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Entrepreneurial Question -- New RV Service / Repair Company for Houston

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Here's an entrepreneurial question for folks in the greater Houston area and for the forum in general.   I and many other late Baby Boomers / early Gen-X folks will retire in the next five to seven years.  My observation is this age group (myself included) in very recent years has purchased motorhomes/RVs or plan to purchase motorhomes/RVs to enjoy when careers won't take priority.   New RV storage facilities continue to be constructed especially in the far west / southwest areas of Houston (e.g. the Katy / Richmond / Rosenberg areas) and fill with new customers /  new RV owners almost as fast as they can be constructed.  The storage facility I use went from prairie grass to fully built-out and every spot leased in 18 months!

I haven't seen a comparable growth in RV service companies meaning that the few RV service providers in the greater Houston area will be more overwhelmed than they are today and RV owners will have even longer wait times to get repairs completed.   And I have learned several RV service companies in the greater Houston area, especially the "mobile" types, do not provide perform chassis work for motorhomes (except for oil & filter changes).  

What are the forum's thoughts about a motorhome / RV enthusiast like myself finding and partnering with other motorhome / RV enthusiasts and starting a new RV Service / Repair?  Would such a new venture be able to find and retain high quality, highly trained, customer focused service technicians?   It seems to me a new, stand-alone "brick and mortar" RV repair/service company for the greater Houston area could be very lucrative business given the growth in motorhome / RV ownership.

I look forward to your responses.

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I've often had the same thoughts and the need is not just limited to the Houston area.  Here is your problem: "Would such a new venture be able to find and retain high quality, highly trained, customer focused service technicians?". When I had my paint and body shop in the Conroe area, that was always the problem. It didn't matter what I paid, the training provided, the benefits, etc, I always had a hard time retaining people. Even more difficult was finding qualified employees or employees we could train unless I paid them like they had 20 years experience.

Just my thoughts and experience.

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Mike.

Mobil RV Lube...rvmobilelube.com  866-785-8237 He does it all, including chassis!  Did mine in Rayn, LA. at a Crusin Cajuns Rally in April.  They do the greater Houston area!  Member of Crusin Cajuns, go to no other Rally except the annual Crawfish in April.

Rates are very competitive.

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Sounds like a great idea. I've often thought that the fact that every good RV shop has a weeks-long waiting list for service is an indication that more RV service centers are needed.

I wonder how it would work in relation to manufacturer's warranties on the various components? Seems like a lot (if not most) of the service appointments we read about on this forum are for warranty related work. Sometimes it's a chassis warranty problem (engine/tranny), sometimes a house system (a/c, water heater), and sometimes a warranty problem on the actual RV build itself (bowed slide, etc.)

Of course, it you talking about doing only off-warranty work then I think you'd have customers lining up to get in.

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Where do you find qualified help? The good ones are making top dollar elsewhere. You struggle with people learning the craft, and where do they go? In search of more money. 

Remember! Everyone needs a college education because the professors need a constant demand in order for their salaries and pensions to be pumped up. Vocational high schools are floundering. We need more of them.

In 1962 I attended the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign  for around $200 a semester including most books. Slept at home on Chanute AFB with my family.

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Byron, in my experience I prefered finding a young guy willing to learn and work as an apprentice (helper) to a body man or painter and train them to our standards. Some of those young men are now earning close to six figures a year, one owns his on body shop.

You are exactly correct, Byron, vocational schools are floundering because society has pushed college degrees concept or you'll never amount to anything attitude. Of course that degree may be in eastern European basket weaving but by golly you got a degree and a $50,000 student loan to repay. Hopefully that graduate will find a company thats willing to train them to work with their hands. 

Somebody come kick me off my soapbox before I tell you how I really feel.

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1 hour ago, elkhartjim said:

Byron, in my experience I prefered finding a young guy willing to learn and work as an apprentice (helper) to a body man or painter and train them to our standards. Some of those young men are now earning close to six figures a year, one owns his on body shop.

You are exactly correct, Byron, vocational schools are floundering because society has pushed college degrees concept or you'll never amount to anything attitude. Of course that degree may be in eastern European basket weaving but by golly you got a degree and a $50,000 student loan to repay. Hopefully that graduate will find a company thats willing to train them to work with their hands. 

Somebody come kick me off my soapbox before I tell you how I really feel.

No, tell us how you realey feel.

