What's new
What's new

How did you get established?

rbmgf7

Aluminum
Joined
Oct 18, 2017
Curious how some of you managed to open your own job shop especially if it was a solo venture? I can't imagine it's like opening a restaurant. I can wrap my head if you're making products but being a job shop making small runs leaves me wondering.

Did you work for someone else and pocket a few accounts on the way out? Work for someone else and convince them you can supply cheaper? Knock on doors? Dump tons of money into ads? Social media? Just knowing people?

Then managing to purchase machines. Finance? Investors? Cash out of pocket?
 

Booze Daily

Titanium
Joined
Sep 18, 2015
Location
Ohio
I bought a Bridgeport and put it in friend's garage. Started doing work for a friend of a friend. Made about $1000.
Rented a small shop space, bought an engine lathe and Horizontal band saw. Called a former employer who used to sub out lots of work. They kept me super busy.

Had a guy walk in looking for the last shop that was there. I ended up doing work for them for several years.

When volumes got bigger I bought a turret lathe and a CNC knee mill.

That sucked, so I bought a brand new CNC lathe and a used VMC from former employer. At this point I was in business for 4 years.

Hired someone, got busier, hired another guy. Bought 2 new 4 axis VMC's, got busier, hired a couple more people.

08-09 happened, got rid of everyone, fired my shittiest customers and it's been me ever since. 27 years in Jan.
 

kustomizer

Titanium
Joined
Aug 17, 2007
Location
North Fork Idaho
I found some second op work from other shops to run in the am before going to work and after returning, some of those turned into regular accounts and told others about our work. We did a lot of work for the last shop I left for several years as they were unable to figure out how it was done and thought it was easier if they just had us do it. Now we are 80% or better our own products, much of that was customers we had done work for for years then when they couldn't sell what they had we made them an offer that included them helping us for the time it took us to pay them off, typically 5 years. Word of mouth has kept us too busy for years.
 

MrWhoopee

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 8, 2017
I worked as the foreman of a thriving job shop for 10 years. When the owner sold the business to a Japanese corp that had also purchased one of our larger customers, he helped us purchase the bones of an old line local shop. The relationships I had developed as foreman allowed me to get work from the other, now dissatisfied customers. This, in addition to the few remaining customers of the shop we purchased allowed us to hit the ground running.

It's who you know and your reputation. Advertising is a waste of money in this business, purchasing agents don't look in the yellow pages/Google. They ask other purchasing agents, maintenance formen, vendors, etc. You must have a minimal presence on the internet, in the phone book, etc, but spending large amounts is not productive. Knocking on doors will likely produce more business but is also more discouraging and time intensive, keeping you away from the shop.
 
Last edited:

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
I started out with a Bridgeport, a 10K Southbend, MIG, TIG, 2 post lift and a Shizuoka CNC knee mill with a toolchanger in a 1200 sq ft building I rented for $300/mo. I built an ultrasonic gasoline fuel injector cleaning and testing machine and planned for my business to offer fuel injector rebuilding/flow testing plus custom intake manifold port injection conversions for older vehicles. Right as I got going cheap Chinese fuel injectors hit the US market. I never made a dime on any of that. I did some fab work building large entry gates for million dollar homes for a bit then a friend that owned a successful automotive shop asked if I could rebuild a transmission for him. For the next two years I rebuilt 3-5 transmissions a week. I enjoyed the transmission work, but hated the industry and always felt like the customer thought I was fucking them somehow. Nobody ever wants to get their transmission rebuilt. Just didn't feel like a good fit for me, but the money was very good and it got me started.

I bought better machines and developed ideas I had for other automotive products. When I moved to a larger shop with enough power to run a real CNC lathe and mill, I bought an old Mazak lathe and old Mori VMC, I hired a CNC programmer for a couple months to get me up to speed and I was doing what I set out to do, making products, after being in business for 4 years by then.

I steered clear of most job work because I wasn't much of a machinist. I could figure stuff out for my own products, but I didn't have the experience to make any money doing job work and my machines were pretty old and broke down often. I learned as much about keeping old Fanucs running as I did about machining those first few years of making chips. I hired a couple guys, brought a bunch of products to market, most did pretty good. Most months were in the $20k to $30k gross range, but I wasn't taking home that much after payroll and dumping everything I could into building inventory. I needed faster machines and to hire more skilled labor. I bought another business which in hindsight was a mistake that cost me in the end.

