Ever owned a motorcycle business?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by nomad_games, Feb 19, 2014.

  1. randyo

    randyo Long timer

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    unless you have the sponsorship of a philanthropist or you are similarly endowed, it is about the money
    #21
  2. nomad_games

    nomad_games Long timer

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    yes, i realize that it is about money. My point was that I'm not trying to get rich. I'm aware that the business has to make enough money to survive and pay me and my employees enough to live on. I understand all of that and then some, trust me. I'm just asking this one question: for those that have done it, did owning a motorcycle related business prove to be an enjoyable enterprise, or did you end up hating it and/or losing your interest in or ability to enjoy motorcycling?
    #22
  3. Bill Harris

    Bill Harris Confirmed Curmudgeon

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    It can be enjoyable and fun as a hobby, but less so as a job/career. And think about what it'll be like in 40-50 years...

    --Bill
    #23
  4. steveWFL

    steveWFL Long timer

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    +1, Beat me to it.

    If you really want to hate all things motorcycle, sure open the business :lol3
    #24
  5. nomad_games

    nomad_games Long timer

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    yr probably right. that's how I feel about art and building things, and that's why. I turned it into a job. most likely why I'm asking.
    #25
  6. JimVonBaden

    JimVonBaden "Cool" Aid!

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    It certainly can have that effect. Many people with a very strong passion for motorcycles lose it when they turn that passion into a business. This is especially true if you are counting on it for a living!

    Ask me, I know!:deal
    #26
  7. nomad_games

    nomad_games Long timer

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    I also think that's malarkey, to an extent. I know a lot of people who have pursued their life passions as a career, and are extremely happy with it (obviously with a caveat here or there). Although, I don't personally know many who have made a job out of motorcycles or bicycles that feel that way. Perhaps it's endemic to owning a retail business?
    #27
  8. ObiJohn

    ObiJohn Screaming Banshee

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    I've never been in the moto business. I did make the mistake of turning my avocation (hunting, shooting) into my vocation for about a decade. My business was nominally successful, on paper, but it took me a couple of years to get to where I was turning a profit, and I never did make back all of the money I invested in the business (mostly due to the fact that I leased a building and put a significant sum of money into infrastructure/TI and the owner sold the building out from under me). I was an avid competitive target shooter and hunter before I started the business... and then I spent most of that decade doing very little hunting and shooting. Dealing with the subject for a decade as a job took a lot of the joy out of it, and to this day my motivation to be an active participant in the hunting and shooting sports just isn't there anymore.

    You have to be careful starting a business. You have to be the one to make the nut every month, not your boss/employer. You'll have a couple of partners who, between them, will tell you pretty much how to run your business, get paid something off of the top even if you don't make a profit, and really make running a business a PITA. I'm not talking about the Mob, but about the government (federal, state, local).

    I averaged well over $1MM/year in gross sales. I employed between 12 and 20 employees, full- and part-time. I paid out $1MM in payroll, not counting payroll taxes. I'll never own another retail business with employees again. If the system we have today had been in place since the country was founded there would be no America as we know it.

    My strong advice to you is, if you can't run it for a while out of your garage/shop and make money pretty quickly without any employees AND while doing everything aboveboard... licenses, taxes, etc., then you can cut your losses on an expensive hobby. But, there's enough name-brand custom bike players out there to make a mighty tough row to hoe for a new business with an unknown... and this isn't exactly a booming economy.

    One more thing: if you're going to fail in business, fail quickly. By that, I mean put aside a certain amount of money you're willing to invest (and lose) in the business... and when and if it's gone shut the business down. Don't keep throwing good money after bad chasing a dream that isn't going to come true.
    #28
  9. nomad_games

    nomad_games Long timer

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    that's extremely helpful, thank you :beer
    #29
  10. PalePhase

    PalePhase Humour Noir

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    That's neither here nor there
    It's a lot easier if you aren't betting the farm on it. Most people who grow businesses out of passion start them as hobbies and then get to a point where they have to make a decision whether the day job is necessary or holding them back.
    #30
  11. PJay

    PJay Any bike, anywhere

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    Yup - the third generation of my family in the trade.

    I bailed and went back to my original profession once I found my father was not joking when he used to say, "It's such a shame that motorcyclists breed for neither looks nor intellect".*

    He was referring to customers more than our family...but I decided to get some intellect back and return to what I spent 8 years of university/post-grad study for.

    * the "intellect" bit being so often borne out on motorcycle forums.
    #31
  12. vecchio Lupo

    vecchio Lupo Diplomatico Di Moto

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    Friend,

    In 1990 I turned my love of motorcycles to a business. I purchased a struggling British bike shop that was itself the remnant of the old BSA Triumph dealer, so i had some legacy credentials. We (2 of us) did all right for a year doing low level maintenance on bikes the big dealers ignored, it was a struggle but lots of fun, we moved to a larger building and hired another mechanic as well as taking on a Moto Guzzi franchise. I was too small to take on a franchise and it began to pull me down. I failed as a business after a total of 4 years. I should have stayed small and concentrated on service and the odd used bike. I found it is hard to collect payment once the bill on an old bike gets close to its value. Customers are quick to say "yes, I love the bike and want it fixed" even when you say it could run $500 or so. They push you to finish the bike for the weekend or whatever and then don't pick it up for 2 months or more because they have more pressing needs for disposable income. You call, they make excuses, and you wait, and your shop gets clogged up with ready work. You can't seize the bikes because once word gets out that you are the shop that takes bikes from people, business slows even more.I loved it and was never happier on a day to day basis.

