Volume I, Issue 4, Page 10


I just returned from the SEMA Show a couple weeks ago, as did many others, and while walking around the show floor, it was interesting to just look at the booths and see the businesses that were represented. There were booths of many sizes, and they displayed their businesses very well.

I think that it would be safe to say that all of these businesses were started by someone with an idea. Even GM and Ford were started that way, but that is a different story for another time. This story is about the regular guy, someone like you or me, who thinks “I could make these or those parts and sell them to other shops” or “I could work on hot rods.” That enthusiast has probably built cars for himself, or made parts for his friends (hopefully the parts worked and they are still his friends). Then he starts working on someone else’s car. He completes it, and the guy is happy, so he thinks “that was easier than I thought.” Or maybe he tries making something out of his garage and sells some to his friends and their friends. The notion comes along again that this is easier than he figured, so he continues and makes some more or makes another item. Pretty soon the word is out that he has some very cool parts and a lot of guys want them. He is suddenly kind of busy making parts every evening and every Saturday. Then he decides to put an ad in the local newspaper or parts flyer. The phone starts ringing and more orders come in. He is on a roll.

All this is really exciting, until that inevitable day when his wife starts complaining about the invoices that are always on the kitchen table. The guy is working his heart out in the garage, along with going to his day job. It is time for a decision. Can he really make a living doing this? With steady income, insurance and time off, it is really a tall order. He has overcome higher hurdles than this in the past, so why not this time. Besides, it would be really cool to do what he really loves, working on cars or making parts for them for a living. He takes the plunge, and he is in business.

This is just what most of us went through when we decided to start our own businesses. Possibly we were working for a picky boss (probably someone just like we eventually became), or we were just bored at work and were looking for something that would seem interesting and truly rewarding. I think most of us chose the latter. But let’s go back to the story and see the progress.

The guy has serviced a few cars by now. He is getting a good reputation in the industry. All of a sudden his second customer, from two years ago, comes waking in the door, not with a smile on his face. The motor mounts that were installed are not in exactly the right place on his chassis. He says he thought he told you that he wanted small-block mounts, and thought that he might change them later to LS1 mounts. Now he is sure he told you LS1, so here you are working for free to keep the customer happy. Boy, you begin to think, “whatever happened to the great time having your own business used to be.” Or maybe you are manufacturing a product and you have now hired a worker to do the welding so you can answer the phones and do all the paperwork that is now required. All of a sudden you find out that he welded all the left hand brackets backwards and they are now scrap, even though you showed him how to weld them. This business stuff is harder than it appears. Maybe your old job wasn’t so bad after all. But you push ahead and the successes outweighs the failures and you stay in business. Eventually you figure out how to manage this rocket ship you are on and things settle in place. You can actually now say you are in business.

All this brought back memories of when I started mine. I had just finished my third hot rod, a `33 Ford coupe (it has a small-block Chevy, so don’t worry). I had fabricated most of the parts on the car myself, because when I built it, there were no internal door hinge kits, or any other kits for anything else back then. I also built many parts for my buddy’s cars, since I had a full fab shop in my garage. I was at the first rod event with the finished car and a friend who owns a paint shop saw the car and asked me “Now what are you going to do?” He suggested that I make parts and sell them. He offered to sell some of then through his shop. His words were that I would “probably do good.” He didn’t tell me about all the “fun” I would have doing it. About all the production problems, and all the shipping errors. But all in all, I am glad that I did make the choice to start the business. It is very rewarding when someone comes up to me at a show and tells me “Your front end is really great. Thanks." That is what it is all about!  


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