Business advice

SUMMIT TREE

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Hey,
So im currently unemployed and thinking I might buy my own service truck and do my own thing.
I would likely focus more toward off road Heavy equipment, but likely at first I would take whatever is a paying job. I would like some advice from people with experience running a business of their own and also from anyone who is or was a field tech doing this type of work. Im trying to decide if its worth all the extra headaches of having your own business vs just being an employee. I also have questions about certain tooling and priorities for purchasing. I have been a Red seal HD tech for nearly 22 years working on a variety of different stuff but primarily Gas compression for the majority of it. Modern heavy equipment is technologically light years ahead of most of that equipment, and obviously there would be a pretty good learning curve involved, but at the end of the day it boils down to similar trouble shooting skill and experience.
I pretty much decided my truck would have to have a crane, and I have most of the hand tool you could ever need. What about something like a welder? Or a fancy charge/ boosting system. Its hard to know what kind of work a guy would end up getting, so the other one is diagnostic laptop / software. Do you immediately buy 15K worth of stuff not knowing what you need? Or is there a better way to get started and then see what you need as time goes on? What can a guy do without initially and what is a must?
Where do you typically get service information? With Cat you can buy access to sis, but what if its some old obscure piece? Is most available online from the OEM?

Truck is obviously a must, but any must haves vs nice to have? Im thinking a crane is a must. Air compressor obviously. Welder maybe/eventually? Ive never had heated cabinets, not really interested in that. Heard it causes condensation and rust. Although it would be nice in the supplies cabinet. I would probably pick something used trying to get decent but no too expensive. Probably not able to drop 200K on a brand new one right out of the gate.

How do you deal with getting paid? Ive heard this can be a real issue? I get that some large companies have a period where you wait for payment. Im talking smaller customers who just don’t pay. Can you ask for pre payment? Or kinda situation dependent? Im not a bank and don’t intend on becoming one. If you can’t pay obviously I stop working for them. But how to collect. I get this goes with the territory, but just seeking best advice.
Lastly, to drum up business, I would get business cards, and probably use some social media initially. Is it acceptable to go around to anyone I think might use my service and walk in to have a chat? Drop off a card with them kinda thing.
I think that the actual pulling wrenches will be ok I’ll figure it out and accend the learning curve. Im mostly intimidated by fear of the unknown I guess. I suppose I just buy a truck and jump in with both feet.
Thanks in advance for any advice!
 

imdoo'n

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everyone is! when your in over your ears, you have no choice but to succeed or keep trying till you do! good luck either way!
 

Summitric

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When we service company vehicles they have to pay before release. We've been burned in the past with running charge accounts, so it's now credit or debit cards only, and has been for years. Most companies, of any size has a credit or debit card they can use. Good luck with your venture :)
 

sirkdev

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A couple of suggestions take them for what they are worth...

Where do you plan on running the truck in Bonnyville Area or relocate?

I am not a mechanic but I do maintenance planning in oil and gas, what I find is there is specialty niches. Air compressor guys, Nat gas comp, generator, Heavy equipment, tractor trailer, there is overlap no doubt but I don't think that you can be successfully tooled for all occasions and jobs.
I do have a few generally handy guys that can fix most anything but it is a high probability the job wont get completed on the first call due to lack of parts or supplies etc.

-What do you feel you are best at?
-Is there a demand in the area for that specialty?
-Is there better places to relocate or is that even an option?
-Just because you are good at something doesn't mean that you want to pursue that.

Good luck with your process!
 

mclean

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Why are you unemployed? Because of the blackmail vaccine issue?

If not, I cruise linked in a little and there are a ton positions available for HD mechanics. Not sure if they all require the poison but worth looking in to
 

sledneck__11

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another note depending where your working and whats required a small trailer is a awesome thing to, we rigged one up for our farm it has tool boxs, large air compressor,generator, work bench,torches welder, job box oil extractor, and a place to store used oil. If you dont want to go full blown service truck/service body all you really need is a 1 tonne and your shop is on wheels and dont loose the day to day use of your truck. Its a great little mobile shop can pretty much fix/service anything we need to out of it. Also very nice to be able to get out of the elements when rebuilding stuff not worry about dropping it into the dirt. Since we had to have a large slip tank on our truck there wasnt much room left after for tools. We were into ours for around 12-13 grand,

On the buisness side i worked up north for 8ish year and was and employee always wanted to go into contracting but im the end i couldn do to no northern ties, basically i would of have to have a nativr partner or else i wouldnt get any jobs, hopefully where your looking to work there isnt politics like that where buisness owners have to send cheques to there “partners” without them every doing anything other then saying it was a native owned company
 
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DRD

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Might try and get on with a company first, get paid to learn what you need and get back into working on that type of equipment. We are looking for a compression guy, no vax mandate yet but could be coming though….
 

