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Question for all the independent mobile mechanics!!!

Discussion in 'In the Office' started by zack-cat, May 3, 2014.

  1. zack-cat

    zack-cat Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2013
    Messages:
    35
    Occupation:
    Ag mechanic
    Location:
    Hill country texas
    Ok guys, so im 26 and have worked at a cat dealer for 7 years and been in a field truck for over 3. I love my job but for the last year i've been getting really fed up with managment and the way the whole company is run in general. I really want to just buy my own truck and do my own thing. There is a ridiculous amout of logging business around here and i feel i would have plenty to do. me and the wife have talked about it many times and I have weighed the pros and cons several times in my head and still feel i would be happier going my own way. Just kinda worried to leave the security of a dealer job with all the benefits that come with it but dont know how much more of managments crap i can take.

    One thing i worry about the most is i have really never worked on much of anything other than cat. i know its all nuts and bolts but how do you manage working on so many diferent brands, or do you try to just specialize in one brand? Would i just need to buy service manuals as i need them? I've always heard if you can work on cat you can work on anything.

    Also i do have a family to support and my worst fear is that i would not get enough business for whatever reason to keep food on the table. Do you guys ever get so slow that it becomes a major problem?

    Basicly if you guys could just give me a general overview of how it went starting your business would be a GREAT help! i just kinda know what to expect and what i might be getting myself into?

    Thanks for the help!!!
     
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  2. 1466IH

    1466IH Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2014
    Messages:
    281
    Location:
    prairie du rocher, il
    I would wait and make sure i have enough in the bank account or under the mattress to pay the bills for a few months at home before i did anything. I am sure that the dealership would fire you on the spot for doing side work but it is a great way to get a little bit of a client list and get your name out there. If you can get a few contractors that pay good lined out and do their work for a while and still work at the dealership make the jump after you have more work than you can handle. The constuction industry believe it or not is pretty close nit and word travels fast between the contractors if you are good.
     
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  3. Deeretracks

    Deeretracks Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2014
    Messages:
    568
    Occupation:
    Shop Foreman
    Location:
    Western Washington
    What about just moving to a private contractor. I started my career at a dealership and worked there for 7yrs, field tech the last 4. I hated it, mostly because of management like you. Too many chiefs and not enough indians. You had to work 60hrs a week to make budget and pay for all the dead weight overhead. Service managers underpaid and hating life. The list goes on and on. I switched to a private company, got $10 more an hour and feel like I have power to make decisions. If I have a problem I walk right into the owners office. I like it so much better.
     
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  4. Dad5

    Dad5 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2011
    Messages:
    79
    Location:
    Nova Scotia
    Sit down with an accountant and draw up a business plan so you know what your overhead costs are.
     
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  5. excavator

    excavator Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2006
    Messages:
    837
    Location:
    Pacific North West
    Most people who start their own business are really good at what they do. They work for someone else and think, "I can do that, and make more money doing it." Which can be true, but just because we are good, or really good mechanics does not mean we are good businessmen. There's just so much more to owning and operating a business than most realize. And I would say, especially for someone who started out at a dealer. Nothing wrong with working for a dealer but you have so many other people at your disposal to do things for you, that you will have to do yourself if you're on your own. You want to do field service, you will be buying a truck, repairing and paying for the repairs on your truck, you will service it, wash it, keep it organized and paying for everything.... You will also be ordering all your own parts, that often means locating those parts because some parts man can't seem to find them. You will be doing all the paperwork, billing, collecting, dealing with the government paperwork, which seems to be getting worse all the time. And the list goes on.
    I started my business before I was married, and was well established when that time came. I also married a nurse who had full coverage health insurance so I didn't have that to deal with. I've been at it now for 30 years and wouldn't go back, I don't think I could go back to working for someone else. Yes, there are slow times when you really wonder what's going to happen. I think, like Deeretracks said, you might want to try going to work for a smaller company first for a few years. Generally a contractor will not be upset with you doing outside jobs, (as long as you get their work done first) and you can then begin to slowly start your own business and hopefully have a good reputation started along with some good customers. And like Dad5 said, somewhere in that time frame sit down with a good accountant and figure out a business plan, what are your costs ect. That's something I didn't do and I think it would have saved me money, maybe a lot of money, in the long run.
    As far as working on different brands of equipment, yes it can get very interesting at time. Especially when it's a hydraulic problem on a Deere excavator and maybe an electrical/computer problem on a Komatsu wheel loader, and you're working on them both at the same time. You may be waiting for parts for one so you go to the next. But for me, that's what keeps it interesting. It's frustrating at times but also very rewarding when the problem is solved. Yes, you will spend a lot of money for service manuals and diagnostic equipment. I buy almost all my own manuals so that when I need them, I know where they are and I don't spend extra time waiting for someone else to find them and they're clean and all the pages are there ect. But that's just the way I like to do it I'm sure others will let you know how they do it. I hope this helps and that you succeed no matter which way you choose to go. I always like to see younger guys who want to work in the field instead of the shop.
     
