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Building a client list for a new shop

Miller846

Plastic
Joined
Oct 23, 2022
Good Afternoon, I started a small shop up in the garage roughly a year ago. I have been using Xometry for work and have had decent luck with it, although a lot of the work is trash. Id really like to build up a client list and get away from brokers period, Im just not sure the best way to go it. I have cold called a lot of places and did manage to get some RFQ’s from two companies but none came to fruition, even though I had extremely competitive times and pricing. It seems very difficult to get the foot in the door with a lot of companies and I’m sure some of that has to do with me being a startup in the garage (though I don’t tell them that unless I have to). I am just curious how to sell myself to a potential client, when I don’t have much to sell in regards to machine capability and equipment list. I’d love to be able to invite clients to a shop full of new equipment and high end inspection equipment but to get to that point, I need the work first which is where the dilemma is. I have looked into Thomas net and mfg.com, but have heard bad responses on here about them so I’ve kind of stayed away. Any suggestions on the best way for a new shop to start building up clients? Thank you for your time!
 

Hebrewhammer8

Aluminum
Joined
May 14, 2009
Location
Bellingham, Wa
ahh the ultimate conundrum...

You need the work to pay for the equipment, but you also need the equipment to do the work.

I'd look into Time Travel if possible.

but to be cereal about this you need to offer something unique, something that sets you apart from others. Sometimes the only thing that sets you apart is that you know the right people.....
 

hvnlymachining

Cast Iron
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Location
St.Onge
For me, my first big customer came from knowing somebody, (the shop assistant millright) AND something important to his boss. He asked if I knew why a simple part was failing quickly, I knew that it was made from an incorrect material. After suggesting a proper material and explaining why it was the proper material, he ordered 1 of the cheap part. Not exactly a profitable order. A full run order followed a week later. I'm no metallurgist, but had studied metals for just such questions. We've been making parts large and small for them ever since. (the original part failed every ten days, mine has yet to fail in years)

By the way this was the third time contacting the company before I was even allowed to talk to the foreman!

Another early customer I simply dropped off a card and got a call a full year later for a part they needed fast, been sending me work regularly ever since.

It takes patience, door knocking, phone calling, under priced work, ridiculous hours, (we also did pickup and delivery) taking on the jobs nobody else wants, and stocking any commonly required materials to have better turnaround. And doing your best work on every job even when you can't charge for it.

It helps to have alternate income, I had to sell a lot of things to get needed tools. And was blessed in several ways including my dad helping along side me.

Having a business of your own is a blessing if you do it for the right reasons.
If it's to make more money, you're going to hate it.

Good luck, really!
 

Miller846

Plastic
Joined
Oct 23, 2022
For me, my first big customer came from knowing somebody, (the shop assistant millright) AND something important to his boss. He asked if I knew why a simple part was failing quickly, I knew that it was made from an incorrect material. After suggesting a proper material and explaining why it was the proper material, he ordered 1 of the cheap part. Not exactly a profitable order. A full run order followed a week later. I'm no metallurgist, but had studied metals for just such questions. We've been making parts large and small for them ever since. (the original part failed every ten days, mine has yet to fail in years)

By the way this was the third time contacting the company before I was even allowed to talk to the foreman!

Another early customer I simply dropped off a card and got a call a full year later for a part they needed fast, been sending me work regularly ever since.

It takes patience, door knocking, phone calling, under priced work, ridiculous hours, (we also did pickup and delivery) taking on the jobs nobody else wants, and stocking any commonly required materials to have better turnaround. And doing your best work on every job even when you can't charge for it.

It helps to have alternate income, I had to sell a lot of things to get needed tools. And was blessed in several ways including my dad helping along side me.

Having a business of your own is a blessing if you do it for the right reasons.
If it's to make more money, you're going to hate it.

Good luck, really!
Very helpful, thank you! I called one of the companies that originally sent me an RFQ to follow up with them and asked why they never placed the order and he said they needed a lower price so I talked to him about laser cutting (he had some large, thin parts) and he was open to it so I’m hoping I can reduce costs for them that way and secure a client. It definitely seems like it’s hard to get your foot in the door and then once you do, you have to be extremely competitive on price and lead time to actually get their attention (at least to start gaining trust) Not to mention have the parts be perfect lol.
 

hvnlymachining

Cast Iron
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Location
St.Onge
This comes up every week. Not enough work to go around
I both agree and disagree with that statement.
There's certainly a lot of competition for the work, but every company has parts nobody wants to make. Those are where the new guy can get their foot in the door.

My biggest customer has one of those right now, both they and I have called dozens of companies for a part that I don't have capacity to do. Nobody is interested in it apparently. Even the factory that built it won't make the wear part because they are a year behind with better work.
 

EndlessWaltz

Cast Iron
Joined
Jun 18, 2016
Location
Midwest
^^ Most don't have the smarts to do the part either. A guy running a 2 axis lathe in a garage ain't gonna step up to the plate
 

ducesrwld

Aluminum
Joined
Mar 27, 2008
Location
S.E. WI
you ever see the quote about how many times on average you need to reach out to someone to get a sale....i'll fill you in its not just 1 or 2 or even single digits....it takes time and patience. think about it if every customer sent out rfqs to every tom dick n harry that stopped in we'd be losing business as quick as we got it if that were the case. in general the harder it is to open a door the better the potential that future customer could be. i'd be spending 80% of my time going after new opportunities and 20% in the shop til the RFQ's, customer visits, meetings started piling up. there is no short cuts to getting started but it sure as hell helps when you know a lot of people in the business.
 

LOTT

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 28, 2016
Make and sell your own products. Job out the parts you don't have the equipment for, then use profits to buy those machines.

Also, most of our customers are out of state, so shop tours are a non-issue. There is one guy that is local and comes by the shop, but he runs another small business and doesn't care that we're a redneck shop, because I understand what he's trying to build and knock it out.

Some of our large customers might have had second thoughts if they saw us early on, but that's the blessing of the internet. If you have fancy machines then show them, if you don't then show the nice parts you made (and not your beat down machines).
 

Houdini16

Cast Iron
Joined
Nov 28, 2017
Word of mouth/knowing people in the industry already. Is #1. But also curious what machines do you have? We always see the mislead Saunders NYCNC cult members buying a Tormach and going after the world, wont work.
 

Miller846

Plastic
Joined
Oct 23, 2022
Word of mouth/knowing people in the industry already. Is #1. But also curious what machines do you have? We always see the mislead Saunders NYCNC cult members buying a Tormach and going after the world, wont work.
Currently running a Haas Super Mini Mill. I did try the tormach at first….lasted 3 weeks and had a lead screw snap. Made them take it back and refund me and stepped up to the haas. I’m looking at expanding into an industrial unit and bringing in a doosan DNM 4500 to compliment the mini mill.
 

Houdini16

Cast Iron
Joined
Nov 28, 2017
Currently running a Haas Super Mini Mill. I did try the tormach at first….lasted 3 weeks and had a lead screw snap. Made them take it back and refund me and stepped up to the haas. I’m looking at expanding into an industrial unit and bringing in a doosan DNM 4500 to compliment the mini mill.
What work holding do you have in it?
 

Miller846

Plastic
Joined
Oct 23, 2022
Right now I just have a couple premium 6 inch glacern vices, but I am exploring the 5th axis rock lock system. I am constantly swapping out vice jaws and probing for 2nd, 3rd, 4th ops. I need to streamline the workholding and reduce my setup times before investing in a second machine.
 








 
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