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Thinking about starting a shop...

Sly_Cooper

Plastic
Joined
Aug 30, 2022
We are trying to decide whether or not to start up our own shop. There are 4 of us and between us all, we have experience in managing/supervising, 5x mill and lathe programming, setup all types of mills and lathes, quoting, and capex purchases. We have the most experience in the aerospace and defense industries. This would be our target customer base. Couple questions for the forum:
  • Does anyone have advice on customer acquisition? We made a list of 100+ potential customers. Are there any tricks beyond filling out the "New Supplier Forms" on their sites?
  • Best and/or cheapest way to get ISO and AS9100 certs?
  • Has anyone every started a company with a group of 3 or more? How did that work out?
Any other advise or observations would be appreciated.
 

DDoug

Diamond
Joined
Oct 18, 2005
Location
NW Pa
We are trying to decide whether or not to start up our own shop. There are 4 of us and between us all, we have experience in managing/supervising, 5x mill and lathe programming, setup all types of mills and lathes, quoting, and capex purchases. We have the most experience in the aerospace and defense industries. This would be our target customer base. Couple questions for the forum:
  • Does anyone have advice on customer acquisition? We made a list of 100+ potential customers. Are there any tricks beyond filling out the "New Supplier Forms" on their sites?
  • Best and/or cheapest way to get ISO and AS9100 certs?
  • Has anyone every started a company with a group of 3 or more? How did that work out?
Any other advise or observations would be appreciated.
Where did you get this list of 100 customers ?
Pinch it from your current employer ?
Why are you hiding your information ?
 

Sly_Cooper

Plastic
Joined
Aug 30, 2022
Where did you get this list of 100 customers ?
Pinch it from your current employer ?
Why are you hiding your information ?
I compiled the list doing research online. A lot of larger companies will have supplier portals and descriptions of what types of suppliers they are looking for. It took a good bit of time.
No, I did not pinch it from my current employer.
Not sure what you mean by "hiding information?"
 

kremin inc

Plastic
Joined
Apr 20, 2022
Location
Michigan
Just my 2 cents from my experience:
- Its very difficult to get work from cold calls or filling out online requests to get into customers. If you fill out 100 forms, not sure you would get more than 1 or 2 to get back with you max, if that. An inside contact someplace is a great way to start, then referrals - especially if you are a small shop. Banking on cold calls is a tough road and even if you hit one it takes a lot of time to build the relationship to the point of meaningful revenue.
- Again, depending on your size, Quality certifications are expensive, the audit and renewal process alone, even from the cheapest registrars are a lot of money for a small shop - not including the work it takes to get the system in place. Might be worth trying to start with companies that don't require it until you get the cash flow to a point to swing it.
- Any time you have a partner or more than one partner, it is more challenging. At the start, everyone is excited and wants to work together. The further along things go, you start to get differences - what does everyone get paid, how do you handle distributions, what is a company expense, is everyone putting equal effort in, should we buy more capital equipment, what machines, what happens if things get tight and you need to put money back in, and on and on - its not impossible, but you need a lot of pre-work/buy-sell agreements and open communication up front.

Good luck
 

implmex

Titanium
Joined
Jun 23, 2002
Location
Vancouver BC Canada
Hi Sly-Cooper:
This topic has got to be one of the most popular on this forum and probably on every other forum that deals with making stuff too.
Everyone wants to know the recipe for the "secret sauce", and the subject of how to acquire and retain customers is probably the one that has been beaten to death the most.

The consensus of those who have been successful in this business is some variation of "be there, be equipped, bust ass, price well, don't fuck it up, don't make excuses, meet your deliveries and your reputation will follow."

On the acquiring new customers front the commentary runs to:
"Be persistent, be available, have a niche, be presentable, solve a need, know someone, meet people, bang your drum, offer value-added services etc etc.

On the "How to run your business" front the dialogue goes:
Don't blow your stash, don't hang your ass out too far, avoid the shiny, get efficient, improve constantly, watch the debt trap, hope for the best but plan for the worst, grow, acquire strategically, hire strategically, value your employees, don't be pushed around by your employees etc etc.

As you can see, these are all pious platitudes...an equal mix of wisdom and bullshit, all nicely wrapped and pretty much useless as directives on "what shall I do next".

You will find out the hard way what this business entails...like every other worthwhile enterprise it has advantages and shortcomings.
They're not hard to list...I encourage you to do so.

Once you've done that, you can choose whether to dive in.