Around 2015 I was shopping for a house and dirt to build a shop. It was a strange period of time for me where it seemed like nothing would go right with my business, but building the new shop and upgrading machines went great. The stress from one of my products led to some health problems that slowed me way down for a bit. I trimmed down to just me. I let my biggest, most successful and most stressful product die. I bootstrapped a large shop build for a cash that turned out great and I replaced all my old slow machines with top shelf newer fast ones. I did a lot of repair work for local industry, refined and automated all of my existing products. Basically more efficiency instead of hiring employees.

I've currently cleared my schedule to work for one customer designing and building stamping tools of all things. Once this gig is wrapped up I'm considering hiring some skilled help to accelerate the product business.

I just follow the opportunities, learn everything I can and avoid too much stress.
 

EMTech

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 10, 2022
Location
South Bend area
I got my first cnc mill from a business that was going to scrap it out because it wasn't working.
I took a risk and ended up getting it working, but it took a lot of time. Not a lot of money, but more time than I care to admit.
I did learn a lot through the process!
 

DouglasJRizzo

Titanium
Joined
Jun 7, 2011
Location
Ramsey, NJ.
Curious how some of you managed to open your own job shop especially if it was a solo venture? I can't imagine it's like opening a restaurant. I can wrap my head if you're making products but being a job shop making small runs leaves me wondering.

Did you work for someone else and pocket a few accounts on the way out? Work for someone else and convince them you can supply cheaper? Knock on doors? Dump tons of money into ads? Social media? Just knowing people?

Then managing to purchase machines. Finance? Investors? Cash out of pocket?

When I decided to go out on my own for the second time, I went at it with the knowledge gained from the first time around. :)
So, I got the machines wired. Air compressor wired and plumbed. Tools, boxes, cutters, etc all ready to go.
I got a Grasshopper phone number (cheap!) and a website (also cheap). I built a social media presence on the platforms (free!). My Twitter profile has nearly 2000 followers from all over the world, in the span of a few months. While they're not paying customers, they have spread my name to those who ARE!
I got some great looking business cards from Vista Print.
I had all the infrastructure in place BEFORE I went looking for customers.

I then started looking for customers by email, by dropping in on their places, by sales reps, by referrals.
Little by little, it comes together. .

When visiting a customer or going out on the road -
1) Dress neatly and professionally, but don't over do it. Khaki's, dockers, trousers, or clean uncut jeans, polo shirt or button down with short sleeves (the long sleeves get filthy in a shop environment.) work shoes that are clean. Hair combed neatly. BREATH MINTS. WATER in the car. ALWAYS have pens in your pocket and business cards.
2)Get a small notebook and some pens in your vehicle. These are for notes when you are done.
3)You're there to help the customer. Meet his needs. Solve a problem. You're not selling machined parts, you're selling YOU. Your experience. Your knowledge. Your abilities. Your connections.

I would get in my truck and drive for 2-3 hours in any one direction, stopping at every industrial park and warehouse I could find. I always came back with work. Always.

You WILL be successful.
 

john.k

Diamond
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Location
Brisbane Qld Australia
Rent.....many years ago,when banks actually had people working in them.....anyhoo ,women in the bank says to me "You are always banking $1k cheques and such ,do you have an investment plan?".......I says..."All my money is invested in industrial buildings ,units in a holiday spot ,a big yacht,and a nice house"......she says "You have done well"......I says "Its not mine ,all belongs to my landlord"
 

kazlx

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 22, 2010
Location
Tustin, CA
I started building cars in high school, and knew of machine tools, but that was about it. I've always enjoying making things and building stuff. About 10 years ago, I was interested in cnc, but scared of a mill and the cost, so I built a cnc plasma table, ran that for a couple years out of my garage. I made good money with it, but logistics got old the busier I got. Plus I hated the mess and material handling. Decided I really did want to just learn cnc machining. I had a manual Logan lathe and a BP. I found a deal on an old Japanese drill/tap similar to a Brother. It was ok, ran fine, but had a very basic Fanuc control. It couldn't helical interpolate, had limited memory and couldn't DNC. I had enough work with basic stuff, I purchased a Fadal 3016 off of a user here, ran that for two years and just purchased a brand new Brother Speedio S700X2 last November. I stay pretty busy, but have a regular job. I'm really shooting to try and bring in some more steady work and get an actual space and leave my current job. I've been working on part density and learning about automation to keep the mill running during the day while I'm at work. It's been a huge upgrade with stuff like tool breakage detection, probing and a reliable machine. I think I would have already made the jump, but I'm in SoCal and smaller shop space is just so ridiculously expensive and hard to find.
 

gustafson

Diamond
Joined
Sep 4, 2002
Location
People's Republic
I started my business because I kept getting laid off and figured I could do better.
I did contract work[temping] for 2 years while I got going
My first 3 or 4 biggest customers were companies I contracted for
My biggest commercial client is because I went to a close friends wedding and gave a business card to his former room mate.
30 years ago, still going
Most of my work is my own stuff, because I have a really smart friend who had a good product idea, but no means or inclination to follow up, and I had a good business idea and there it is.

