Jump to content

Continuing in the restoration business. Please read


Recommended Posts

Hello, I am the former shop foreman and tech from Dave Lewis Restoration in springfield illinois. As you may know , Dave was quite well known for restorations of pre war buicks as well as other models. He did much for the buick collector car hobby over the years. Sadly Dave fell ill and passed earlier this summer. What a tragedy for his wife , family and all who were close to him. The decision was made to close the doors on the restoration shop. After much consideration myself and the other tech have decided we would like to carry on with the restoration of classic cars just as we did at Dave's. Same caliber of work as we did there , pebble beach to street driver ,mechanical service rebuilds wiring work etc. We are quite familiar with 30s era buicks as we have done many of them. Before we hold our noses and jump in to this business venture , I would appreciate any feedback you may have. Share your thoughts. Is there a demand to fill the void left by the closing of this shop? Thank you so much. RS59

Link to post
Share on other sites

My experience is that the contact list is like gold, if the business was successful, that would be the most valuable part, so if you can get that, it will give you a head start.

Also, if you were in the habit of doing a lot of regular maintenence work for a number of customers, they would be good ones to have, as it could provide a bit of semi regular cash flow. If you could hang on to the one wanting the major restoration, that, plus some regulars would be a decent start. My opinion, only of course.

Keith

Link to post
Share on other sites

1939 called it. I've been on the different sides of restoration, from a worker in a shop, to working contract work for shops, to doing it on my own. A very good business manager is essential, or the business will probably fail. Billing, cash flow, invoices vs. customer resources, and so forth.

There is always a demand for fine craftsmen, and their work is paid for appropriately if handled as a business...

Link to post
Share on other sites

The ability to restore a car and the ability to run a small business are two entirely separate skill sets. If you're serious about continuing the shop and have not owned/managed a business before, I recommend you get in touch with the local chapter of SCORE ( https://springfieldil.score.org/chapters/score-springfield-il ). This group is a non-profit made up of retired executives who help small businesses by mentoring the owners. I know a few people in other areas who have benefited greatly from their work.

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is all good advice. I do not consider myself a "smart business man" as I have been around a few and they all possess a skil set that I was not blessed with. However , I am in talks with a man whom I've been employed by in the past, and trust , who owns the busiest collision shop in our area. He may be interested in this as a side line division of his current business. Essentially we would be employed by him but run the day to day operations of the resto business.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Rocketsled:

Yeah, it sounds like being incorporated into a larger business is what you might want to do, but keep in mind the way you described it, it won't be "your" business even though you are defacto running it so you may not be able to do the things you might want to do. Also, since you are bringing something to the table, i.e. your skill and contacts, I would not just go over to this guy as an employee. Once you do that and he establishes the "new" shop you may find yourself expendable. I would do something like have a direct contract with the guy, or you form an LLC and have him contract with your business, providing space or whatever you agree to. Get legal advice, it's worth every dollar. You want to protect yourself, he may be a great friend but in the end Business is Business.

I have no experience with resto businesses other than a customer, but I grew up with my family running a small (~4 employees) service business and I learned a lot about it from my Dad. FWIW here are some other thoughts in no particular order:

1. The Lewis business is closing, but are they selling it or just closing the doors? If they are selling it as an entity and you could buy it as a whole it would make it easier to start.

2. You mentioned the email/customer list. This is vital. If they want $ for it, pay it unless they put an exorbitant price on it.

3. Someone above mentioned trying to keep the old name. If you can, try to work a deal with the heirs to enable you to keep using the name, for a limited time at least - maybe a year or 2. Then you can transition once your reputation is established.

4. In any case, any arrangements you have with the heirs need to be in writing in a contract so there are no misunderstandings. A lawyer is necessary here.

5. Capital equipment. Is there any in the old shop that you need? Try to work out something so you have right of first refusal. They may want to sell it as a single entity, if so try to meet their price and then you can part out and resell what you don't need later.

6. Shop/lease. If the old shop was in commercial space and they had a good deal, see if you can carry on in the old location, at least for a while. It helps with the transition, once you have rebranded you can go where you want and your customers will follow. Also if you buy the capital equip you won't have to pay to move it right away.

7. Money. You are going to need enough to carry you for a while, you don't want to be dodging your landlord's calls right from the start.

