask me silly questions that I will never remember the answer to, such as What was the color of your first dog? I can just note Dog color: Blue in the notes and now it's remembered. When I create entries that are not passwords, I just ignore the other fields. Shortcut name and Notes is all I need for those. The password file itself is stored in a cloud directory, such as Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive, etc. This lets you access the same file from your phone, tablet, work computer or home computer. You just need an internet connection. Also, you can have a work password file and a home password file. The work password can be shared with trusted managers and they only have access to what's provided in that file. It allows you to run a robust password mechanism for your work remote logins. The number one rule for password managers is: DON'T lose the master password. There are no second chances, such as I forgot my password. Now, it's I forgot ALL of my passwords because they are locked away forever. (Yep, I have a dead lastpass account, but luckily, it only had 1 or 2 test passwords). I make backup copies every once in a while in addition to my normal backups (I'm paranoid). If you've not tried a password manager, it's worth trying now. Start with a small test. Practice and don't give up.
  14. What do you do for fun?

    Not at all. In every position that I've ever hired, I tried to find people who's job is their hobby. What a win when you can find this! They are reading about work at home, practicing work off-hours, even if it's some other random side-projects, and making themselves better overall. My wife and I have a slightly different diversion than you. We buy houses with really nice vegetation and landscaping, then systematically kill it all off. I do grow some mighty nice weeds though.
  15. Another advantage to the Holding Company / Operating Company strategy is for asset protection. The real estate and all permanently installed fixtures are owned by the Holding Company. Should the operating company get sued, the liability is contained in that company. Further, in my 18 page lease I have defined (expensive) lease rates. The current defined operating company has negotiated a discounted lease rate. This discount ceases if there is any change in ownership of the operating company, except thru inheritance. It acts as a poison pill should the operating company get sued and ownership change hands forcibly. The goal is for any lawsuit to eat up the insurance proceeds only and then go away. They could find better lease rates anywhere else. The holding company has the most value and is isolated thru separate LLCs. The separation and asset protection is maintained by separate books, good insurance and most importantly by good operations practices inside the operating company. Since we can be sued for anything, having a layered approach is useful. With Marksas' approach, there is no comingling of the books, which is critical for proving that the Holding Company is simply a landlord and not involved in operations.