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Old 12-28-2007, 07:58 AM
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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
 
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This thread was split off "Car builder took my money" because, although related to the original topic, this subject really deserves its own thread. This post by MartinSR was edited only to include this explanation so that new readers will be able to understand where this thread picks up. The original thread may be found HERE

Edited by Centerline
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MartinSR's original post follows:


------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have probably posted this here a few times over the years but I thought this thread needed it.

We had a transmission shop in the building where my body shop was that had more Bud cans and case cardboard in the garbage bin than tranny filters! No kidding! The owner would have a Bud can in his hand at eight in the morning! He eventually moved up to crank and ran the business into the ground leaving it and most his tools for who ever wanted them! No kidding!

Brian

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< <<<<<<<

Confessions of a body shop owner.
By Brian Martin


�Anybody know of a good body shop in (enter your city name here)?�, �How do I get my body shop to work on my car?�, �My car is being held for ransom!�, or just simply �Body shop Blues�. I�m sure you have all seen topics similar to these posted. Gentlemen, my name is MARTINSR and I was one of those dirty rotten bastards that would keep your car ten times longer than I promised.

For the guy not doing his own body work or at least not all of it, he is at the mercy of the body shop. It is not a nice position to be in. In fact, it can go down as one of the low points in your life. I have seen horror stories that would make your hair stand on end. A long time customer of mine (he owned about 60 cars and usually had a few in shops around the area at all times) had a car that was held as evidence in a murder. Yep, it had blood splattered on it when one of the shops owners killed the other with a baseball bat!

The following is my generalization of restoration shops that I have owned, seen or worked at. There are exceptions to the rule. Please don�t beat me up if I have rolled your shop into the mix when you are an exception. But, if you do see yourself, I suggest you get down to your neighborhood junior college and take a course or two in business. One of the great myths is that we each think our business is so unique, we can�t learn from a �regular� business class. Well after much instruction and exposure to the business side of things I can tell you, business is BUSINESS. Whether you are running a liqueur store, a cat house, or a body shop, they are all exactly the same. Sales are SALES, period.

So, we can agree a body shop is a business, being a good body man does not make you a good businessman. Restoration shops are usually owned by good body men, not good businessmen. It is very hard to make money doing restoration work, it is very easy to make money doing regular collision work. The business man makes his money doing collision work and tells all the customers with restoration work to go to Joe�s Body shop down the street, he does the restorations. Joe loves doing what he is doing, but seldom makes much money. He is an artist, a true master at his craft. Joe sees things at what they can �become�, not what they �are�. When Joe sees a car he doesn�t see the time it will take to make it the show winner he knows it will be, he only sees it as the show winner. I really don�t believe he means to lie to you when he says it will be done in a month, he is looking at through rose colored glasses, his vision is altered. Like a woman forgets the pain of giving birth, so does Joe when he gazes upon the beautiful car he has carried for nine months (or longer). And when the next rust bucket rolls in, he has forgotten about the hundreds of hours needed, he only sees a luscious rose garden.

Like I said few make a living at restoration or hot rod work. The biggies that you have heard of like Roy Brizio or Boyd Codington all make money with other ventures, not the rod shop. The first time I visited Brizios shop this was very apparent. The rod shop is about 5000 square feet sitting in the middle of a 50,000 square foot building. The rest of the building is Brizios manufacturing business. It is all non auto related by the way. The rod shop is a hobby, I don�t doubt for a second he makes money, but it is a hobby none the less.

So when you go looking for a shop to do your car you have to remember this, you are most likely going to be dealing with an artist. If you think the business end of it is going to go smooth, think again. If you build yourself up and believe everything, you are in for a BIG let down. If you set yourself up for less than that you will be much better off. I suggest getting ready for MUCH, MUCH less and then you will be happy when it only takes five months instead of the ten you got ready for. If he said one month and that is what you are planning, by the time five months rolls around you are ready to kill someone.

These are HUGE generalizations but I have found a few signs that may help you in picking out a shop. If nothing else they will help you understand who you are dealing with.

1. If there is more than one car sitting in the shop covered with dust, this may be a bad sign. If you have been around body shops much you know that dust build up is like the rings in a tree, you can tell by the layers and colors how many YEARS it has been sitting. If there is a car that is being used for storage of misc. boxes and things, bad sign. My brother used to joke that I should bolt a vice on the fender of the car, at least I could get some use out of it! Coyly ask �Cool car, is that yours?� if he says �Naw, it�s a customers�, BAD SIGN. If there are ten stalls in the shop and six have dust covered cars in them, RUN. I shouldn�t have to tell you this one, but if there are guys hanging around with beers in their hands, RUN.