On the subject of partnerships, I'm sure we all have stories, either from our own experience or from that of our friends.
Many fail, some succeed, the reasons why are all over the map.
Eventually a leader emerges, the others are pissed and either learn to see the benefits and make it work, or get snarky and run away, either destroying or not destroying everything in their path depending on how mature they are.

Be aware the crucible of business can be a monster that eats friendships and marriages with enthusiasm.

Cheers

Marcus
www.implant-mechanix.com
www.vancouverwireedm.com
 
Last edited:

FamilyTradition

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 24, 2018
Location
Greenfield, Mass
Very many large corporations have started with two, three, or more folks getting together for a common goal. Some have been greatly successful, some have failed miserably or suffered, usually due to the personalities of the individuals involved.

Do some reading up on "workers' cooperatives" - there are a few local to me that seem to be very successful. However, I don't know how they are structured, and there could be issues under the surface that are not apparent to the general public.

I imagine that while everyone who owns the "shares" has a say on how things are done, there is probably a designated person who makes certain decisions.

Think about the group of people you will potentially be working with. Are they agreeable? Would you mind if one of them was your boss? Would they mind if you were their boss? As much as you would like to keep things "equal", there will probably end up being someone that resides at the top of the ladder.

There are very many threads on this sub-forum that will give you some answers to your other questions. Not one that I have read includes "New Supplier Forums". Lots of times it is word-of-mouth, and taking overflow from nearby shops that are busy. Very easy for the small guys to get lost in the automated systems.
 

yoke

Hot Rolled
Joined
Sep 26, 2013
Location
PA
It will be difficult to feel that everyone is pulling their weight. You'll want to spend a bunch of money on a lawyer to draw up an iron clad agreement so when #2 sleeps with #4s wife you don't lose your ass.
 

Bobw

Diamond
Joined
Feb 8, 2005
Location
Hatch, NM Chile capital of the WORLD
It will be difficult to feel that everyone is pulling their weight. You'll want to spend a bunch of money on a lawyer to draw up an iron clad agreement so when #2 sleeps with #4s wife you don't lose your ass.
You don't even have to spend a ton.. Y'all can sit down, (without lawyer), write down what you want in your partnership agreement, then just have a lawyer look it over, fluff it so its in legalize, then have the mess notarized..

Quick story: I had an exterminator that was starting his own exterminator business with 2 friends..
I told him to make sure he had a partnership agreement, and I told him why.. So, he brought it
up with his 2 friends. One thought it was a great idea, the other one got pissed off "You don't trust
me" etc... And was no longer a friend, and out of the deal.. Guess who would have been the
one stealing all the money??

They ended up paying a lawyer for an hour, they already had everything on paper, they just needed
it fluffed, and notarized. It worked out well for them.
 

implmex

Titanium
Joined
Jun 23, 2002
Location
Vancouver BC Canada
Oh yeah, while I'm at it...on the subject of the best and cheapest way to get whatever ISO certification you want or think you need to compete on your playing field:
Probably the principal thing is to not get too reliant on your consultant/contractor to hold your hand.
There's probably no more expensive way to get total crap than to hand them a stack of cash together with the command" Make Me Something"

You need to be involved...you need to understand the processes you will capture in your ISO certification, and the way you structure all that will have profound consequences as to whether this exercise turns into an expensive but useful tool, or a total fucking disaster that eats money like candy and delivers only premature ageing.

So I encourage you to walk into the ISO thing with a plan of your own...your contractors are your advisors and your facilitators...they are not your mistresses or your overlords.
It ain't rocket science so figure out what you want it to be able to do for your company (and the answer is NOT just "I want to attract customers with my shiny ISO certification numbers").

Cheers

Marcus
www.implant-mechanix.com
www.vancouverwireedm.com
 

metal-ica

Aluminum
Joined
Jan 19, 2019
We are trying to decide whether or not to start up our own shop. There are 4 of us and between us all, we have experience in managing/supervising, 5x mill and lathe programming, setup all types of mills and lathes, quoting, and capex purchases. We have the most experience in the aerospace and defense industries. This would be our target customer base. Couple questions for the forum:
  • Does anyone have advice on customer acquisition? We made a list of 100+ potential customers. Are there any tricks beyond filling out the "New Supplier Forms" on their sites?
  • Best and/or cheapest way to get ISO and AS9100 certs?
  • Has anyone every started a company with a group of 3 or more? How did that work out?
Any other advise or observations would be appreciated.

Where are you located?

I have a 40 year track record and in with some big companies and I want to start stepping back from the business.
 

