Post a new topic
    7 Replies Latest reply on Jan 22, 2010 10:08 PM by Mongoose

    How to run a mobile business?

    Techno71 Newbie
      Hello. My job position was eliminated 3 months ago after a company buyout so I started working for myself doing the same thing. It's going good so far but I need to pull in more money. I was thinking of leasing a building, take in equipment from 7:30 am to 12:00 pm then close up and do my mobile runs. If I had a building I could sell parts too , which would bring in more im hoping. I just can't do that out of the back of my truck. The only thing that scares me is being stuck in a lease I can't get out of if the building don't pay for itself. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
        • Re: How to run a mobile business?
          snipperred Scout
          Hi there,

          If there is a demand for small engine repair, I wonder why the position was eliminated during the buy out. I like the idea of mobile. Going to customers and repairing onsite is a good service and can potentially save customers time and money in trips/ turnaround. Offhand, and I could obviously be wrong, I would not lease the building in your current state. You would possibly lose your on-call availability in the morning and not be available for walk-ins in the afternoon. I see a lot of "mobile" guys working out of more affordable short-term commercial storage sites. So if you had an inventory could locate it there and offer delivery. You could also have some space for those occassions you cannot quick fix on-site and need to bring back to wait for parts or overhaul. Not having a lease obligation tells me you could take a position if the business was not sustainable.

          I applaud you for making the most of your layoff. Being mobile, you could probably beat your previous employer to the punch. There are always ways to offer better service. Good luck.
          • Re: How to run a mobile business?
            LUCKIEST Guide
            *How to run a mobile business?? Welcome. Sounds like a good idea.*<br /<br *snipperred has a good answer and If there is a demand for small engine repair you would know.*<br /<br />Where are you located?? like City and State?? Do you have a Business Name??

            Try doing some Marketing and Advertising. If you have a truck or a van, put a sign and a phone number on it.

            Post and give out fliers. If you are doing a repair on a given block, Put signs or flyers all over the neighborhood.

            Discount coupons or some thing FREE (like a FREE inspection or oil change) also helps.

            Remember SCORE. SCORE is FREE and can give you great advice.

            Good luck, LUCKIEST
            • Re: How to run a mobile business?
              Lighthouse24 Ranger
              I'd suggest that you put together three cash flow projections for the idea you have in mind -- one pessimistic, one realistic, and one optimistic. Figure in ALL the costs (best case, worst case, most likely case), keeping in mind that a "brick-and-mortar" component will add lots of overhead that you don't have now. Figure in all the revenues (booming business, slow business, probable business). Then look at the numbers and see if you are comfortable with what the future holds.

              My fear is that your current margin on repairs wouldn't be enough to configure and operate a leased building, plus buy and stock all the parts you'd need to initially carry, plus advertise enough to let people know you carry all those parts. It could take anywhere from six months to three years for the parts side to ramp up and become profitable -- and the less you have to spend to get it going, the slower it will happen. So you need to be bringing in enough on the repair side to fund that (and make a living yourself) for awhile. The numbers should tell you if it you can. Good luck!
              • Re: How to run a mobile business?
                DomainDiva Ranger
                Just a thought...but sometimes those storage rental places will let you run a small business from one of the larger say 20 X 20 units. Theres' a guy that does boat repairs at the place where we have a storage unit.
                • Re: How to run a mobile business?
                  amspcs Ranger
                  Techno 71,

                  I wish you well in your new endeavor. My first instinct given the economy today is: Don't go overboard and dig yourself too deep a hole to climb out of. You are correct in avoiding long term leases and obligations. Sell your service and your expertise which are your strong points, and minimize overhead. We have many many very successful 'mobile' merchants who do very well without huge building facilities. Yes, you could sell parts if you had a building and that would mean more revenue. But it would also mean more cost of good sold inventory investment, more rent for storage and display space, insurance expense to cover the display and storage area as well as the inventory itself, etc. Again, sell your expertise and service, then let that lead you down other paths when you're ready for it, not before. One step at a time.

                  Let me change gears a little and discuss something I am qualified to talk about. We are in the payment processing business, and obviously it is important for you to get paid for your services. There are many mobile credit card processing solutions out there, and the ability to accept payment in any form (cash, check, plastic or whatever) on the spot should be high on your priority list if it isn't already. Accounts receivable headaches, especially given this economy, is a place you do NOT want to go.