2. How many stalls does he have? I have found that the real restoration/rod shops seem to have only room to have three or four cars at a time. If you only had room to work on three cars, you are going to be damn certain they get out so you can have room for the next. One of the most successful custom shops I have ever seen was a little four stall shop in Pittsburgh California. It is the famous (well at least on the west coast) DeRosa and son Customs. Frank has been around since the fifties making show winning cars. He and his son Frank Jr. do the same today and do it FAST. They a neat, little and clean shop. If you have seen the 2001 DuPont calendar they did the �Cadster�. It was only in the shop for a few weeks. By the way, it doesn�t have DuPont primers on it like the calendar says, Martin Senour primer was used.

3. Does he look at your car like they do at the McPaint shops, you know, all jobs all colors the same price? If he doesn�t take a good long look at the car taking notes, he has no clue what he is doing. He is looking at the car with those rose colored glasses. Every single panel should be examined and noted for the amount of hours needed. If he just looks over the car without doing this he is surely going to be WAY off. If he is way off on how much he is charging you, what incentive does he have to work on it?


So let�s say you have a shop you would like to bring it to, you really need to case the joint. Turn into a stalker and keep an eye on the shop. You know for months that you are going to need a body shop. Watch the shops for months. Drive by during business hours and see if they are actually open. Many of these guys (remember they are not good businessmen) take their open sign as sort of a guide line. If it says 8:00 to 5:00 it is more like 9:15 to 2:00 then 4:25 to 7:00, they can�t get your car done like that. See if any cars leave. If you go by there and see the same cars sitting there and many little jobs going in and out, BAD SIGN. I have to tell you, those little money making collision jobs are dang hard to turn away. If I had a million hour job sitting there and it was the 28th of the month I am going to set it aside for the $800.00 job I can do in two days to pay the rent.

If they don�t allow you to walk around and check the place out, be wary. Look at the paint dept, does he have a booth? Is there junk and open cans all over? Is there many different brands of paint? This is usually not a good sign, he buys anything he can get his hands on. This is many times the sign of a �junior chemist�, they guy that mixes products and doesn�t follow tech sheets.

If you have decided that this is the shop you want to go to, help the poor guy. You �suggest� to him how you want to go about the money part. This is the ONLY way you should do it believe me. Don�t give him a deposit and leave the car. This is darn near a guarantee that your car will be sitting for weeks while he uses that money to buy parts for a high profit collision job or simply pay a long standing bill. Which then leaves your car sitting there with no incentive to work on it.

Here is what you need to do. Tell him that you want to do only ONE of the things on your car, at a time. You want to get a price for all of them maybe so you know what it is headed, but do only one at a time. You will pay him for one step at a time. Not because you don�t trust him, but because YOU are bad with money and that YOU don�t want to leave him hanging after the car is done with no money to pick it up.

This way it is more like he is in control and made the decision. Then you negotiate the time it will take for each step. Let�s say you have patch panels to do on the front fenders. You agree that he will have them done at the end of the week, and that they will cost $200.00. He has something to work for, he knows he will get the money and he actually does it. You go see him on Friday see the work done and give him the $200.00. Then you pick another thing to do. Just as if you were doing these things at home, break them down into bite sized pieces so he can swallow them. If you go in there and find that he hasn�t done it or he has done poor work, you can then say �I am sorry to yank your chain, I don�t have any more money, I just lost my job� and take the car, no body owes a thing. If he does not want to do this, you really need to start rethinking your choice of a shop. Either this or variation of this should be fine with him. If it is not, something is wrong.

If he really wanted to make money he would be doing this. The first restoration job I ever did where I really felt I made money was done just this way. It was a little �58 Bug eye Sprite. I had decided that something had to be done or I would fall into the same trap as before with a car sitting forever. One of the first shops I ever worked at was a full on restoration shop. It broke the rule and was pretty big, with four full time employees. Every car had a time card assigned to it. When you worked on the car, you punched in. Then each month (these were HUGE frame off restorations on 30�s and 40�s vintage Fords) the owner would receive a bill with the times worked. If they couldn�t pay, the car left, period. The guy made money and I finally got smart (after about 12 years in business) and followed his lead. I put a sign on this Bug Eye and would post the hours I spent on it. I told the guy to come by each week. Now, when the guy came in and saw only two hours were spent, he was not very happy. That was a heck of an incentive for me right there I will tell you that! It worked great, I actually got paid for every minute I worked, unlike most restoration projects. And he actually got the car back in close to what I said. It was still late, but not ten times as late as I had done before.

Another thing I highly recommend is to take plenty of photos of the car, really detailed photos. When you drop the car off leave him a copy of them. Letting him know you have a copy. Not threatening like �I am doing this so I can prove you lied to me� more like �I can�t wait to see how different it is and you can have these before shots to show future customers�. Which is true, it is just not the only reason you are doing it. If he is doing a full on restoration for you, I HIGHLY recommend parts like chrome and interior be taken home after he removes them so they don�t get stolen or damaged. You need to have a very close relationship with the shop, if these visits make the guy edgy, you really need to find another shop.