Luke The Drifter

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As for a truck, if you can swing it, get into a single axle pete, kenworth, freightliner etc. Just about every 5500/F550 sized truck with a HD service body on it is overloaded by the time you get tools, rigging and such on it. Doesn't leave much room if you have to haul parts out to a job. Don't get me wrong, the smaller rigs do work but over time it kicks the sh!t out of them. Most equipment dealers run them because they're cheaper and there's a ford or dodge dealer in nearly every small town if service is needed.

For a compressor, you can get an underhood unit or a standalone unit that mounts on the service body (ie a twister). Pros of the underhood, they're compact and don't add much weight, cons is that youre running the truck if you need air. Standalone units are loud and ultimately annoying IMO. The nicest setup I've ever run was a PTO driven hydraulic setup on a freightliner, it was loud but never ever short on air supply, made running a 1" gun painless. You can buy welder/air compressor combos too, they seem to work decently.

A crane is an absolute must if you're working on equipment. 5500lb capacity is the norm for a F550 sized rig. I believe anything north of 10000lbs and you are required to carry a crane ticket (don't quote me on that). Electric over hydraulic autocranes are the most popular.

Service info, laptops and diagnostic equipment is also a must have. I got all of my diagnostic gear from the aftermarket. Roughly 11K for laptops, comm adapters and programs. Not cheap but its a necessary evil. As for the rest of your tooling, its gonna be spendy, no way around it. Aside from your standard hand tools, stuff like, come-alongs, slings, porta-powers, 1" impacts etc etc aren't cheap. Theres a zillion different things a guy needs on his truck because you never know what kind of issue you'll run into out in the field.

Getting paid is half the battle. If you get on with a decent company and do shift work, they pay regularly and depending on where you're at, they cover fuel, camp/LOA and consumables. Pipeline and mines are these types usually. If you're working for various customers, be prepared to have issues with guys being slow to pay, avoiding you or looking for freebies.

Truth be told, I admire the guys that are willing to go out on their own with a rig and repair equipment. Its far from an easy go and there are tons of guys out there that will gladly stiff you on a bill.
 

Couch

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Pluses / minuses for both ...

Can be very rewarding but as the boss & owner you're lible for a lot more crap esp financial, legal & administration. Can't always walk out the door at 430.
Lots don't like to or believe they can't do the admin and pass it off to someone who in turn either #ks up or worse steals from them ....plus you also have to generate more $$$ to pay for anything you don't do yourself (have to learn which option is best).
A good accounting software package is a huge help plus credit / debit on or before completion of work. As a small business you have to be diligent re CRA / OSH / etc. - they can make your life a complete misery if you get on the wrong side of them.

If you have a clientele that you can start with great - if not you'll have to get established which can take some time. Being the cheapest isn't the best route as it makes it harder to get ahead - be the best and you'll always be in demand and be able to charge accordingly.

Financing rates are very good now so that's a plus if you plan on starting out but of course equipment $ is at a premium ...

Upside is if you're good more $$ stays in your pocket and you can do as much or as little as you want based on your anticipated return.

All a matter of balance.
 

Tchetek

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I quit my Job and started an Electrical business 12 years ago. I don’t think I could be an employee ever again!

Start small, try to get started with as little borrowed money as possible and keep the overhead low.

If you are good, word of mouth will keep you busy.