Ox

Diamond
Joined
Aug 27, 2002
Location
West Unity, Ohio
A) Shy away from partnerships

With today's employment situation (and I don't expect this to change any time soon) :

B) Now, and the near future is likely going to be the easiest time to find a customer willing to consider a new supplier.

C) Anyone that can make anything, and is willing to doo it themselves, and not rely on employees, will have all that they can take on.


-----------------------------

Think Snow Eh!
Ox
 

dcsipo

Diamond
Joined
Oct 13, 2014
Location
Baldwin, MD/USA
It would be easier to answer some of your questions if you had:
  • Capital,
  • Machines
  • A supply chain
  • Location
A QSR is just a pile of papers unless you have proven experience in following it. Unless you have capabilities it is hard to sell your services :)....and the list continues.

We started. a partnership with 8 members worked out OK but was not ideal. We were in software consulting, i.e. almost no capital needs. In machining, you gotta get some iron to start and it cost a pretty penny.
 

Superbowl

Cast Iron
Joined
Feb 12, 2020
The money is not in doing the work, it is in selling/securing the work. Who ever can bring in work is the rain maker and the others can always be replaced with employees or subcontractors. That sometimes makes for problems even in a partnership of two, let alone four. That is why an ironclad partnership agreement spelling out how expenses, co-signments on equipment loans, lease obligations, and other issues are to be handled if someone wants out later. It also needs to cover/spelling out non-complete clause terms, as if one guy leaves and takes all the customers, the others are screwed.
 

dcsipo

Diamond
Joined
Oct 13, 2014
Location
Baldwin, MD/USA
The money is not in doing the work, it is in selling/securing the work. Who ever can bring in work is the rain maker and the others can always be replaced with employees or subcontractors. That sometimes makes for problems even in a partnership of two, let alone four. That is why an ironclad partnership agreement spelling out how expenses, co-signments on equipment loans, lease obligations, and other issues are to be handled if someone wants out later. It also needs to cover/spelling out non-complete clause terms, as if one guy leaves and takes all the customers, the others are screwed.
did you write a business plan? That might answer a few more questions

 

BT Fabrication

Stainless
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Location
Ontario Canada
an idea is an idea, a plan is a labor of love with no financial repayment for years. be prepared to be broke for a while and dumping $ back into the company for years before seeing ROI.

and everyone here wants to start a shop, very few know the details of how much of a pain in the azz it can be.
 

DouglasJRizzo

Titanium
Joined
Jun 7, 2011
Location
Ramsey, NJ.
We are trying to decide whether or not to start up our own shop. There are 4 of us and between us all, we have experience in managing/supervising, 5x mill and lathe programming, setup all types of mills and lathes, quoting, and capex purchases. We have the most experience in the aerospace and defense industries. This would be our target customer base. Couple questions for the forum:
  • Does anyone have advice on customer acquisition? We made a list of 100+ potential customers. Are there any tricks beyond filling out the "New Supplier Forms" on their sites?
  • Best and/or cheapest way to get ISO and AS9100 certs?
  • Has anyone every started a company with a group of 3 or more? How did that work out?
Any other advise or observations would be appreciated.
As someone who's started a shop, not once, but twice, I think I can answer a few of these.

1) Try not to have partners. If you must, try not to let them have the same say as you do. You'll regret this later on, as you won't have control of your company. If you must have partners, have things hashed out before hand.
2) Customer acquisition - Having a list is great, but really, you need to cultivate the customers. In person visits and business cards are a MUST as is a decent website.
Good luck!
 

mhajicek

Titanium
Joined
May 11, 2017
Location
Minneapolis, MN, USA
Here's my recipe.

Get one guy who needs something. Do the job right, do it fast, meet their needs, and charge a reasonable price. They'll keep coming back, and after a while they'll tell someone else. Do the same for the second guy. Repeat.
 

john.k

Diamond
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Location
Brisbane Qld Australia
Ive worked for bosses three times in near 60 years,and run shops for myself at others ......and for sure each one of those bosses was bribing key people in customer organizations to get an inside run on work.......IMHO,when you miss out on a job you should have got,this is why.
 

Ox

Diamond
Joined
Aug 27, 2002
Location
West Unity, Ohio
Ive worked for bosses three times in near 60 years,and run shops for myself at others ......and for sure each one of those bosses was bribing key people in customer organizations to get an inside run on work.......IMHO,when you miss out on a job you should have got,this is why.


That is an old skewl way of dooing business, and has a ring of more 70's and 80's, at least for us Yanks.
But I doo know that it is still practiced by a few folks yet.


------------------

Think Snow Eh!
Ox
 








 
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