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  6. Dad5

    Dad5 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2011
    Messages:
    79
    Location:
    Nova Scotia
    excavator, perhaps you and others that work as independents can shed a little light on how and where you get service information and diagnostic equipment.
     
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  7. Moonlite

    Moonlite Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2013
    Messages:
    463
    Location:
    Texas
    When I left the rental company I already had a good client list built up and had about $4000 in the bank. I am happier then I was at rental company. It hasn't been all steak and tators. But it's been mostly good. If I hadn't had money saved and a customer base I don't think I would have made it 6 months.
     
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  8. overworked

    overworked Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2011
    Messages:
    760
    Location:
    northeast Pa.
    I took the plung about 10 years ago to have my own buisness, I am very talented and versitile, can do anything from a/c to undercarriage, I must be honesst, I have to be the worst business man and book keeper there is, period. ADHD is BAD. We buy many manuals from ebay, craigs list ect, CAT ET from dealer, make friends with others in the buisness. You can do side work ( not cat ) while at the dealer. Keep customers as customers not friends and remember its all buisness. You do a job, get paid ,do next job. Lots of people will make you think they are doing you a favor giving you work, not true, there is no favor in buisness. Your wife is the best friend you will ever have in your own buisness. Don't ever forget or neglect that little piece of advice.
     
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  9. 1466IH

    1466IH Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2014
    Messages:
    281
    Location:
    prairie du rocher, il
    +1 for everything overworked said. I have adhd bad and the only thing I do is keep my receipts and give them to someone else. I have an accountant and he does all my billing, pays my bills and just let's me know how much or how little is in the bank. I used to go around with my service truck and work for $35/hr because I was just grateful they let me work for them until my truck got to the point where I was having to open the hood and start it with a screwdriver because I was working so cheap I couldn't keep my own stuff maintained. Finally I got to the point where I was like screw this and went and talked to the accountant. Now I charge 80 and still have more work than I can handle. A few guys gave me a hard time about raising my rate and I said then call the dealer, they have never complained again. The winter kind of sucks because I don't have a shop and miss out on a lot of the bigger rebuilds and stuff unless they let me do it in their shop. A lot of customers I am sure get a break on labor from me because I am so bad with paperwork and forget to write down my time and stuff but overall it is working out good. One thing you will definitely like about being on your own especially with a family is the flexibility of your schedule. Another thing is if you leave the dealership don't burn the bridge. You never know when you will need to borrow a specialty tool or something like that. Unless you plan on taking out a ginormous loan do not expect to be able to take on every job. The tools to work on this stuff is very expensive and if you go out and buy the tools to every job when you are starting out you won't be in business long

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I317 using Tapatalk
     
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  10. zack-cat

    zack-cat Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2013
    Messages:
    35
    Occupation:
    Ag mechanic
    Location:
    Hill country texas
    Thanks guys, i really appreciate the input and advise. I've been mulling this whole thing over off and on for almost a year now and think its about time to really start getting things in order to make this happen.

    "Lots of people will make you think they are doing you a favor giving you work, not true, there is no favor in buisness. Your wife is the best friend you will ever have in your own buisness. Don't ever forget or neglect that little piece of advice." Overworked, i think that is about the best advise i have heard in a long time. Thanks.