Yes they have over sold the "you need a degree to make it" mentality. It use to upset some of the new engineers they hired at Lockheed that a lowly aircraft mecanic was making more than they were. 😁

Seriesly  All the big/better places are busey, REV Group RV Service Center in Alvarado is full and I bet there is a wait to get in TCC and MHofT are busey and only Carl can get right in. So I think there is plenty of business out there.

Bill

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I too owned a body and paint shop from 72 till 2000 and then worked it by myself on and off and am still a sucker for the right job and money.  The problem is still the same, finding either willing to learn help or knowledgeable available help. The pay scale, that is another huge issue as Elk indicated...no matter the scale they are looking for the next move to what is perceived to be better. I had all the trick equipment, welders, plasma cutters, spot/resistance welder, laser measuring equipment. I had epoxy painted floors  like your garage with trim and art all over the walls and a big space 7,500 square feet. I had a national and an international reputation for quality Porsche restoration work. I paid for weekends at the vintage races with banners that promoted our shop. Still the workforce changed and they were not the top line people in the local industry to boot. I was always training someone at a technical level. All 8 of the guys including the newest was I paid nice year end dividends/bonuses, frequently 4 figures, still they looked. The best crew lasted 5 years. 

Look at the workload Camping world has. They certainly do not look for the cheapest labor in town yet the have countless hacks working there. Numerous studies have been done by the major news networks over the years accessing the honesty of the workers in the trades. The results have always been abysmal and I can attest to it with many I tried to hire and shortly there after let go. Pride in workmanship in my opinion is pretty low. I frequently found the attitude of "if they can afford to restore this Porsche I can take as many hours as I like to get the job done"  or "they must have money".  Does this sound familiar, just substitute "Motorhome". 

The workload can be there but you still must find competent, skilled, honest people willing to perform a timely and efficient repair. The idea of a start up business in a busy metro area is at best going to be an ongoing and uphill challenge until there is time under the belt and this does not address the hard costs of a well equipped shop to attract such a workforce.

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You guys have to be kidding!  This entire operation sounds like work, serious work, you know, a big time J  O  B.  Have you forgotten how a J  O  B can crimp your style, restrict your travels, limit your free time, require to be some place rather than where you'd prefer to be....for hours, some times days, back to hiring the lousy unqualified high school drop out who will leave (or you will fire him) in less than 90 days,  working with obnoxious ill mannered customers who want everything but want to pay nothing, working weekends/holidays, trying to keep all the employees happy, having to explain to the D/W why you will miss the ...fill in the blank...due to the crisis at the office, and the beat goes on.

I think I'll pass.🙂

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Bill / that they are busy can tell us a thing or two. Some are slow at the craft they desire to be proficient at but they are hanging there in a learning process. Some are taking up the slack for them. Others/ who knows. 

Big truck mechanics have all of the room that they need  to really study the learning process. Take my extended hood Western Star. I could see behind the engine in front of the firewall, in front of , underneath , and on top of the engine with no effort. I could set up under the the cab as I looked forward or to the rear of things. Had I have been a qualified mechanic, I certainly would not have sought an employer that offered a lower wage  that required me to squeeze  into reall tight spaces to do my work.

Access gets really tight in our Phaeton. Don't look for a flood of mechanically smart guys to apply for jobs working on an almost incomprehensible arrangement  of things mechanical, electrical, and other essentials to the health of various and sundry configurations of motorhomes. There is a nearby RV repair facility that is backed up sometimes months with work. They can't find the help that they need.

Some of what I described is why there are so many warranty issues with higher $ RVs. Many dealers farm there work out because they have no other choice. Of course if you are Carl, the red carpet rolls out.😉🙄  That is according to Bill and why would I doubt that.😂

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I'm retired.  32 years ago, I called numerous "Big Oil" companies and told them, "Don't call me, I'll call you"!  I knew, they would not & I have been a happy camper, since Feb.11, 1985!  I was talked into, for a ridicules amount of money, to work a 2 year contract, 1999 & 2000!  Then I was fired ! :lol:  At 75, I will  stay fired.  

Mike, good luck!

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3 hours ago, obedb said:

Bill / that they are busy can tell us a thing or two. Some are slow at the craft they desire to be proficient at but they are hanging there in a learning process. Some are taking up the slack for them. Others/ who knows. 

Big truck mechanics have all of the room that they need  to really study the learning process. Take my extended hood Western Star. I could see behind the engine in front of the firewall, in front of , underneath , and on top of the engine with no effort. I could set up under the the cab as I looked forward or to the rear of things. Had I have been a qualified mechanic, I certainly would not have sought an employer that offered a lower wage  that required me to squeeze  into reall tight spaces to do my work.