If you have the attitude that you are genuinely interested in how this work is done, not how he will do YOUR car, but just in general. You will find that he will be much more likely to �show off� his talents than if you go in there like an untrusting customer.

Along with these photos you want a VERY detailed work order. Run like the wind if he has no work order. Still run if he has a work order that says �fix dents and rust� as the repairs being done. RUN, I say. You need to have a fully detailed work order, not for legal reasons (wink, wink) but for your own records to show the wife where all the money went. The �wife� is a great way to get things done. You need to come look to see what is done because the wife wants to see. Bring her in there, she has an excuse, she knows nothing right? So you bring her in to see what magic this guy is doing to your car so she can understand why it costs so much. Bring a friend when you drop the car off, be sure he hears everything that is said. Let him or her help you make the decision on leaving it there. Sometimes YOU too can be looking through rose colored glasses. If someone else says they have a bad feeling, LISTEN to them.

There are few things that can compare with returning to a shop to find the place is locked tight and the mail is piling up on the floor where the carrier has dropped it through the slot. I have seen it, it really happens. The good news is it is rare, just take your time and find a shop where you feel comfortable.

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Last edited by Centerline; 12-29-2007 at 07:32 PM. Reason: Other.
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Old 12-28-2007, 08:25 AM
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Marty, I was impressed the first time I saw this, but had to read it a second time to really feel the impact. You should move this to the Wiki section for all to see. Not only does your points tell a lot to a person looking to have work done, but it applies to all of us that are building in our garage, basement, barn or driveway. I think of the early days of just bungling along until the car was finished (put on the road?) and today when I have a Note book with daily plans, work entries along with part numbers, donner cars, sketches and pictures etc. Lessons learned through mistakes are dear lessons and are not often repeated by successful people.

Thanks again for the repost.

Trees
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Old 12-28-2007, 08:36 AM
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I have been trying to get rid of my rose colored glass for a long time. LOL ...Brian, I understand what u r saying totally. More people need to read that ...people from both sides of the fence. Another thing that is happening is the guy wanting one of us to work on his car has been watching to many episodes of overhauling or one of those build it in two minutes shows and they think it can be done that fast in real time. I had a habit of bidding the whole job ahead but now i go by the hour ...one task at a time. It works out so much better. Especially if you run into a rust bucket hiding under bondo after the old paint is striped off. I give a price to take it apart and strip the paint or what ever is there ,then after we go hour by hour. You never know what is there until it is in the raw. Of course the other problem is money ..most people here in my area still think you can do a car for 500 bucks..paint included! Just some thoughts,Tim
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Old 12-28-2007, 08:50 AM
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Today $500.00 bucks.HAHA That don't even buy good paint no more.LOL Brain and Tim You make a good point.
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Old 12-28-2007, 08:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trees
Marty, I was impressed the first time I saw this, but had to read it a second time to really feel the impact. You should move this to the Wiki section for all to see. Not only does your points tell a lot to a person looking to have work done, but it applies to all of us that are building in our garage, basement, barn or driveway. I think of the early days of just bungling along until the car was finished (put on the road?) and today when I have a Note book with daily plans, work entries along with part numbers, donner cars, sketches and pictures etc. Lessons learned through mistakes are dear lessons and are not often repeated by successful people.

Thanks again for the repost.

Trees
Ditto for me. This should be a must read for ANYONE wanting a street rod built. Dan
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Old 12-28-2007, 11:38 AM
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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lets cut it up
I have been trying to get rid of my rose colored glass for a long time. LOL ...Brian, I understand what u r saying totally. More people need to read that ...people from both sides of the fence. Another thing that is happening is the guy wanting one of us to work on his car has been watching to many episodes of overhauling or one of those build it in two minutes shows and they think it can be done that fast in real time. I had a habit of bidding the whole job ahead but now i go by the hour ...one task at a time. It works out so much better. Especially if you run into a rust bucket hiding under bondo after the old paint is striped off. I give a price to take it apart and strip the paint or what ever is there ,then after we go hour by hour. You never know what is there until it is in the raw. Of course the other problem is money ..most people here in my area still think you can do a car for 500 bucks..paint included! Just some thoughts,Tim
Thanks for the kind words guys, that is why I wrote it, to put an inside perspective on it for everyone. Tim, every time I read something I have written I see things I could change and this piece is no exception. I wrote it five years ago and it needs a tune up.

You know, I do "damage analysis" at the shop where I work. This is on late model collision damged cars. Adding EVERY SINGLE turn of the wrench on the repair order and GETTING PAID for it is my job. You can not believe how many jobs will go up an hour or two just 0.2 of an hour at a time on things we used to leave off, doing for nothing.

