How to start a motorcycle workshop business?

If you have a passion for riding motorcycles then at some point you’d like the idea of making your favourite pastime into a full time occupation. If you like fixing things and working on bikes then you may have the notion that you’d like to open up a motorcycle workshop and live out your days looking through those rose tinted spectacles covered in an oily mist…but is the fantasy anything like reality.

Many people want to start a business because they think they’ll have a easier time than working for somebody else. However anyone who has ever had a business will tell you that the one thing it isn’t is easy, nor is it something that you can switch off from either. Being any kind of business owner is an all consuming affair and many don’t realise that what you should prepare yourself for is more of the ‘business’ aspect and much less of the technical aspect of what you think you’ll enjoy.

As with anything in life you need to have clear goals and a strategy before even embarking on a motorcycle business. You should work within your knowledge base but be always willing to learn new aspects and embrace new ideas but fundamentally you need to know that your time is being wisely spent earning money and limiting the associated costs…whatever they might be…Oh yesss…the ol’ profit and loss!

Many people are put off from starting in business because they think they would not be able to offer a service to all potential customers…but that should not be your default position either. Specialising in a particular area might be the way to go first of all. Perhaps in time expand to perform other tasks or even employ another person for other tasks. You as the business owner take care of the business, and find the right people to do the jobs that you cannot.

Usually what cripples any business before it even starts are the business set up and running costs that have nothing to do with the daily running per say. Workshop rental/lease, business taxes, insurance and permits, refuse collection and hazardous material disposal…that’s before you even turn a wrench. Then it’s the supplies to perform the tasks and you just hope you have enough customers coming through the door to make a go of it. If you don’t then you’ll be looking at advertising costs too which can either be money well spent or your hard earned dosh vanishing down the drain.

What we should learn very quickly is that being in business can ruin a hobby, so perhaps sometimes it’s best not to make your passion into your day job but possibly make some aspect of it into one.

Let’s just say you love building custom cafe racers for yourself…well that might be great at your home garage at weekends and evenings but it might be the worst idea for a long term business. However offering servicing, pipe bending or welding services for motorcycle applications might be a better strategy.

You may have a lot of experience on one particular motorcycle or brand of motorcycles, then set up as a specialistic of that bike or era of bikes. Perhaps you don’t even have the skill set or experience for the most technical jobs but you could do basic servicing, wheel and tyres, basic brakes etc

My point here is that you don’t necessarily need to cover the whole motorcycle spectrum to launch a successful business, nor do you necessarily need to do all the work yourself either. You start a motorcycle business to be a business owner and not somebody who just wants to work for themselves.

What I hear many times from start up projects is where great expense has been made in new tools and the workshop equipment which adds to the financial burden too. This great expense can be minimised by not buying new in the first instance or only buying what you’ll need in the immediate future, until you build up your business to make for expansion.

Finally you start up a business believing that you’ll have more time on your hands but in fact you’ll have less but what you will have more of is…stress! Now you can either suffer with that or thrive upon it but make no mistake it will be there, especially if customers are not so readily available.

Customers are easy to find…well I mean to say that friends and family will likely want your services for free or huge discounts…but that is a sure way to go out of business in a heart beat. Paying customers are harder to find and even harder to keep to make them come back for more. You can only rely upon your integrity and your ability to deliver a good service at a competitive rate too. Remember you need to earn a profit too to pay for all of those expenses that most people do not realise even exist.

The trick is to make people believe they are getting a good deal with a better customer service and a similar or better product too. Lots of people who own bikes will often bemoan about garage prices but they fail to understand the full expenditure behind the operation too. Hence why you need to put yourself in the mind of the customer and what they expect from you, what you can deliver and ultimately what they are willing to pay too.

Sometimes that will mean that you lose customers before they even walk through the door but good communication, honesty and good service delivery will at least start you off in the right position. Whatever you choose to do, start off with modest ambitions in terms of expenditure and fully understand what your customers are coming to you for, what service you can deliver and what profits you can make that will cover all of your expenses.

Having a full appreciation of all of this will help you to tackle the final and possibly the most important aspect of business ownership…record keeping and accounts! This aspect of business ownership is probably what most dread and which takes up a large amount of time too.

As with any business strategy it is important to be organised and disciplined with your book keeping. It may be a daily task that you need to keep on top of. However this understanding here is where you should focus much of your early research and efforts as this is where the business will either succeed or fail. where you’ll know when to invest or cut your losses…or know which jobs pay the best and which produce the least return.

Starting a motorcycle business is less about the turning of wrenches but more about having a good understanding of business strategy and simply aiming to earn more than you spend in the most efficient way possible.

Good hunting!

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