Don't get locked into what you think you are going to do
Don't be afraid to use connections or friends to get things done.
Doesn't mean being a dick or stealing, just taking what is in front of you
Follow opportunities
 

john.k

Diamond
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Location
Brisbane Qld Australia
In the washup,I started businesses to do stuff no one would let me do on their stuff......When I was a kid I always wanted to own big dozers......better than steam locos for sure..............so when the price was right ,I bought me some D9Hs ....had to have some transport for them.....then you got drivers working for you,and they got their own ideas of what could be an earner ...........some you listen to,some are idiots...........i found about 5 years is the span of interest......then you do something else interseting........sitting in a cold shop gets very boring after a while,you need a break...........no need to close the shop,because anything you do ,you are gonna need your own maintenance.
 

Stirling

Hot Rolled
Joined
Dec 11, 2013
Location
Alberta canada
Told my employer he needed a mill for the odd sub out on cutting jetways n shafts $1000 a month. (More for the in house control aspect)
Said no. (Electric motor repair shop, machine shop was stricltly to fix motors)

2 months later I bought a haas tm-1 just to Lear CNC milling told my boss and asked if he would like to rent it.
He said yes $600 (Canadian) a month. Ended up renting it 5 years.
Within 6 months I bought another CNC mill. Tm-2 . Auction was just too good to pass up. Asked the boss if I could park it in his shop. Do some of my own stuff and it would make his shop look better to customers (he was all about impressing them)
Old buddy I started the trade with came in to get a motor fixed and I told him about my mills.
He said match the price and the works yours. $10,000 job. Needed a lathe bought a tl-1 and parked it in the home garage. Moved the spare tm-2 home.
That job repeated, his needed other stuff. As I supported him he supported me. Was a great side hussle.
Went full time in the garage after a few years/machines paid off. Did great. Job shopping at home. Loved it

Covid hit.
Depleated savings and was getting reeealy stressed. Reeeealy stressed and a baby on the way……..

Pulled through. Times are a bit better. Make about 1.3x what I would as an employee. Not enough for the risk of “your spindle gave out”
Gonna give it one more year. Things are looking good. But so is selling everything and getting a job.
Love it tho. I really do
 

latheman78

Hot Rolled
Joined
May 28, 2022
Location
Southern Ca Mtns.
I bought a manual mill and lathe to do second operation work for a co-worker who had some old cam swiss without attachments in his garage. I was humping like a monkey for $30 an hour every spare minute I had, that was $2 an hour more than that day job 30 years ago. I expanded my garage in the rest of my spare time.

Then I had a friend who had a bowling league friend he was doing side jobs for at work. He said I could have him as he wasn't worth risking his day job or buying machines for. Lo and behold the guys products started selling and I was making $50-$60 an hour doing them manually. So I bought my first CNC Lathe. Then a CNC Mill. Had about a 6 year run before he fell victim to knock offs, our quality was better in functionality, appearance, and durability. I could not bare to come clean that I was making an easy $200 an hour plus on him running two out dated CNCs. I told him steps we could take to put the knock off artists out of business.

He did not like the idea of volume discounts, distributor pricing, and lowering his margins. My part would be investing in equipment that would produce more in less time so I could lower pricing. I said we would meet in the middle dropping margins. I could just add another 5 second between tool changes clunky CNC Lathe that ran off floppies for $6500, and work a little harder for $200 an hour and even go to $150 if needed.

The SOB flat out refused to offer any discounts of any kind, and would just sell to those that would pay for quality. Big mistake his products sales eventually went to 10% of what they were. Everything he bought wasting money and maxing out credit went back to the bank. I got stiffed on a 5 figure balance, but he managed to lease a CNC Mill and Lathe and hire a machinist to cover that 10%. He said if I sued him he would just file bankruptcy and I could stand in line.

Probably not wanting jail and the fact in spite of the hosing, I made a lot of money off of him, paying cash for all the machines I have now decades later saved his life. If I ever get terminal cancer if he hasn't preceded me in death, he will.
 

BT Fabrication

Stainless
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
I spent some $, started fixing broken junk, made a couple $$ and put that into more tools, then repeat. Only difference now is I make some new parts on CNC machines.

When you do good work, the work finds you. Words that get around make you $.
 








 
Top