Restoration or custom work is no different. To bid a custom paint job that ends up changing from the flames going on the hood and the fenders to moving onto the door is going to change the time spent, the materials used, you MUST be paid for that or you will be out of business.

If you are doing restoration work and you find while doing a quarter patch panel that the inner wheel house needs a patch made to repair rust, you MUST be paid for it. It doesn't matter if that patch is tiny, if it will only take you 15 minutes, you MUST get paid for it or you will soon be doing it as a hobby and out of business.

Itemize EVERY SINGLE part removed, itemize EVERY SINGLE dent and ding on the panel, rust spot, seam sealer to remove, ect. You will find that you are giving away a LOT of money.

Brian
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Old 12-28-2007, 12:26 PM
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I run my shop and work by myself. I have room for 6 cars plus my spray booth. I however choose to do 1 customer vehicle at a time. My ragtop is the only "project vehicle in the shop and it is covered with plastic to keep the "layers of dust" off. I work on it on "my time" not business hours. If I need to take a day or part of a day off during the week...I work Saturday or Sunday to make up those hours. My customer's get a minimum of 40 hours per week from me, NO EXCEPTION. This week for example I was off for x-mas..so I worked a full 8 hours last Sunday. Today my Daughter is sick, so I will go in tonight after my wife gets home for 4 or 5 hours, and spend tomorrow there as well. All 3 phone numbers I can be reached at are given to my customers so I may be reached at any time, this is my choice and believe it or not, I rarely get calls at night. My shop gets swept EVERY night, after 5 on "my" time". (my tool room needs organizing though ) I also encourage customers to stop whenever they want, and have yet to have a complaint about a project going slow.

My customer's do change their minds, so I only call the waiting customers 2-3 days out to let them know when to deliver their vehicle. I have had some that do not want to wait, but I would rather not do theirs at all, than to have them ticked off for taking too long because I have too many cars torn down at the same time. This also minimizes chance of losing parts, or mixing them up with other vehicles. With the extra bays I can have every panel on a table at one time spread out with plenty of room to work. I realize the majority do not have this luxury....but my only overhead is the electric and water. My shop is leased for 10 years at 1 dollar per year.(Thanks to my father not needing the building) Brian I took no offense to anything you said, it was excellent advice..... I was just voicing my approach and dedication to my shop and my customer's satisfaction.

Jerry
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Old 12-28-2007, 08:03 PM
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car builder took my money

Quote:
Originally Posted by MARTINSR

Confessions of a body shop owner.
By Brian Martin

my name is MARTINSR and I was one of those dirty rotten bastards...
Sorry Brian but I couldn't finish reading your post in one sitting, I needed to mull it over & come back it. I have never met anyone who would fit your description of the "typical shop" owner. I have been active in the custom car world for almost 30 years. While I agree with a few points you made but most of it is hogwash & maybe even inflammatory. When making general comments about shop you warn people that "these are not good businessmen" & "car was used in a homicide investigation". Let's get real, please tell me you don't actually believe most shop owners are murderers or poor businessmen. If so maybe you need to meet other shop owners. Until now on this post shop owners were referred to as cheats, liars, thieves & such but this is an all-new level. At this rate why not refer to them as mass murderers. I know I'm getting carried away here, sorry, but please, think about what you write.
Your next post actually contradicts this post. In the one post you write that shops should know what it will cost. You tell them to negotiate the cost & get them to do it piece by piece. Your example was $200 for a predetermined amount of work.
Now you write they should be paid for the "extras" that come up.
Quote:
If you are doing restoration work and you find while doing a quarter patch panel that the inner wheelhouse needs a patch made to repair rust, you MUST be paid for it. It doesn't matter if that patch is tiny, if it will only take you 15 minutes, you MUST get paid for it or you will soon be doing it as a hobby and out of business.
The 2 statements do not match. Also, in my opinion if a shop does not know that rust on the outside of the fender usually matches the rust behind it on the wheelhouse, that in itself should be a sign of inexperience.
Do not mean to get down on you too hard but a guy who comes into my shop & says he wants to spend $200 or so per week in my shop as you recommended, is not a customer. I do not know about overhead in other areas of North America but in my area, the overhead is $7+ per square foot per month by the time you figure in electricity, heat, phone, fax, office staff, etc. Just for fun lets do some math, 13 feet X 25 feet (room for a car to be parked with room to work around it, not allowing room for tools) equals 325 square feet or space taken. Multiply 325sq ft by $7 per square foot & it equals $2275 per month for a vehicle parked in the shop. Divide that by 4 weeks (4 is for easy math. This is without calculating out stat holidays & such) & you get $568.75 of hard costs per week. Now you need to add the hourly rate you are paying the body guy, mechanic, technician or etc. In my area their wage is normally around $25/hour. They actually cost you $36.50 per hour due to holiday time, Stat Holidays, sick time, employment benefits, etc. Take the $568.75 of hard costs & divide it by 40 hours/week. That equals $14.22/hour & add the cost of an employee at $36.50 & you get & $50.72 per hour of actual payout to keep the doors open. A shop would need to charge out at $65 to $70/hour to cover themselves for things such as tool breakdown or wear, shop improvements or upkeep & a myriad of other like business license, insurances, unforeseen things like a customer stiffing them for money & not getting paid or being unrightfully sued (ask any shop owner or other businessmen, it does happen). You see when you said the customer should spend $200 in a week, you are saying, have them do about 2.5 hours of work in that week. For the total we came up with we still need to add in the material, welding gas & wire, fillers, etc. Take the weekly overhead of the shop (568.75) & add 2.5 hours of labor at $65/hour & you get $731.25. If you now take the $731.25 & subtract the $200 that the customer (according to your post) did you a favor with, you have just lost $531.25 in 1 week. I could easily see a shop going under if they allowed people who follow that type of advice into their shop to get work done. Wow, to think you were the one who said most shop owners are poor businessmen.
At the end of your last post you said the owner should itemize every dent, rust spot, seam sealer, etc & he will find you are giving away a LOT of money. Which one is it? Are most shop owners crooks or possibly murderers or are they giving away a LOT of money?
Enough said.
As I said earlier Brian, I do like a few of your comments, but only a few. Sorry

