The inventory, photo, and shipping processes were the biggest things to set up, but I continue to make and tweak new processes as I go. I made 5 large engine leakdown tables for tearing engines down and letting the oil collect in the middle, draining into a bin below. I am continually figuring out new tricks to take engines apart, and adding specialty tools to my collection. Finding just the right tables and carts, spacing the aisles right, getting the right computers and barcode equipment, making checklists for employees to remember key tasks – the tasks go on and on. It all take time and thought to get it right.
Now after running the business for nearly 4 years, I have been through a lot. The business has been the best learning experience I’ve had. I have also had countless frustrations, scary financial moments, all-nighters and long weeks, but somehow everything always works out in the end. If it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end. We are close to finishing the inventory work for the rest of the parts in the warehouse, a task that has taken much longer than I anticipated largely due to limited funds to hire employees. Once the rest of these parts are online, sales should improve significantly and things won’t be as stressful.
For some reason, I always want to tackle bigger and better challenges. This business has been a huge one, but now I’ve chosen to get an MBA with a focus on operations management, and then work for a manufacturing company with significantly larger-scale operations than what I’m used to here. I would love to end up at a company like Honda, Polaris, Yamaha, Ford, or anyone else that manufactures things I’m interested in. I’ll keep running my business remotely while I’m in school, having an employee come every day and ship (the heavy work is largely done now). For the right price, the business is also for sale – but whether I sell it or not things should work out fine. After MBA school and some time at larger companies, who knows where I’ll go from there – I may stay in the corporate world for a while, or my inner entrepreneur may start itching again after a few years… time will tell.
Key Things I’ve Learned:
- Cash flow is tough – be extremely aware of the money you’ll need to start and maintain your business.
- Don’t be afraid to jump in and create systems and processes to meet your needs – it allows you to control the quality of your product well, and set you apart from competitors. Just don’t reinvent the wheel – only make a custom system or process when there is no viable alternative already available.
- Hire good people that you immediately trust and show quality work through their resume and application. If you don’t sense that trust or see the quality of work from the beginning, it’s unlikely that it will develop later on (usually it just gets worse). If someone doesn’t check important things like their resume and email correspondence for grammar and spelling errors, they will usually write even worse on the job – especially if there is no spell check in your system.
- Hire people that WANT the job most – even if they initially lack all of the required skills, they will work the hardest to prove themselves and learn.
- Do whatever it takes to keep overhead costs low – once they are as low as possible, use your time efficiently so you are maximizing those overhead costs (have as many employees and processes as you can possibly manage at a time). My biggest regret is not finding a way to get more funding and hire more employees sooner. I could have finished inventorying all of the parts a couple years earlier, and saved many thousands in overhead costs as well as years of my own time. Hindsight is 20/20.