                  Here are some thoughts. Do NOT, repeat do NOT, do any of the following in regards to mobile credit card processing:

                  1.) Sign a long term contract with early termination fees with any processor. These are fairly common.
                  Keep your options and escape hatches open.

                  2.) Pay upwards of $1000-1500 for a 'portable' credit card processing unit. That isn't necessary.
                  And PLEASE don't even think about leasing credit card equipment. Major rip-off.

                  3.) Go for one of those 'free' mobile credit card equipment offers you're sure to be approached about.
                  The reason is: The fees for those kinds of plans are very high (to make up for the 'free' equipment),
                  and they all come withi long contractual terms.

                  If you have a laptop computer, there's a program for mobile merchants that won't cost you a dime to set up, and it's a month-to-month deal with no contract or early termination penalties. You'll be able to accept Visa, MC, Amex, Discover etc on the spot in any internet connected area using your laptop with the included software installed. You can add a card reader (swiper) for under $90 to get the lower swiped discount rates, and the program even includes free collection of NSF checks if you run into issues in that regard.

                  Please contact me for details on this plan BEFORE you sign off on anything else. Again, good luck.

                  • Re: How to run a mobile business?
                    Techno71 Newbie
                    Thanks for the replies. " If there is a demand for small engine repair, I wonder why the position was eliminated during the buy out ". The company that bought them out has franchises that do repair work under there company name. That really helps me out a lot ! We had a huge customer database just in my section of repair. Those customers are finding out that the new company stays a month behind and they dont have technitions that know how to work on a lot of the equipment I can work on. And the fact that they give the customers attitude and act like they dont wont to work on anything helps me out too. Sometimes you can get to big for your britches ya know. I get at least 3 gripe calls a week about how they treat people. One customer called me tuesday and said he will drive 50 miles out of his way from now on just to not have to go near there place. So my previous employer or the new company is not even in the equation. All there doing is helping me out without knowing it.

                    "Try doing some Marketing and Advertising. If you have a truck or a van, put a sign and a phone number on it". I ordered the signs to go on my truck last monday. There doing it for me for free. Come to find out, they have stuff broke too. Now if I can just figure out how to get free gas ! Hmmmm oh wait ! I figured out how to do half of that this week, nevermind ! This will be a customer service I will profit off of too. " Post and give out fliers. If you are doing a repair on a given block, put signs or flyers all over the neighborhood". First im not into that sort of thing. Second , there are laws around here about flyers all over the place. Me personaly, I think it clutters up the place and makes a mess. About the discount coupons, I will send those to my customers this winter when im starving to death lol. Is'nt SCORE a magazine? I dont know what that is.

                    " My fear is that your current margin on repairs would'nt be enough to configure and operate a leased building, plus etc etc...." Now that I look at it, I probably would have too much overhead at first. Right now im profiting after gas and overhead around $2000 a week. The building i'm looking at is a 12 month lease for $675 a month, and he said he has equipment he needs worked on too because he keeps his properties up with them. So the $675 is very negotable he said. At my old company, on a bad week I sold around $25000 worth of parts . Those customers basicaly have nowhere to go now and i figured I could pick up where they left off. I have 2 parts suppliers that said they would stock me up on credit because they have been dealing with me for over 10 years and know me. But like you said, I'm missing a lot here.

                    As for as credit cards, I will probably never deal with them while im mobile. It would be too much of a headach. It was 115 degrees in my truck today. I tried envoicing with a laptop a month ago. It burned up. I will put another laptop in but I have to build a fan base to keep it cool. I'm fine with a invoice book. I accept checks and money orders and I usualy let my customers send it to me in the mail later. I have 2 options if a customer will not pay, which I havent ran into yet. One the small claims court is 5 miles from my house, I know the judge there. Two I dont have to work on there equipment anymore. I would probably do the two since that would hurt them way more than getting my money back.
                    • Re: How to run a mobile business?
                      Hi Techno,

                      Congrats on working for yourself and being successful! Have you considered tying your business phone, website, and operations to your phone so that you can get notifications while you're out?