On all big jobs in my shop, a customer spends a minimum of $2500 per week or we can not even take the job in because we would loose money on it. If a job is smaller than that, it comes in, the job gets done & must be removed right away. If a customer can not play by those rules, he/she can not have us do the job & must go elsewhere. The customer pays up front for all work. If he/she has overpaid, he/she gets a refund. We have seen too many shops get screwed for us to take that chance.

To the rest of you hotrodders, sorry for barking. It is not my norm to bark but I have been watching this post & it seems to me that it has had a bunch of lashing out at custom shops in general. Horror stories & a bunch of horrible advise has been given that will guarantee you a bad experience in any shop. If a shop owner where to put a post up of how bad a customer can be, there would be just as many horror stories in it. Most people would have asked to have it removed from this site by now.

All in all, most shops will treat you with respect & give you a good deal. Make sure to do your homework on the shop & you will do fine.
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Old 12-28-2007, 08:45 PM
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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LS-57
Sorry Brian but I couldn't finish reading your post in one sitting, I needed to mull it over & come back it. I have never met anyone who would fit your description of the "typical shop" owner. I have been active in the custom car world for almost 30 years. While I agree with a few points you made but most of it is hogwash & maybe even inflammatory. When making general comments about shop you warn people that "these are not good businessmen" & "car was used in a homicide investigation". Let's get real, please tell me you don't actually believe most shop owners are murderers or poor businessmen. If so maybe you need to meet other shop owners. Until now on this post shop owners were referred to as cheats, liars, thieves & such but this is an all-new level. At this rate why not refer to them as mass murderers. I know I'm getting carried away here, sorry, but please, think about what you write.
Your next post actually contradicts this post. In the one post you write that shops should know what it will cost. You tell them to negotiate the cost & get them to do it piece by piece. Your example was $200 for a predetermined amount of work.
Now you write they should be paid for the "extras" that come up.

The 2 statements do not match. Also, in my opinion if a shop does not know that rust on the outside of the fender usually matches the rust behind it on the wheelhouse, that in itself should be a sign of inexperience.
Do not mean to get down on you too hard but a guy who comes into my shop & says he wants to spend $200 or so per week in my shop as you recommended, is not a customer. I do not know about overhead in other areas of North America but in my area, the overhead is $7+ per square foot per month by the time you figure in electricity, heat, phone, fax, office staff, etc. Just for fun lets do some math, 13 feet X 25 feet (room for a car to be parked with room to work around it, not allowing room for tools) equals 325 square feet or space taken. Multiply 325sq ft by $7 per square foot & it equals $2275 per month for a vehicle parked in the shop. Divide that by 4 weeks (4 is for easy math. This is without calculating out stat holidays & such) & you get $568.75 of hard costs per week. Now you need to add the hourly rate you are paying the body guy, mechanic, technician or etc. In my area their wage is normally around $25/hour. They actually cost you $36.50 per hour due to holiday time, Stat Holidays, sick time, employment benefits, etc. Take the $568.75 of hard costs & divide it by 40 hours/week. That equals $14.22/hour & add the cost of an employee at $36.50 & you get & $50.72 per hour of actual payout to keep the doors open. A shop would need to charge out at $65 to $70/hour to cover themselves for things such as tool breakdown or wear, shop improvements or upkeep & a myriad of other like business license, insurances, unforeseen things like a customer stiffing them for money & not getting paid or being unrightfully sued (ask any shop owner or other businessmen, it does happen). You see when you said the customer should spend $200 in a week, you are saying, have them do about 2.5 hours of work in that week. For the total we came up with we still need to add in the material, welding gas & wire, fillers, etc. Take the weekly overhead of the shop (568.75) & add 2.5 hours of labor at $65/hour & you get $731.25. If you now take the $731.25 & subtract the $200 that the customer (according to your post) did you a favor with, you have just lost $531.25 in 1 week. I could easily see a shop going under if they allowed people who follow that type of advice into their shop to get work done. Wow, to think you were the one who said most shop owners are poor businessmen.
At the end of your last post you said the owner should itemize every dent, rust spot, seam sealer, etc & he will find you are giving away a LOT of money. Which one is it? Are most shop owners crooks or possibly murderers or are they giving away a LOT of money?
Enough said.
As I said earlier Brian, I do like a few of your comments, but only a few. Sorry