Hope this wasn't a downer - my Dad ran his business for almost 30 years and did pretty well. And he really, really enjoyed being his own boss. Good luck!

Cheers, Dave

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry to hear about Dave's passing. Dave and you guys in his shop did a fabulous job on the complete restoration of my '34 Buick 66C which was finished in August 2013. If you need any photos, I'll be happy to send some. Good luck with whatever you decide.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Dave thanks for the great advice. Unfortunately the capital for start up is not at my disposal. This job loss has been a tough blow to my wife and I. The only way I can see to make a go of this is with the man who can make it happen , financially and logistically , if not then I'm very unsure what my future will hold. Likewise for the other tech.

Mart S. Thanks for the vote of confidence Your car was one of my favorites and we were all proud of it. It is truly stunning. Hope all is well

Link to post
Share on other sites

Rocketsled, if you and the other tech are able to bring enough to the table, with the contacts, expertise, etc., plus it sounds like you know many of the customers from your time working with them, perhaps you can work out some kind of partnership with the other gentleman, without start up capital, so that you are not simply and employee. I know what that's like, as I had some ideas to start my own business in the past, but couldn't for that very reason, you need money to start, and money to live on till it's paying for itself. I now run my own business, nothing to do with cars though, but it was money from my Dad's estate that I used to start it up. Not getting rich, but it's doing alright, and as someone else said, its' nice being ones own boss. Well, the customers are the boss, but that's the way it should be.

I would also add that I think legal advice is well worth it, I did that when setting myself up and it advoided some pitfalls.

Keith

Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting comment on legal advice.

One might think you have a "gentleman's agreement" on a restoration, but I can tell you of a couple of lawsuits that cost the restoration shops involved big bucks. Well, actually, I won't tell you specifics, but they happened....

Even if you're in the right, the cost to prove it in our wonderful legal system can be staggering.

Make sure you have legal contracts with your customers which protect you as far as they can, and good liability insurance beyond that...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Rocketsled,

I would like to piggy back on what Keith said: simply put, you can't go into business without the man with the money and business know-how but he can't go into this line of work without you. He needs you just like you need him, hence you should be a partner not an employee. Talk to a lawyer before you get into a deal. My $.02

Dave

Link to post
Share on other sites

Buicknutty , I would like to somehow have a little stake in this. But at the same time it's nice to take home a paycheck every week too. I was content doing that at Dave's shop. I just want to continue in this business. As far as the legals are concerned. I've seen some crazy things happen. Things that have cost the shop lots of money . That stuff scares me

Link to post
Share on other sites

His wife has closed the business. The phone is shut off and she has no plans to reopen or sell the business to my knowledge. She has told me she will give me contacts. I've not asked about referring to his name in an ad. We really aren't taking over the business Just trying to offer our services to any customers that now can't take their car to that shop. I only mentioned his name here because I feel he was well known enough to make reference to him. I don't want to run around using his name for my benefit. I have too much respect for him and his family. And yes same painter.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a business related to the operations of capital equipment in buildings, kind of like assessing a restoration job.

When we started there were a lot of options on the financial side; payroll services, bookkeeping,and the like. I found one accountant who was willing to give me an hourly rate and meet for one hour each month to discuss any financial facet of the business and direct me on where to send the checks I never would have thought of. We only spend a couple thousand a year with her and every time I walk up to her door I am thankful because no black suburbans have pulled into my driveway. That is the best investment I have made since Pacific Rim was booming.

No matter how few employees you have, always display an Organization Chart, an inverted triangle, customer at the top, you at the bottom. That gives you a perspective many have lost sight of.

Bernie

Edited by 60FlatTop (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites
I have a business related to the operations of capital equipment in buildings, kind of like assessing a restoration job.

When we started there were a lot of options on the financial side; payroll services, bookkeeping,and the like. I found one accountant who was willing to give me an hourly rate and meet for one hour each month to discuss any financial facet of the business and direct me on where to send the checks I never would have thought of. We only spend a couple thousand a year with her and every time I walk up to her door I am thankful because no black suburbans have pulled into my driveway. That is the best investment I have made since Pacific Rim was booming.

No matter how few employees you have, always display an Organization Chart, an inverted triangle, customer at the top, you at the bottom. That gives you a perspective many have lost sight of.