    Then I discovered lawnmowers, easy to work on and no matter the economy, people have to cut grass, no matter what. They don't sit around the shop and there is always a strong demand for used mowers (not riding mowers...avoid those) . I would rather make an easy $50 bucks 10 times a day with mowers, then a $500 top end job on a Moto once a day. No extensive parts inventory or supply chain issues. Then you can dabble in bikes and only do what you want to do. Plus, people who have old mowers tend to have old bikes in the shed, I would drop off a mower and come home with a mini bike or scooter as payment every so often, now that is fun.

    I fell out with my partner, and went back to school and went another direction, but always with an eye on another mower shop.

    Best of luck in your future and even unemployed guys have to cut the grass, but they may not need their bike back for a while.
    #32
  13. LowInSlo

    LowInSlo Been here awhile

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    Passion is good. No great, when running a small biz. And yes, it is also about the money, has to be, but seems you know that. I would consider apprenticing in another shop, see how it feels.

    Owning your own small biz is more work than most have any idea. People are always saying it was nice that we retired to our fabulous little town and now run a shop. I always laugh and say if this is retirement, I"m going back to work.

    Yes, also understand that the business you open may be very different in 4 years. Hard to plan for that, but that's where the fun comes in. :D

    That said, we're having a ball. Making tiny money, but the place is profitable.

    I always encourage people to follow their passion, but do it with their eyes open.

    Good luck! Let me know how I can help.
    #33
  14. Hawk62cj5

    Hawk62cj5 2 Cheap 4 a KLR

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    I was going to post something similar , never owned a motorcycle business but I have been self employed and my family owns 7 different companies . If it was me I would be open a one man small engine shop ,lawn mowers , weed eaters and chain saws ect and not advertize I do motorcycles but maybe accept a few bikes or quads on the side. We had a tractor dealership and shop and did stihl equipment along with cub cadet lawn mowers . No more tractors but the shop mechanic stays busy on small engine stuff and has more than he can do .
    #34
  15. Rucksta

    Rucksta SS Blowhard

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    Once the business is profitable enough that you can work the business compared to working for/in the business.
    At this point you can again indulge the passion.

    Do you think the passion will last the 5-8 years it typically takes to get a return on your investment of capital & time?
    #35
  16. Stephenmarklay

    Stephenmarklay Been here awhile

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    If it were me I would start very small and not quit my day job. I think on small scale a moto business could be fun and rewarding.

    I manage a pretty big dealership and it is a pretty tough business. It can be done but not haphazardly. A passion for bikes but without the proper skill set WILL leave you disheartened and broke. People can be difficult and running anything retail is a challenge to say the least. Worse your employees will steal from you and make you bitter.

    The situation with OEMs is difficult. Expensive inventory demands, floor space requirements and expensive build outs. It adds up very fast.

    I personally would not own a shop.
    #36
  17. grahamspc

    grahamspc Smitty

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    Interesting stuff...my comments come from a different direction...in 1977 I made my hobby (motorcycles) my job and started working for a dealership(parts sales etc)...did that for about 10 years(to 1986)...then I got into wholesale distribution for the next 26 years...my hobby was my hobby again(my passion)...retired in 2012...got bored quickly and started working parttime at a friends motorcycle dealership(2 days a week)..within 3 months I decided that I really did not like dealing with retail consumers and resigned(with no hard feelings) and became a retail consumer myself again...my hobby continues to be my passion.....what does this say...hmmm......I guess what it says is that when you make your hobby your job it changes the complexion of your hobby...hope this anecdote helps.
    #37
  18. nomad_games

    nomad_games Long timer

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    I really appreciate all the responses, this is really helpful.
    #38
  19. lvscrvs

    lvscrvs Been here awhile

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    Many, many wise comments above. I work part-time in a small moto shop, we do service, have some parts and accessories, and have a FSBO area with some bikes. I know the owner of the shop pretty well, and I think he enjoys a lot about the business, but he would probably tell you he wishes he was doing something else, mainly because there just isn't much money in it. He has been a bike guy his whole life, been a shop owner for many years, he knows a lot about bikes and bike repair, and he has a loyal local following. It's still tough. The internet has made things very hard of course, and the economy.

    Maybe carve out some space where you have minimal or no overhead, start playing around on a very part-time basis with your passion and see where it leads.
    #39
  20. judobiker

    judobiker Been here awhile

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    I turned a passion into a business, had fair success at it, then sold the business. It's true that you shouldn't start a business in a market that you have no interest or experience in. However, if you aren't in it to make money, it's not a business--it's a charity or a hobby. If you have enough wealth to not need cash flow, that's fine. If you're like I was, it can be really challenging when you've got bills to pay and you're finding that other people in your community don't share your passion. The first part of starting a business has to be developing a business plan that has a realistic estimate of expected revenues,defining the market, and projected expenses. There are a ton of unexpected costs and taxes that come with running a small business.

    That being said, I've never run a motorcycle business. But I feel like I've invested way too much in several of them:D
    #40