If you have a knack for small engine repair and already know how to fix lawn mowers in particular, you're in the perfect position to turn a hobby into a thriving part- or full-time business. You'll only enjoy success in your endeavor if you go about it the right way and create a small engine repair business plan that identifies and overcomes some barriers that prevent your customers from connecting with you.
In particular, you'll need to make sure your lawn mower repair business is priced competitively compared to the cost of purchasing a new mower and that you advertise your business sufficiently while also making it convenient to the consumer. In addition to troubleshooting those potential roadblocks, you'll also need to make sure you have the right space and equipment for the job. Good liability insurance is also a must.
It Has to Be Priced Competitively
One of the major hurdles you'll need to overcome when starting a lawn mower repair business is the throw-away society in which we live. The cheaper the lawn mower, the greater the chance that it will be replaced with a brand-new model instead of brought to a repair shop. You can potentially convince people to bring their mower to you for repair if you can give them a functional mower at a cost savings. In other words, you need to have competitive prices for your lawn mower repair.
That doesn't mean you should sell yourself short, though. You possess a desirable skill and talent, and you should have an hourly or per-project rate of appropriate value. Just be aware that there is a limit to how much people are willing to pay when it comes to certain products.
You're more likely to get business repairing engines from more expensive models, like riding lawn mowers that cost several hundred dollars to purchase. Keep this in mind when you start to advertise your services.
People Have to Know It Exists
Another side effect of living in a modern throw-away society is that smaller repair businesses are few and far between. This is great news for small engine repair shops that do exist because there's less competition, but a disadvantage also exists: Your customers might not even realize that taking their lawn mowers to a repair shop is an option.
Don't let them make that mistake. Be sure to advertise your lawn mower repair business so people know that taking their lawn mowers to you for repair is an option. Giving away freebies like magnets, pens or notepads with your business's logo and contact information is a great way to keep your business in the back of someone's mind for an extended period of time. However, you'll also want to explore other marketing strategies like print advertising or social media marketing.
People will also be referred to you via other professionals. For example, people might ask about lawn mower repair at their local garden center. You can get referrals by leaving a stack of business cards at the business and building trust with the business owner so that he feels confident in recommending you.
It Has to Be Convenient
The third hurdle that could prevent people from choosing a lawn mower repair service is lack of convenience. Even large riding lawn mowers can be delivered these days, which means the owner does not necessarily have a trailer to easily transport it for repair. You can circumvent this problem by offering pick ups and returns for an additional fee.
In addition, everyone has a different definition of what constitutes "too far to drive". If you live one county over from a major city, people may prefer to contact a competitor whose workshop is a little closer. One way to overcome this hurdle is to form a partnership with local businesses (such as local hardware shops or garden centers) to allow customers to drop off lawn mowers for repair at their establishments. Be sure to make it fair by paying "rent" or sharing a percentage of the sale with the shop owner.
Investing in the Tools of the Trade
If you're interested in starting a lawn mower repair business, you probably already tinker around with lawn mowers on the side enough to know that you have what it takes to tackle a host of problems. That means you also probably have some sort of home workshop. What you'll need to decide next is whether you currently have enough space for handling an increase in repairs. Do you have room to securely store lawn mowers while also having plenty of space to maneuver and make repairs?
Before you start remodeling your home garage or building a brand-new workshop on your property, check with your local government to find out if you need a special permit to run a business out of your home. You'll definitely need to register your business for tax purposes regardless of where its headquarters is located.
Besides having an appropriate space for this business, make sure you also have all the tools you need. Have plenty of common spare parts on hand to increase your efficiency and turnaround times, which in turn will increase your customers' satisfaction (and don't forget to ask them to leave you a review online!). You'll also want a flat-bed trailer and a vehicle that can safely tow it in order to provide convenient pick ups and returns.
Get Insurance for Lawn Mower Repair
Next, you'll want to have a few professionals on your side, including an insurance agent. You could potentially be held liable for injuries someone sustains while using a lawn mower you repaired. The possibility of a fire breaking out in your workshop also exists thanks to the flammable materials with which you work. These are just two of many scenarios from which a robust insurance plan can protect you if the worst should happen.
Find a Mentor or Apprentice
Finally, you should recognize that you don't know everything about lawn mower repair. You probably know a lot, but a certain brand, model or problem is bound to stump you. Having a network of peers who can mentor you in these situations is vital for improving your skills, sustaining your reputation and increasing the number of jobs you can take on in the future. Just because you'll be in the workshop by yourself most days doesn't mean you have to tackle each problem by yourself, so ask for advice.
In that same vein, don't isolate yourself from people who want to learn lawn mower repair skills. You can expand your business by teaching one on one or by hosting clinics. If you're approached by someone who wants to apprentice under you, seriously consider passing on your knowledge and skills. Having an extra pair of hands around the workshop can end up paying for itself thanks to increased efficiency.
Remember, small engine repair is essential even if many people believe it's easier to just throw things away when they break. Offering educational opportunities, even in the form of online content, can represent a valuable angle for building your reputation and positioning yourself as a leader in the industry. If you're ever experiencing a slow period and don't have the budget for an advertising campaign, hone in on both your education and the education of others. It will pay off.
- Start small. Earn a solid customer base before taking on more business than you can handle. Always be paid for your time. Research what other mechanics charge for labor. Be fair. Be accessible. If you don't have a secretary, make sure you have a way for your customers and prospects to get a hold of you. Have a visible sign. This will help people find you and attract drive-by business, especially when people see your sign on a regular basis. Always ask for referrals. If you do a good job, your customers will send you people they know. A good mechanic is often a cherished contact. Obtain the proper business insurance. Because you are working with other people's property, it is wise to be insured to protect yourself against lawsuits or accidents (see Resources below).
- Never operate without a permit if one is necessary. Never dispose of unused oil or gasoline in areas where it might contaminate the environment. Only use approved containers and disposal methods.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.