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  • #987763
    Andrewparkin1
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    • Total posts: 8
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    Hi FS Forum,

    I want to provide my story so far. I am days away from officially opening my doors, and want to share some ups and downs…and then in a few weeks let you know if I survived!

    My idea is based on Victorian Roadworthy Certificates (RWC). Currently, mechanical workshops provide all rwc inspections. I am from NZ where we have a similar system to ensure cars are safe on the roads, with one major difference when it comes to the supply of inspections: Dedicated inspection facilities that DO NOT carry out repairs, thus removing the conflict of interest from vehicle safety inspections. Think about it…when getting a rwc in Victoria, you go to a mechanic who (if they operate by a not-so-savoury moral code) might fail your vehicle in order to charge for the repairs.

    When I first got to Melbourne and purchased my first car, this exact scenario occurred. The mechanic saw I was desperate, and (now I know) added “extra” repairs so I could get my rwc. I knew there was a better way!

    So I got about planning, writing business plans, researching and working out how I could get finance. My biggest first hurdle was raising the $80k I needed to open a workshop. I did this by going through the ENYA (Enterprise Youth Network of Australia) who are partnered with ANZ (this is part of ANZ’s billion dollar pledge to small businesses). After jumping through an endless number of hoops, I secured a loan of $38k plus my savings plus a small top-up from my parents.

    The next HUGE hurdle was finding a lease. This was one of the hardest processes I have had to endure. First of all, finding a property that was within my budget (which started at $20k per year, and quickly moved up to $40k per year) that met my specifications was hard. This took me OVER ONE YEAR to find a place. I thought I had the best place I could find, with contracts signed. But the unscrupulous land-owner (and incompetent land agent) gave the property to someone else that offered more than what we had signed for. This went to a Small Business Commission hearing, which was judged in my favour and I managed to get back some of my expenses (namely, lawyer fees).

    Back to the property lease drawing board. I was still determined! I then found a perfect place, better than the last. After a lot of back-and-fourth, I signed for the place and moved in on March 1 2014. Excellent, may the hard-work commence!

    Now I had to fix up the building to suit my needs, hire a mechanic, get licensed by VicRoads (to be able to do roadworthy inspections) and get all my marketing and signage organised.

    I held interviews for mechanics immediately. I won’t go into the detailed headache this caused, but I will give you the brief version. See, I’m not a mechanic. I am a business graduate with extensive automotive knowledge. In order to provide rwcs you must be a qualified mechanic on paper. This was identified early on in my planning as a MAJOR risk/disadvantage. It meant I had to hire a mechanic, put them through the rwc qualification (1 week course and $2000.00 later) and then I could apply for my license. I found a guy, paid for his course, even drove him to Ballarat (both ways) each day. I ended up investing around $4,000.00 in the exercise. And here is a BIG LESSON I learned. You see, during the interview I made it clear that the employee would need to pay for the qualification, and would be reimbursed after 90 days of successful employment. Well… because I dropped my guy off at the first day of the course, it ended up I paid for the course because he didn’t have a credit card and they required payment up-front. No matter, I would just recover this amount later. But this is where my “soft spot” let me down. This guy seems like a good guy, he’ll do the right thing, and plus, I want to show him that I trust and respect him. “don’t worry about paying for the course, mate, just promise me you’ll stick around”.

    So the course was completed, and the license application was sent to VicRoads. In the mean-time, the agreement was that my newly hired mechanic would help me fix up the building and prepare the workshop just the way he wanted. This was a really good opportunity for him to add to his skills, as there is a lot of planning that goes into laying out a shop.

    He was keen. Really keen. He “wanted to learn all the business side of things” and help me out. We agreed to 15 hours a week until the business started, and then the hours would increase as business increased. His contract was casual, and all of this was discussed and made clear. Hold that thought…

    Another big part of setting up the workshop is getting the required tools. A huge expenditure is a vehicle hoist. Lesson 2: The hoist was delivered and payment was COD. Problem was, only half the hoist was delivered and installed, with two of the major components “on back order”. No worries, we’re not opening JUST yet, so I can wait a few days. My fault that I did not confirm WHEN the parts would arrive, but also the suppliers fault for not giving me the heads-up. The hoist was ordered in March, and I then later found out (after much pushing) that my parts would not arrive until MAY 20!!!! I was stuffed. Should I give up? This is the final nail in the coffin and I’m not even opened! Well, the supplier managed to find some lower quality replacement parts to keep me going. They were installed, and they didn’t work. I’ll cut this short by saying that after many heated discussions and loads of stress and phone calls, they are getting me parts sent down from NSW and will hopefully arrive and be installed Friday. They are also honouring my original purchase and when the actual parts I ordered arrive on May 20 they will swap them out. OK.