Bernie

Cheap for the peace of mind , as long as they are reputable. I've heard many a horror story about dishonest bookkeepers. And you are correct about the customer. No customer...no work...no income.

Link to post
Share on other sites
If you don't mind, can you tell us how does the family feels about all this , you kind of taking the business over and using his name to recruit his former customers ? Are they willing to help you ? tx

Very good Rocketsled, Good luck with everything. i also will letthe guys around me know . Im considering doimg a job on my 37 . So keep us informed.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I use an accountant that worked for me when I was the manager at a business. She is very fair, and helped with the start up of my business, and I still use her for my accounting. I knew she did a good job when she worked part time (the business wan't big enough tp justifiy a full time accountant) running that business. Certainly there are ones that are either incompetent or dishonest, so just like in the reatoration business word of mouth is the best way to sort the wheat from the chaff.

I trully hope that you can make a success from this.

Keith

Link to post
Share on other sites
I use an accountant that worked for me when I was the manager at a business. She is very fair, and helped with the start up of my business, and I still use her for my accounting. I knew she did a good job when she worked part time (the business wan't big enough tp justifiy a full time accountant) running that business. Certainly there are ones that are either incompetent or dishonest, so just like in the reatoration business word of mouth is the best way to sort the wheat from the chaff.

I trully hope that you can make a success from this.

Keith

Thank you

Link to post
Share on other sites

I suggest seeing if she will let you take over the phone number. While you are not carrying on the business, there is no harm in taking calls from old and potential new customers.

His wife has closed the business. The phone is shut off and she has no plans to reopen or sell the business to my knowledge. She has told me she will give me contacts. I've not asked about referring to his name in an ad. We really aren't taking over the business Just trying to offer our services to any customers that now can't take their car to that shop. I only mentioned his name here because I feel he was well known enough to make reference to him. I don't want to run around using his name for my benefit. I have too much respect for him and his family. And yes same painter.
Link to post
Share on other sites

That would be a great asset I just tread lightly because she is grieving and I care about her feelings. I can't bring myself to ask for too much at once. I won't make a move without considering her feelings first. It's been an emotional roller coaster ride for her and his brothers as well as us . She is a great lady and I hate to ask although I know that is what it takes.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The website is also a good one which- when you are ready to broach the topic- should be re used as well with modification as needed reflecting Dave having passed away etc..... The shop did my car; a '39 series 81-c and it turned out beautifully.

Link to post
Share on other sites
The website is also a good one which- when you are ready to broach the topic- should be re used as well with modification as needed reflecting Dave having passed away etc..... The shop did my car; a '39 series 81-c and it turned out beautifully.

Good call. The website hadn't even crossed my mind. I remember your car well. I put many hours into it. It's on the website too.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...
Hello, I am the former shop foreman and tech from Dave Lewis Restoration in springfield illinois. As you may know , Dave was quite well known for restorations of pre war buicks as well as other models. He did much for the buick collector car hobby over the years. Sadly Dave fell ill and passed earlier this summer. What a tragedy for his wife , family and all who were close to him. The decision was made to close the doors on the restoration shop. After much consideration myself and the other tech have decided we would like to carry on with the restoration of classic cars just as we did at Dave's. Same caliber of work as we did there , pebble beach to street driver ,mechanical service rebuilds wiring work etc. We are quite familiar with 30s era buicks as we have done many of them. Before we hold our noses and jump in to this business venture , I would appreciate any feedback you may have. Share your thoughts. Is there a demand to fill the void left by the closing of this shop? Thank you so much. RS59

RS59 - I just acquired a 1940 Super. It's in pretty good shape and roadworthy. Although, just put $1,785 in new tires, tubes, and sandblast, powdercoat rims. I, for one, would welcome anyone that has pre-war Buick expertise. I'm rooting for you and will likely call on your expertise, and services, from time to time. You can contact me at (949) 278-3848.

Cheers.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Congrats on your super and thanks for the support. My quest for partnership has hit a dead end. And the other tech has taken a job elsewhere so now it looks like at least for the foreseeable future I will be working in my small home shop. Not a lot of space but I'm full up on jobs. It's nowhere near as nice as daves shop was. I'm afraid that would deter some customers.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...