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Author Topic: Bus Conversion Business  (Read 3687 times)
viking1
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« on: August 30, 2011, 12:02:20 PM »

So here is a question to all you wise bus nuts.

I am recently furloughed from my job and I am looking for something to do. I have a small 2 acre ranch outside of Los Angeles CA with a pretty decent sized shop, and lots of parking. I have been contemplating what I can do from home working in my shop to make a living. So it came to me, I have a bus, I love buses and over the last 3 years I have learned allot about buses. I have a lot of local talent that I can hire in, like painters, body guys, interior guys, electrical guys, welders etc. So I am wondering if it might be a good idea to start a small business converting buses. Maybe commit to completing 2 a year or so and also maybe doing some repairs on the side.

Any advise or comments would be greatly appreciated. How would I go about advertising, where would my customers come from?Huh?

Also my own bus is approx 65% finished, it is a 1989 MCI 102C3
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Busted Knuckle
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« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2011, 12:12:24 PM »

I have always been told the way to make a small fortune in ____________ (fill in with what you want),
is too start out with a big one!
Grin  BK  Grin

I know it has worked for me with trucks & charter buses!

Start out with $ in your pocket and before long you'll be @ the nearest exit with a card board sign saying "Will work for food!"

Now hey that is one enterprise that is thriving and it don't cost much to get in to it or much overhead to keep it going!
Grin  BK  Grin
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Busted Knuckle aka Bryce Gaston
KY Lakeside Travel's Busted Knuckle Garage
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prevosman
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« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2011, 12:36:18 PM »

I no longer work for a living, but when I did I went from a real job to being in my own business. The shift is enormous and by all standards I never should have survived in my first stand alone business. But I did survive and got a lot smarter. With the second business I learned a lot more, and buy the time I have my third business I actually knew what I was doing.

So if I am going to offer any free advice (worth what you are going to pay for it) it is to rub the stars out of your eyes and look at this in the most realistic possible way. You have a lot of questions to answer and you have to answer them honestly.

The most important is where will your business come from? And if there really are customers out there beating down your door are they going to be willing to spend the $100 an hour you need to charge to be able to survive? (If you think $100 an hour is too much insert your own number but only after you have priced insurance, utilities, supplies, advertising, the cost of doing the job over because you made a mistake, etc. etc.)

Once you have a solid answer as to where and how you are going to get customers that will pay your price, start looking into all that is required to convert your 2 acres into a commercial property with all the permits, licenses, approvals, zoning changes, etc. Then get the prices for everything you need to run a business including insurance, legal assistance, accounting assistance, etc. If you need employees don't forget to figure in everything they are entitled to such as insurance, workemen's comp, disability, holidays, vacations, payroll taxes. etc. Figure in the cost of compliance with all environmental and OSHA regulations. Make sure the local building inspector will not require major changes that cost money you did not anticipate. You get the picture.

Then be honest with yourself. Are you really as good and as smart as you think? Or is your expertise very limited, such as to a single model bus? If the answer is you need additional training or employees with specialized skills to offset yours you need to make sure you have that covered. Customers usually do not like paying for on the job training.

As every business man on this and every other forum will tell you your 40 hour workweeks are over. Are you ready to work all day, every day, and then sit at the kitchen table trying to do cash flow analysis to see if you can meet next week's payroll or if you can afford to buy a new compressor to fix the one that just broke? Are you prepared to be getting phone calls at home after you are in bed? As unreasonable as customers can be they are still customers.

All the above is the down side.

If you can see clearly that it will work, even if it means you barely have money for food some weeks, the good news is nothing is more satisfying than owning your own business. And once you succeed (survive) at one each succeeding one becomes easier and you become much more proficient as a businessman (not as a skilled tradesman). But before you take such a huge risk you really need to be honest with yourself.

I would be scared to death to try to start a business in CA. But then again all of my businesses were in NY which is just as anti business as CA.
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Jon Wehrenberg
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« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2011, 12:55:30 PM »

I have always been confused by one person in the conversion business.  No matter what happens he ends up back in business with a fresh supply of suckers er victims no I mean customers.

 Why can't an honest person come up with the same marketing strategy and actually do the work that is paid for??

 http://www.busconversions.com/bbs/index.php?topic=559.0
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thunderstruck
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« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2011, 01:00:36 PM »

Unfortunately, "small business" in this country is a endangered species...
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bigjohnkub
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2011, 01:32:50 PM »

You did not give your age. If you are young , go for it  I have started 3 businesses. two that survived, one burned down. I did not get rich. I made a good living and sent both children through college> UT if you are wondering. I worked 10 to 12 hrs a day. 1st wife left and got most of the money. I am getting ready to retire from 3rd business with two rent properties and my home on 300 acres of land. You will have to work til you cannot stay awake, but you can do it. There is only 2 ways to get money in America, Inherit it or earn it.