On all big jobs in my shop, a customer spends a minimum of $2500 per week or we can not even take the job in because we would loose money on it. If a job is smaller than that, it comes in, the job gets done & must be removed right away. If a customer can not play by those rules, he/she can not have us do the job & must go elsewhere. The customer pays up front for all work. If he/she has overpaid, he/she gets a refund. We have seen too many shops get screwed for us to take that chance.

To the rest of you hotrodders, sorry for barking. It is not my norm to bark but I have been watching this post & it seems to me that it has had a bunch of lashing out at custom shops in general. Horror stories & a bunch of horrible advise has been given that will guarantee you a bad experience in any shop. If a shop owner where to put a post up of how bad a customer can be, there would be just as many horror stories in it. Most people would have asked to have it removed from this site by now.

All in all, most shops will treat you with respect & give you a good deal. Make sure to do your homework on the shop & you will do fine.

LS-57 (if that IS your real name), I have been in HUNDREDS of shops and the simple math that you laid out is simply not what most restoration shop owners understand. Is that "knocking" every restoration shop owner, not unless you are missy sensitive Nelly. I have been in MANY, MANY restoration shops that fit all the bad traits I laid out, are you saying I never really saw them? I WAS ONE OF THEM!! If you don't fit into that catagory, I am happy for you. But you must have not been around many others!

I have also been in a number of them that are not like I describe, so what is your point?

Yes, there are plenty of customer horror stories. And you know what, MOST of the time it is related to the shop owner not doing HIS business! I have seen it, I have heard it, I have witnessed it PERSONALLY. Say for instance the customer horror story that I am sure you have heard many times about the customer who complained that the color his car was painted was not what he "expected"? The owner of the shop will stand around the paint store water cooler complaining with his fellow shop owners about that one! But never did the shop owner spray out the color on to a test panel and have the customer sign it. THAT would have cured that little problem.

On the $200 a week, I am glad you have all those high dollar jobs, not all guys can spend a months pay a week on his car. Most are spending a little extra overtime money. If you can't accommodate them, that is fine it is your business. The $200 a week was more of an example anyway. That number is going to be different for everyone. Some shops would be fine with it, others not.


And if you don't get paid for what you do, YOU ARE NOT A GOOD BUSINESSMAN. I am not saying lie to the customer to get them in the door and then pump it up. I am simply saying that YOU GET PAID FOR WHAT YOU DO. If you find more rust on a car you are working on, you don't tell the customer and get paid for it? You are kidding me right?

"Inexperiance", yeah sure to some extent. But there are things that are impossible to know. If you are soooooooo good at all this than you shouldn't be taking what I said so personal. You should be nodding you head in agreement.

On the giving away of services, that is my advice, don't do it. That is bad business, how could that be confusing? Most restoration shops DO give stuff away, THAT is not a good thing for the customer. They loose money on the job AND keep it forever.

You need to read it again without your black colored glasses and you may see that it is not all gloom and doom and calling shop owners murderers.

I am sorry it didn't make your top ten list this year.


Brian
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Old 12-28-2007, 09:04 PM
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You know what just hit me? LS (if I can call you that), you may have not liked my article but you actually complemented my business practices. It seems I was not half as screwed up as I thought I was when I had my shop. Who would have known.

Brian
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Old 12-28-2007, 09:33 PM
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LS-57 your numbers and "shop theory" is sound, and the way things SHOULD be; but this is the real world of custom work. In that world, I would wager that 95-percent of the time Brian put the dart in the bullseye. I'll admit it, he located me, served me, tried me, and convicted me, in it!!! I had a really, really, rough year (personal tragedies and business failures) and that write-up basically summed up the conclusion I had already come to about my own life; and what went wrong with it.