    Anybody have anything else i would love to hear it! Keep em coming!
     
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  11. theironoracle

    theironoracle Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2012
    Messages:
    934
    Occupation:
    OWNER/OPERATOR MOBILE HEAVY EQUIPMENT REPAIR
    Location:
    PACWEST
    best thing I ever did with my career was to go out on my own. one of most important things I find with being a owner/operator mechanic is being versatile, don't plan on specializing, your good customers will in fact want to use you more for random work for things like equipment which no longer has dealer support. I started with 6 months of operating/living expenses in the bank which I recommend as a goal, but I never dipped into it more than a months worth of expenses. I will only go back to payroll work if I have to, scenarios include catastrophic failure of repair which would not allow me to get insurance anymore or permanent injury that forces me to. I produced a very lengthy business plan which consisted of about 9 pages of work sheets I found in a business plan book, I review them at least every year to see what I planned and how things actually happened. another very important thing I do at least every year is calculate my net worth, I do this because one of my purposes of being in business besides independence is to make money, I find the net worth calculation to be the best measure of what I have "profited" even your taxes returns are less accurate but a good measure, if you sell an asset at the end of the year your "income" will be higher but your net worth could be less. I have much more to say on this subject but will slow down there......TIO
     
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  12. Mobiltech

    Mobiltech Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    1,003
    Occupation:
    Self employed Heavy duty mechanic
    Location:
    Sask.
    When I left my former job I thought if I could work 3 days a week I would be ok with it. It took me a long time to convince myself that there would be enough work to quit my secure position and make a go of it on my own. I started with 10 hour days the first week of being on my own. I then went to 12 hour days sometimes 7 days a week. It took some time to realize that I could not please everyone and had to turn down some jobs. As far as being flexible on work time I would like to think I am but if you work alone you soon realize the work doesn't get done when your not there so planning holidays can be tough. If you have a family you will have to set some guidelines or the family will suffer.
    I had an accountant tell me to raise my rates to cut down on work. I'm up too 100 bucks an hour now and still no complaints and no shortage of work. I know other guys in the area that charge 135 /hr but I don't quite feel comfortable with that.
     
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  13. simonsrplant

    simonsrplant Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2014
    Messages:
    455
    Occupation:
    Heavy Duty Off Road RSE
    Location:
    Alberta CANADA
    Information overload!!! and I'd agree with all of it. Five years I was on my own, I only closed down to look into emigrating and moving abroad. For better work!
    It takes a lot of balls. A lot of commitment. And you and your family will be tested.
    Hats off to you and good luck either way you go and for the future.
     
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  14. JNB

    JNB Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2012
    Messages:
    823
    Occupation:
    Flyin' low and rollin' slow...
    Location:
    North Texas
    I wish you the best of luck. I wish there were more independents around here. I've only found one, and he's yet to return my phone calls.
     
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  15. Mike L

    Mike L Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2010
    Messages:
    610
    Occupation:
    Self employed field mechanic
    Location:
    maine
    look into taking a business management course at your local college, or online. that way you'll have a better understanding of the paperwork end of the business
     
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  16. FSERVICE

    FSERVICE Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2009
    Messages:
    635
    Location:
    indiana
    H&R Block offers a tax course also, that's the first thing to do is find a GOOD ACCOUNTANT cause he/she can make you or loose you a lot of $$$$$$$ fast;) as far as starting on your own. you don't say how many tools you own. you have to think insurance (even with Obama Care) for the family!!! think bout retirement how will you save for it?? I have been self employed for over 20 years & enjoy almost every second of it!!! there is A LOT of responsibility that comes with it especially since you have a family to support. Im going to say something here to give you something to think about (don't take this the wrong way either) if you have only ever worked on Cat equipment, do you think you can work on any of the older logging machines? it takes some time to develop the knowledge to troubleshoot a problem on equipment without a computer port... when you work someplace that has other techs you can make a call to ask for help. if you work for yourself theres no one to call. I think the best advice that was gave here was to start off moonlighting at nights & weekends & see if you are going to like working for yourself, get a client list built up first before you take the plunge. if you enjoy the work after 6months or have more than you can do then it might be time to leave the dealer. around this area I have saw a lot of guys come & go. some were not motivated to work hard, some were just bad business guys. others wanted the security of having a company tell them where to show up every morning to work.. its a very rewarding job & I have made a very good living at it & yes its starting to catch up with me also. wish you the very best of luck at what you decide on!!!
     