Big John
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Big John  Tyler Tx PD 4903-188 & 4107
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Lin
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« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2011, 02:01:33 PM »

Do you plan to build a bus on spec, or sell your services to someone that wants a conversion?  The first option is easy to do, if you have the money, but may be to hard to sell in this market.  You would have to work out what the conversion would cost and how much you can get selling it compared to what's on Craigslist already.  I am not sure it would pay now.  The second option is less risky, but you would need a way to find a flush customer.
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bevans6
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« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2011, 02:07:01 PM »

Do piece work, not projects.  Try to get them on an hourly rate plus materials basis.  $30/hr, less $10 for overhead, work ten hours, use maybe $200 in material at a 20% markup, you got a days wage.  And people actually pay you for it, as opposed to promises, I'll get you next week, and now lets talk about the discount on the whole job...

I do project work for very very few people.

Brian
« Last Edit: August 30, 2011, 02:32:20 PM by bevans6 » Logged

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Lonnie time to go
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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2011, 02:23:45 PM »

I could not agree more with what others have posted.

Dealing with employees when you turn  your back no work done or tools gone.

Calls every holiday trust me thanksgiving is a big one.

Work long days and 7 days a week big time.

The big thing is people want a firm price not by the hour.  once you give that price any changes are hard to get money for ( you want the customer happy)

Dealing with people is not easy some just don't think the way the rest of the world does.
People will tell you how to do it, and blame you if it don't work.

A plus is money can be good but after you get it organized.

Cost of advertising can be crazy.  I had yellow page lead ad 2 in x 4 in listed first cost  $6000.00

A big one is getting people to spend money knowing the dollar value of a bus is gone.

Take what you think it will cost and X by 4

Take estimated profit and divide by 3

Good luck

Lonnie

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viking1
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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2011, 03:49:14 PM »

Thank you for all the valuable information. I am 43 and yes I know what business it takes a million bucks in to turn it into 100K. Aviation!. U gotta start a billionair to become a millionair!

I have been in aviation all my life as a pilot as well as an owner. I used to own a very successful Aviation Charter company both in the US and in Europe. I employed over 45 people and had 14+ airplanes at the height of the business. After 911 it has been hard to do any thing in aviation, so for the last 8 years+ I've been a pilot for a major organization but even they laid of people. So I am thinking it is time to be in control of my own destiny again and why not combine it with something I love and am good at. I am not afraid of hard work or long days. I am not looking to convert my property in to the next Marathon Coach workshop. I just want to do one or two buses a year, maybe hire one guy to help me and work on my own schedule. Nothing to big, just enough to pay the bills, do good honest work and turn out a good product.

Thanks for the input and any thing else you got will be much appreciated.
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Utahclaimjumper
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« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2011, 04:02:58 PM »

The one hardest thing to accomplish is to get the customer to pay what he owes AFTER you have all YOUR money and time invested in HIS job,, they allways think that is the time to negotiate.>>>Dan
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Utahclaimjumper 
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belfert
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« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2011, 04:24:17 PM »

If you're thinking about converting used buses you have to realize you may be married to that bus forever.  If the engine blows 6 months down the road the customer will claim you sold them a piece of junk even though you may have sold the chassis AS-IS.  You might be better off converting a bus the customer buys themselves.

New buses are going to be a tough sell as someone will wonder what you offer versus Marathon and the other big boys.  You may have problems even getting a new shell as they won't want to sell a new business one on credit.  Again, I guess you could have the customer pay for the shell up front.

There is a little company locally that was fixing and upgrading buses, but not sure if they are still in business.  I don't know if they did any full conversions or not.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2011, 04:26:33 PM »

The one hardest thing to accomplish is to get the customer to pay what he owes AFTER you have all YOUR money and time invested in HIS job,, they allways think that is the time to negotiate.>>>Dan

That is one thing that I always am careful of. Seriously, I always have a signed contract (with amounts) up front. Even then, I get enough up front to cover all of my hard costs. One thing I always try hard to do, is never dip into my own pocket for hard costs. Does it limit my pool of customers (before the economy went down I was a contractor, now I do computer work, I really don't miss the construction), maybe. However, I have found that I really don't want to work for the folks that don't want to pay some up front.

FWIW

John
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Dreamscape
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« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2011, 04:27:18 PM »

One thought. Get at least 50% up front, balance when complete. Just so you have enough cash flow to support the cost of materials and enough to keep the lights on.

After you take a hard honest look at it, then think realistic.

Good Luck, it's tough out there, but live the dream if you can.
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« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2011, 04:54:05 PM »

I have been in aviation all my life as a pilot as well as an owner. I used to own a very successful Aviation Charter company both in the US and in Europe. I employed over 45 people and had 14+ airplanes at the height of the business.

Why not stick with what you know? I was in a partnership years ago, but nothing like you describe that you have done. A startup is a rough endeaver and more fail than succeed, especially in todays market. Personally, I do not see a lot of money flowing into bus conversions. It's a niche market. If I were in your shoes, I would seek a niche in the aviation field.

With all that said... if it is your dream, then do it.  Wink
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Mike & Rosemarie
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