Stan’s wis­dom on work­shops!

Classic Motorcycle Mechanics - - CONTENTS -

Stan Stephens gives us his wis­dom on how to set up a work­shop: what you’ll need and how to do it.

This is the sec­ond in the se­ries on how to set up a small spe­cial­ist mo­tor­cy­cle based busi­ness. Firstly an apol­ogy for this be­ing so long af­ter part one, but it’s been ac­tu­ally hard to get suit­able pic­tures (ac­cord­ing to the es­teemed edi­tor!). Years ago when I started in busi­ness it was in a ram­shackle unit on an ex-army base. What I wanted was a proper mo­tor­cy­cle shop. When I had saved enough money I leased a shop in the High Street. The prob­lem with that was that semi-in­ter­ested passers-by would drop in, which would stop me work­ing. I had to em­ploy peo­ple to run the shop so that I could get my work done. Years later we were one of the first mo­tor­cy­cle busi­nesses to move to a trad­ing es­tate; this was our best move and one that I would rec­om­mend to any­one mak­ing their first steps in the trade. I would ad­vise you to get the big­gest unit you can af­ford, you can then later ex­pand your busi­ness with­out hav­ing to move again. Ob­vi­ously try to get a unit on a smart es­tate, as noth­ing puts cus­tomers off more than bro­ken down old cars and scrap ly­ing around. Don’t be wor­ried if there’s an­other bike busi­ness on the es­tate, if you are deal­ing with dif­fer­ent as­pects of the trade it is an ad­van­tage be­cause it then be­comes an at­trac­tion to bik­ers in the area. When look­ing for a unit think of your re­quire­ments. For ex­am­ple, if you are go­ing to use a lathe or mill or dyno or large com­pres­sor which uses three phase elec­tric­ity, make sure there is three phase al­ready there as it is a pro­hib­i­tive cost to have it put on. If you are go­ing to run a dyno make sure there are no noise re­stric­tions and that there is pro­vi­sion for an ex­trac­tor fan. Although we all hate ’elf ’n’ safety, make sure there is a fire exit and if you em­ploy peo­ple, that there are toi­lets. If you are go­ing to sell parts or ac­ces­sories as well, make sure re­tail sell­ing is al­lowed. Nat­u­rally I got all th­ese points wrong! When you have found the premises the near­est to your ideal, make sure you have a proper lease, ide­ally for at least three years so that you have se­cu­rity but also with a ‘get out’ clause in case things do go dis­as­trously wrong. When you get the keys to your new ven­ture give your­self time to get the set-up right be­fore you start work be­cause hope­fully you won’t have time later. Ap­pear­ance is im­por­tant both for the cus­tomer and also for your own pride, re­mem­ber you will be spend­ing more time in your work­shop than you will at home! Paint the en­tire work­shop with white ma­sonry paint, this will make it lighter as well as look­ing cleaner. You can never have too many strip lights and three pin wall sock­ets. Paint the floor with a rub­berised floor paint and leave it to dry for a cou­ple of days. When paint­ing the floor make sure the doors are open and that there is plenty of