I am the STARVING artist, the dreamer, the skillful one who discarded all manner of sound business practice. The sad part is I knew better! Before I ever opened the doors of my own business I was schooled by my (formally trained) older brother in our family restaurant/bar business. I knew how to put it all on paper just lke LS-57 described and make the day-to-day decisions and activities line up to that plan - BUT I DIDN'T DO IT!!! I was "star struck" by the raw possibility of every opportunity that came my way. They all left late, money was always an issue, I have had more than my fair share of disgruntled customers, and I am on the verge of making some MAJOR changes that will have me doing something different on a daily basis to put the bread on the table.

The key to Brian's whole article to me is that for the typical shop owner he speaks of, it is more of an art than a business. Art is subjective. Good art is the product of passion. Principles are solid and stable, but passion is not always the best foundation to build upon.

Last edited by toddshotrods; 12-28-2007 at 09:40 PM. Reason: clarity and typos
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Old 12-29-2007, 08:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MARTINSR
I have probably posted this here a few times over the years but I thought this thread needed it.
Not really , but if you like to see your stuff take up a whole page........

Quote:
Originally Posted by MARTINSR
Well after much instruction and exposure to the business side of things I can tell you, business is BUSINESS. Whether you are running a liqueur store, a cat house, or a body shop, they are all exactly the same. Sales are SALES, period.........
\flash forward/
When you go looking for a shop to do your car you have to remember this, you are most likely going to be dealing with an artist. If you think the business end of it is going to go smooth, think again. If you build yourself up and believe everything, you are in for a BIG let down. If you set yourself up for less than that you will be much better off. I suggest getting ready for MUCH, MUCH less and then you will be happy when it only takes five months instead of the ten you got ready for. If he said one month and that is what you are planning, by the time five months rolls around you are ready to kill someone.
so ,what is it , businessman , or artist?

I don't think the 'hands-on' community of HotRodding really needs a Bible on how to avoid seedy body shops.
There is no way the shops you described would stay in business for too long.
I found that 95% of my friends take their cars and trucks to shops that have good word-of-mouth advertising. Not too many burns in the circle , either.
This thread was started by someone who gave 20 grand to a "car builder" and got stuck in the backside for it. Not someone looking to avoid bad businesses( like your old one )
If I ran my advertising business , or my construction endeavor like you describe , where people should " expect much less " than what I describe , then who would want me to work for them ?
If more people just used common sense , the world would be a better place for it.

Last edited by Centerline; 12-29-2007 at 10:16 AM. Reason: Other.
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Old 12-29-2007, 09:15 AM
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You know 79C10 (if that really is your name), you may complain about how much I posted, but you read it! The problem is, you didn't pass the Eveln Woods Speed reading course and you miss concepts.

When the entire article is targeting the customer, not the shop owner. In reference to "expect much less" that is for the customer going to your advertising business (it still makes me chuckle that you think that all your slogans are "honest" it's the rest of the ad that is deceitful. ). As for how YOU should treat your customer, I have a simple formula for that "Give them MORE than they expected, for less money when possible".

Now, I am going to get LS-57 saying "You want to charge for every little thing but you want to give them "more than they expected for less money"? HUH???? I know that is coming.

No, that is where the experiance you mentioned comes in. You give an honest bid, with a VERY itemized work order counting every single 0.2 of an hour. You do this work and if you did your homework you will do it for less time than your estimated, putting your GP on labor at a place that you can discount it a few bucks upon delivery....thus giving them the job for less money than they expected.

So you see 79, you too are looking thru those same black colored glasses as LS. You find fault in everything I write, you take things personal and you miss the main point of the whole thing.

Does this article perfectly fit the "car builder stole my money"? That is up to debate, I thought it did, if you don't, I am sorry.

Brian
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Old 12-29-2007, 09:45 AM
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A year ago I might have had a problem with Brian's write-up as well, but hitting bottom has a way of pulling the scales off your eyes and letting you see things you never saw before. If you don't see yourself in that write-up it's either because it doesn't apply to you (because you have your act together), or you aren't at the point where you can see yourself yet. Either way just put it in your back pocket and keep on stepping.

If you're really good at the business end of what you do, and it never applies to you, you might meet someone one day who can use that advice and pass it on. Because your venture or projects work as planned it's insight into why someone else's might not be - that you wouldn't have seen from your perspective.

If you find yourself on the losing end of the stick (either as a customer or shop owner) and still don't see yourself in his write-up, just hang onto it - it may come in handy one day. Ironically, I have even shared some of main points he made with other struggling shop owners over the years but couldn't "see" that I was in the same boat with them.