    So we are pretty much up to present day, but I have one more major blow. My mechanic emailed me and told me he needs to be on 38hrs/week by the end of this month, or he will accept another job he has been offered. My blood froze. Surely, now I have to give up. Cut my losses, try to get out of my lease, and go and hang my head in shame. Not just yet…I am lucky enough to have another mechanic who has been interested in the job all along. He is very keen, he even went and got the qualification himself, and has a part-time job so is happy with hours being low to start off. Saved by the skin of my teeth. But a lesson learned none-the-less.

    So, I have about $20k left, and owe most of that for the branding and marketing collateral (shameless plug…if you want AMAZING brand and design work, contact Darren at Bohn Studios). The front signage is being done over the next few days, the website is ready, I have eftpos, phone, internet, business cards, letterhead, tools, hoist, employee, blah blah blah.

    My cashflow forecast shows that the coming weeks are going to be tough. I’m lucky enough to have another $10 or $15k in credit cards etc, but I am praying I don’t need to use them.

    I’m going to be approaching some car yards and mechanics (who don’t currently offer rwc) over the coming days, and also do some flyer drops and FB advertising (has anyone noticed that Google Adwords has pretty much become unaffordable???!!!)

    So here’s a low-down of my services, and a link to my website (again, Bohn Studio created this site, I can’t recommend them enough!!!)

    Roadworthy Certificates – $159
    USPs: Unbiased Inspections, 30 Days to fix issues with FREE re-checks

    Pre-purchase inspections – $199
    USPs: Unbiased Inspections, full mechanical, structural and safety inspections

    Safety Inspection – $99
    USPs: Unbiased Inspection

    Child Restraint Fitting – $29
    USPs: Accredited professional member of ACRI

    Website: http://www.vehicleinspectionsaustralia.com.au
    Address: 160 High Street, Preston VIC 3072
    Phone: (03) 9480 2619

    The next few months are going to be intense. I promise to provide a full update of my success or failure :)

    Oh, and if you got to this point without muttering TL;DR then congratulations!!!

    #1164230
    Anonymous
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    • Total posts: 11,464
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    Hi Andrew,

    That sounds stressful!

    We’re all sending you the best of luck for the launch.

    Jayne

    #1164231
    Tony Manto
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    • Total posts: 581
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    Hi Andrew, I don’t blame you for being on the edge, however I learnt a long time ago that everything that happens to us is a lesson. Some good some bad. Its all part of the journey. They just make you stronger. Perhaps you could also do some advertising on Gumtree.

    Why don’t you get proactive and ring people that are selling cars and sell them the idea that their car would sell easier if they already had a certificate of compliance.

    If this works then your marketing would be very easy as you can identify your customer.

    Also try sporting clubs…

    #1164232
    Andrewparkin1
    Member
    • Total posts: 8
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    Thanks for your kind words of advice Tony. Yes I am planning on this direct approach, I’m hoping this will be of value. I have tried a little advertising on GT, with limited success thus far. My background is Marketing and Public Relations, so this is the stuff I should excel in…I hope! Because I’m not officially open yet, I am in the early stages of a “soft” launch, but once everything is in place I will come out all guns blazing! For anyone else in my position, I have found that Facebook advertising seems to be good value for money…it’s kind of like what Google advertising used to be (in terms of price). I obviously haven’t had any direct sales from FB ads yet, but if the metrics are to be believed then I am getting decent traffic to my site for cents in the dollar.

    #1164233
    Daniel Mitchell
    Member
    • Total posts: 56
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    Definitely sounds like you’ve had a difficult time, but if business was easy then anybody could do it. I like your website – very clean design and easy to understand information. The logo and colour scheme go together nicely as well to convey the unbiased image you’re after. They’ve definitely made the business model work in NZ and it seems like it could work well for you as well.

    #1164234
    Andrewparkin1
    Member
    • Total posts: 8
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    Thanks Daniel. Yes, Bohn Studio have done an AMAZING job with the branding and website! Best money I’ve spent so far in the jouney :)

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