cir­cu­la­tion be­cause the fumes will make you sick (just ask my son). Depend­ing on the size of your unit it is a good idea to par­ti­tion off a small area as an of­fice. Most im­por­tant is to make a counter or area in­side the door­way for cus­tomers. If there is room put in a small ta­ble and chairs with a few copies of CMM and put up a few posters. There is noth­ing worse that try­ing to work with cus­tomers just walk­ing straight in. Also the in­sur­ance com­pany will in­sist on it. In­sur­ance; no­body likes in­sur­ance com­pa­nies but it is a ne­ces­sity es­pe­cially in this claim cul­ture age. Your land­lord will in­sist on the premises be­ing in­sured. You must also have in­sur­ance for your stock and equip­ment and cus­tomers’ bikes and parts. Most im­por­tantly you must have cus­tomer li­a­bil­ity and faulty parts and faulty work­man­ship in­sur­ance. If you have staff you must have em­ploy­ers li­a­bil­ity. Most in­sur­ance com­pa­nies will pro­vide a ‘trader’s com­bined in­sur­ance pol­icy’ which will in­clude all of th­ese and will in­clude the in­sur­ance on your van or car and will cover you road-testing cus­tomers bikes: not cheap but nec­es­sary! A few tips with in­sur­ance that I found out the hard way; don’t give the in­sur­ance com­pany any loop­hole in case you may have to make a claim. An ex­am­ple: when we had a claim for a break-in, the as­ses­sor turned down a large part of it be­cause the pol­icy stip­u­lated the door must have “three mor­tice locks and two Chubb locks” and we had two mor­tice locks and three Chubb locks. The fact that the thieves used a stolen lorry to ram-raid through the wall and left the door un­touched did not mat­ter to the in­sur­ance com­pany, they were happy, they had found a loop­hole! If you em­ploy any­one and you have a rob­bery and your em­ployee‘s equip­ment or tools are stolen as well, the em­ployee is not cov­ered by your in­sur­ance. Make sure your em­ployee has their own in­sur­ance for their tools. The in­sur­ance com­pany in­sures you, the owner, against claims. This I sup­pose is com­mon sense but when my wife in­jured her­self at our works and she claimed for her in­jury, the in­sur­ance com­pany looked into the claim and told me, “Yes Mr Stephens we will fight this claim on your be­half!” I had mis­tak­enly as­sumed that the in­sur­ance com­pany au­to­mat­i­cally cov­ered my staff’s in­juries but no, they cov­ered me against claims and only paid out if I was at fault. So, if you have staff that they have their own per­sonal in­jury in­sur­ance as well. All of the ad­vice I have given so far is im­por­tant but may seem off-putting but it is best to get ev­ery­thing in place first. On a pos­i­tive side, re­mem­ber, if you build and keep a good rep­u­ta­tion and spe­cialise in a part of the trade that isn’t cov­ered in your area, you can’t fail. In the pho­tos I have tried to show what can be done with a small work­shop and how to use all the ex­ist­ing space. Next time I will post some pics of my home work­shop, and you’ll see that although small there are plenty of benches and room for a large hy­draulic press, two pil­lar drills, a wash­ing off tank, re­bores bor­ing bar, bench grinder, vices, my port­ing equip­ment, an air com­pres­sor, tool chest and stor­age rack­ing. In it I have ad­e­quate light­ing and painted floors with rub­ber mat­ting for stand­ing at benches. It also has an of­fice and toi­let/wash­room. In an­other work­shop is the en­gi­neer­ing side, large lathe and milling ma­chine. Ideal for one or two peo­ple, mine is at home but it could be in a small unit on an industrial es­tate. Pic­tured op­po­site is Vince Cun­dle’s Fond­seca work­shop. Vince’s main line of busi­ness is TZ race spares so a lot of his small­ish unit is oc­cu­pied by rack­ing for stor­ing all his TZ good­ies, but he still needed a work­shop so along­side the stores sits this neat lit­tle work­shop. Which shows how you can run two parts of a busi­ness un­der one roof. Other pho­tos show HM Rac­ing’s im­pres­sive work­shops, with a high-tech dyno set-up and sep­a­rate en­gine build­ing room and a sus­pen­sion build­ing room, a ma­chine shop with a sales area and of­fice. HM is a more es­tab­lished busi­ness now but not so very long ago its premises were not as im­pres­sive, it shows what can be achieved, as your rep­u­ta­tion grows your busi­ness grows and hope­fully your bank ac­count grows! In fu­ture ar­ti­cles I will cover some of the es­sen­tial work­shop and of­fice equip­ment that a small busi­ness needs.

Fond­seca – the TZ and Yamaha spe­cial­ist has an amaz­ing work­shop lay­out.

Space around the bike on which you’re work­ing is es­sen­tial. Clean and clear benches give plenty of space. If you’re comfy, you’re happy! Looks clut­tered, is ac­tu­ally clear. Ev­ery­thing in its place.

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