Why bicker over it? If you disagree with it, maybe it just isn't for you, but you can't say it's invalid. I am telling you from firsthand experience that his write-up is dead on, for certain people. For the original poster in this thread, it could have saved him a LOT of headaches.
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Old 12-29-2007, 10:48 AM
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Car builder took my money

Well it seems as if I ruffled the features of Martinsr. Not my intention but it was expected. You see Martin, I don't think you have changed from what you were when you owned your shop. You are now on the other side of the fence doing the same thing but now it is to the shops you are surrounded by. You yourself mention in your response that you go to hundreds of shops that are the way you described yourself to be in the past. Wow, is that realistic?
When I called you on a few of your inconsistencies and poor recommendations, you lashed out at me. Now 79C10 disagrees with you & you do the same to him, check out your response.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MARTINSR
You know 79C10 (if that really is your name), you may complain about how much I posted, but you read it! The problem is, you didn't pass the Eveln Woods Speed reading course and you miss concepts.
Well is that not a fine how do you do? Just like what you did to me, you make fun of his user name, insinuating he is hiding behind it. Then you try to insult him with not meeting what I am guessing are your reading credentials. Wow, not bad for a few minutes work.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MARTINSR
(it still makes me chuckle that you think that all your slogans are "honest" it's the rest of the ad that is deceitful. ).
Do you know 79C10 personally? How can you make this statement if you do not? Not everyone is like you, most people are honest & like to do things straight up.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MARTINSR
Now, I am going to get LS-57 saying "You want to charge for every little thing but you want to give them "more than they expected for less money"? HUH???? I know that is coming.
Those are your words not mine. I would say make up your mind which advise you want to give a consumer & stick to it. If you realize you made a mistake, the way it looks as if your are starting to realize in your post yesterday, then retract what you said & move forward. Real men do it that way because we know none of us are perfect.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MARTINSR
You give an honest bid ....... putting your GP on labor at a place that you can discount it a few bucks upon delivery....thus giving them the job for less money than they expected.
You start by saying "honest bid", then you go on to say "putting your GP on labor at a place that you can discount it a few bucks upon delivery". I don't understand how you can say that. I realize it is common practice to do but it is not honest. You say you have changed?
Quote:
Originally Posted by MARTINSR
So you see 79, you too are looking thru those same black colored glasses as LS. You find fault in everything I write, you take things personal and you miss the main point of the whole thing.
Again Do you always make friends this fast? How can one disagree with you without it being a fight?
I am not "missy sensitive Nelly" as you suggest but I wonder if you are. Take a hard look at your responses to the posts when someone doesn't agree with you. The first thing that happens is they get verbally spanked . It is OK to not agree with me or others but you should remain respectful

Now to redirect you to what I said yesterday to help you understand it. You recommend that customers have a shop give a big estimate then break down the job into bite size pieces. The shop is now estimating the job as if they will do all the work at the same time. Then you recommend that the customer gives it to the shop a piece at a time. That is deceitful. A shop estimates a job based on the car being in the shop & doing one job after the other & in many cases a few things at the same time making it a bit more efficient. The roll of the shop is to give the best value to a customer as possible. If we are applying filler for example to one area of the car, it only makes sense to apply it to more areas that one, it makes it more efficient & saves the customer money & thus giving a better value. If we are priming a car, most of it gets done at the same time, again in keeping with giving the customer a better value. To break it down into small jobs cost much more than to do it all at the same time. If a shop estimates a bunch of work but does it a piece at a time, the estimate can not be followed. It is also the shops responsibility to explain this to the customer if they choose to do it that way. It is the only way a shop can make enough money to be around for when the customer wants to have more work done or in the event of a warranty issue. Yes Martin, there are many honest shops who give a warranty & honor it aswell.
In your reply to me you mentioned the size of the jobs in my shop. I am sorry but you misunderstood what I was saying. Check the math again & you will see that what I was saying is that the example is what it takes to stay in business not to show the size of any job. That is irrelevant to this discussion. This is in any business not just the custom car business. We market ourselves as easy going guys that happen to be car nuts, much the same as the customer is. If a big job comes in that is great but if a small job comes in, we still need to pay the bills. That is why the example was given.
For a guy who throws accusations of others being "poor businessmen & ......." you should be able to understand that on my first attempt, especially being a writer.
So you see my friend, you don't have to agree with me, that is OK. You should on the other hand not give poor advise to unsuspecting customers.
Please do not misunderstand this is not about a "missy sensitive Nelly" but rather the showing of facts. If you think that "hundreds of shops you go to" do not have the business sense to stay in business or whatever it is you are trying to say, than leave this post as it is. My response shows the other side of the story, the business end of it. It does not need to be lashed out against or made fun of. It was intended to help customers realize why it is that some shops do not survive. You see my friend we can agree on some things & be on the same page, even if we do not agree on all details.
Have a great day.
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