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  17. zack-cat

    zack-cat Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2013
    Messages:
    35
    Occupation:
    Ag mechanic
    Location:
    Hill country texas
    Thanks alot FSERVICE, i appreciate the insight from u and the other guys that have already been where im at. As far as tools go i have a pretty full service truck and dont often find myself needing something i dont already have but all the specialty stuff is company bought and kept in the shop, and i know i will have to buy all that. i have thought and considered most everything u said business wise. The part about working on stuff other than CAT is where im worried the most. I mean what do yall do when u get a call on something u never worked on? You cant just turn it away can u? Do u just locate a manual and giver a whirl? I know i cant just charge a customer for spending half a day learning how something works and then beginning troubleshooting.

    I guess ur right though. i need to just break down and buy me an old service truck and start doin some non cat stuff on the side and just see how it goes. I guess if i never just go ahead and get on it i'll never know!
     
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  18. overworked

    overworked Senior Member

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    Jan 18, 2011
    Messages:
    760
    Location:
    northeast Pa.
    When we start with a customer that has a piece we never worked on before, I tell them so and they make the decision, six months ago I never worked on any top drive drills, now we due, one customer just purchased a atlas copco predator series drill, and ordered another, looking forward to seeing where it goes. Just don't be afraid to ask for help, most customers are ready to spend for an hour or to extra from an independent nowing they usually get more personal and timely service than the new guy in the dealer truck.
     
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  19. overworked

    overworked Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2011
    Messages:
    760
    Location:
    northeast Pa.
    When your working on a customers equipment, work on it as it is YOUR own piece, fix it like it is yours, customers will see it quickly and respect it. You won't fix em all the first trip out, plan it out and do the beat you can, nobody is perfect.
     
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  20. barklee

    barklee Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2009
    Messages:
    898
    Location:
    ohio
    I am not in the mobile repair business or the wrenching business but i am a small business owner who relies on mechanics all the time. We own mostly aerials and trust me, most mobile repair guys dont know squat about them! I have a guy i use on my trucks and he will straight up tell you ahead of time that hes not versed in this type of equipment but i use him anyways because he is fair, reasonable, and trustworthy with his billing. It might take him an extra hour to fix something but i know when i get the bill he will make it right. If you know how to work on equipment in general and have a though understanding of cat dirt equipment there isnt much you cant do without a little patience.... Once your name gets around a little and people understand you are timely, thorough, and reasonable it wont matter if you arent an expert on a specific piece. The best advice i can give on dealing with customers is: Do exactly what you say you are going to do, do not leave things undone when you turn the piece back over to the customer. It seems like every guy we deal with (besides one) does this. I had a guy fix the wiring on my semi trailer a few weeks ago and he did fix it but didnt tie the wiring back up under the trailer when he was done... Its always something like that and it is not a confidence builder.
    From a business point of view, i would strongly heed the advice given from others. Have a savings in place!!! At least 4-6 months worth of operating expenses. Line up a business accountant, someone who has an understanding of your business. Together you can develop an expense and accounting plan. This is absolutely critical, feeling your way through this is going to cost you way more money in the long run. Keep detailed records, log everything you do before you move on to the next job. Stay organized, after a long day this is the hardest thing for me to do, but you are only making your life more difficult if you dont. This is the most important business advise i can give...... do not saddle yourself with a bunch of debt to get this off the ground!!! You arent in business to make the bank money, keep it in your pocket.
    From a personal standpoint, a business can take a real strain on a marriage. I have witness my dad get divorced twice and have had my own hands full with the challenges for a long time now. I have a feeling if you are a good mechanic you will have more work than you can do. Its so important to set perimeters to distinguish your business from the home life, so you dont loose everything your working for. Only you know what thats going to take!
    Ultimately you have to choose whether its worth it to accept a mountain of extra responsibility and work to make your life a little better....... Though decision!
     
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