There is a guy in our area that just services skidsteers and smaller equipment that probably does pretty good for himself. Just needs his smaller service truck and not too many speciality tools
 

broke'n'nuts

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I'll agree with pretty much all that drifter has to say, I run 2 service trucks currently, one a pete and one a freight shaker. Both with hyd drive compressors and larger cranes. (Think it's 14 000lbs for picker ticket) I'll address the business side first. Is it worth it, to me yes. Better for many reasons, mostly all tax related. The be your own boss thing is a bit of a crock, your customer is just your new boss and they can be worse than an actual boss. Chasing money is the worst and one of the reasons I won't work from home. I work at the mines and don't have to worry about whether or when they will pay(plus I like my time off). Working at home your under the gun alot more to keep your customers happy, small town clients are fickle and reputation goes along way. If you don't have a lot of experience working on equipment I'd wouldn't jump into a truck right away. Go work for some of the big guys and get some experience. If your any good some of them will tell you to buy a truck and they will hire you. There is lots of insurance and outs to the business side. More than can be covered quickly on here. As to a truck, 550 style are great for town use and on the hwy but don't hold up to abuse, and as drifter said are usually overweight right at the start. My finding is most of the older 550's (2014 and older) will nickel and dime a guy to death. But that's me, the cost of any truck right now is absolutely ridiculous. A new freightliner with a 10000lbs crane and 14 service body is around 300k. A new 550 with 5000lbs crane is around 200k. And the used market is nuts too. Welder is nice to have, if you can weld. As for boosting, a 12/24 boost pack for lighter boosting and 2 8D batteries on the deck for the bigger gear. Electric cranes are more popular, but it's because they are cheaper, I prefer a hyd crane myself. Tooling up is expensive on its own, 3/4 and 1" impacts and sockets, larger wrenches etc. Cutting torches, grinders, charge kits....the list goes on. This day and age, the laptop is a must, most of it is pirated software, your looking at 2-3k$ for the laptop then the adapters on top of it. You also have insurance cost, auto and cgl (business), usually run ya around 5k$ a year. If your going to buy a truck and start knocking on doors to pick up work I wish you all the best, because is a tough row to hoe.
 

Dragonalain

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Im a millwright and I went out on my own right at the start of covid. I wish I would have made the jump 10 years ago. Anyone that’s good will make a fortune. Best part about it is I work how much I want. The last 1.5 years I’ve been working 1 week a month and making more than my old good paying potash mine job.
 

SUMMIT TREE

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I have no problem working. Many cold winter days putting in absurd hours to keep crap running. I take pride in my work and I treated company equipment like it was mine. I feel like if I put as much care and give a sh*t into my own company as I have given for the company I worked for, How could you go wrong.
 

SUMMIT TREE

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Im a millwright and I went out on my own right at the start of covid. I wish I would have made the jump 10 years ago. Anyone that’s good will make a fortune. Best part about it is I work how much I want. The last 1.5 years I’ve been working 1 week a month and making more than my old good paying potash mine job.
What kind of stuff do you work on as a independent millwright?
 

vanislerev

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Going it alone in a single truck as an HET is a tough gig. Margins are slim, and overhead is high. Other trades are better suited to going privately. I looked into it a few times over the years but for the small increase in profit it was hard to justify the added stress and loss of security working with the big boys provides.
Best of luck to you though if you give it a go
 

Stg2Suby

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For you guys who are incorporated, are you doing your own accounting and filing tax filing? If you're using an accountant how much are you paying per year?
 

Cyle

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Downside to getting paid is it's not like a shop where you can hold the equipment, it's going back to work as soon as you're done paid or not, if the customer doesn't know you virtually no one would pre-pay for a repair. At the very least though I wouldn't supply parts, make the customer pay for them directly. It's not a easy gig, my brother used a local guy here starting that didn't have much work and found out why pretty quickly, he was a terrible mechanic, think his rate was only $90/hr though. It won't be easy finding enough work to be steady. Even if the rate is quite a bit lower, getting on with a company would be way better starting off so at least you got guaranteed work and it would be better chance of getting paid.
 

Cyle

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Going it alone in a single truck as an HET is a tough gig. Margins are slim, and overhead is high. Other trades are better suited to going privately. I looked into it a few times over the years but for the small increase in profit it was hard to justify the added stress and loss of security working with the big boys provides.
Best of luck to you though if you give it a go

If busy margins are not slim and it's way better money then an employee, easily make an extra $20-30/hr. The real risk is finding enough work to be busy and getting paid for all of it, if you can do those things then it is way better then being an employee. Overhead is way lower then a physical shop too. Take away the tools you'd have in a shop anyway, 100k buys you a pretty decent setup, compare it to the overhead of renting a shop, be lucky to find something really small and be all in under $3k a month.
 
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