Access gets really tight in our Phaeton. Don't look for a flood of mechanically smart guys to apply for jobs working on an almost incomprehensible arrangement  of things mechanical, electrical, and other essentials to the health of various and sundry configurations of motorhomes. There is a nearby RV repair facility that is backed up sometimes months with work. They can't find the help that they need.

Some of what I described is why there are so many warranty issues with higher $ RVs. Many dealers farm there work out because they have no other choice. Of course if you are Carl, the red carpet rolls out.😉🙄  That is according to Bill and why would I doubt that.😂

I can add to what you have accurately stated. The HDT shop that does all my MH work charges $135/hr labor, the owner pays his mechanics $35/hr and is constantly advertising for mechanics  (and is understaffed) that meet his standards. His business in repairing MH's is growing constantly as word of his quality, accuracy, and swiftness of completing jobs spreads. Yet, when talking to other MH owners who are searching for (their words) the best place to get work done, they say "oh, those rate are way too high". When will people learn, you really do get what you pay for___.

Last time I stopped in to say Hi to Dave, he was working on a Monaco W/ smart wheel that had nothing working. He located the problem, the thru-the-firewall transition plug had corroded pins and sockets. He cleaned away the corrosion and the smart wheel worked as designed again.

 

This boils back to the considerable risks of starting up a MH repair shop.

Oh, that shop is: Carmichael Truck and Automotive

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Anyone on this business today would say NO! There is a shortage of qualified technicians around the USA, the ones leaving trade schools for the most part want to leave and make $100,000 after 2 years and do nothing for it but throw parts at something. When they cant get that they throw a temper tantrum and go onto something else. The skill set requirements have grown tremendously over the years while the mindset of the newer generations has deteriorated. Keep in mind the cost to do business with all of this technology is over the top as well and that is why the industry is falling apart. 

I was at a local dealership yesterday, the service manager and I were discussing the shortage. Most applicants do not return phone calls, the ones that do demand a six figure pay plan with a guarantee, air conditioned shop (we live in PA) and a 3-4 day work week with NO weekends. After I got done laughing we started to discuss how soon until retirement to run away from all of this nonsense! 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you cant fix your coach yourself your in trouble and its getting worse by the day. Unless your willing to allow someone to throw your money at a problem until it goes away by process of elimination.  

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14 hours ago, FIVE said:

You guys have to be kidding!  This entire operation sounds like work, serious work, you know, a big time J  O  B.  Have you forgotten how a J  O  B can crimp your style, restrict your travels, limit your free time, require to be some place rather than where you'd prefer to be....for hours, some times days, back to hiring the lousy unqualified high school drop out who will leave (or you will fire him) in less than 90 days,  working with obnoxious ill mannered customers who want everything but want to pay nothing, working weekends/holidays, trying to keep all the employees happy, having to explain to the D/W why you will miss the ...fill in the blank...due to the crisis at the office, and the beat goes on.

I think I'll pass.🙂

I'm with you! 

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On 9/19/2018 at 6:33 PM, FIVE said:

You guys have to be kidding!  This entire operation sounds like work, serious work, you know, a big time J  O  B.  Have you forgotten how a J  O  B can crimp your style, restrict your travels, limit your free time, require to be some place rather than where you'd prefer to be....for hours, some times days, back to hiring the lousy unqualified high school drop out who will leave (or you will fire him) in less than 90 days,  working with obnoxious ill mannered customers who want everything but want to pay nothing, working weekends/holidays, trying to keep all the employees happy, having to explain to the D/W why you will miss the ...fill in the blank...due to the crisis at the office, and the beat goes on.

I think I'll pass.🙂

Excellent post but it is giving me flashbacks of the 80+ hour work weeks that I escaped 2 years ago by selling our collision repair facility. 

To the OP of this thread.  To be successful you will have to be there everyday driving your business  It won’t drive itself.  In today’s world you can’t pay people enough to give a $hit.  They need constant attention and direction.  Every Monday you will start your day by wondering how many will call in sick  

Make your investment decisions wisely.

 

 

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Mike.

I had to re-read this thread again!  Your first sentence made sense!  The only problem, is finding reasonably priced land, that is not in a flood zone!  Just about anywhere, 70 miles from Houston, would do.  It don't take much to flood the coastal county's of Texas!  Same with the parishes of LA.  :D

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