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Do I love Vanagon... you tell me?
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ftp2leta
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:25 pm    Post subject: Do I love Vanagon... you tell me? Reply with quote

My name is Ben, my job is to fix and save Vanagon.

I have seen the 4 corners of north America a few time, I an my first and most important customer, i do that job because I do love those square box..

It's been 7 years in the business, is it a viable business? You tell me. I don't think so.

I can't make out a decent living out of working on Vanagon, no. I have tried hard but I simply can have a normal life. I'm struggling. I sold my beloved van to save my house. The guy who bought it is not fully happy with it??? I don't get that at all. Of course after 4 years of driving the thing it will shoe some wear sign... I did my best to cover them.

On 47 engine conversion one went bad (see my other thread), I had to give him a short block. My lost, part of the job. My mistake.

I buy engine from crashed car, the guy who buy the car doesn't have any warranty, I don't either, I take risk, he take some also.... i give a 2 years warranty, VW give 3 on brand NEW car, I'm a single shop owner, VW is a big company.

I do paint and body work job and full restoration project, I work with badly damage rusty van, we do what we can... Rust always come back! customer are not always happy after a year or 2.

I love my job but it's killing me slowly.

I'm an open book. Go ahead hit me!

this job... it's all about passion. Passion, is it good? maybe I should go back as an airplane mechanic.

Sorry for the late bashing post, but i had to let it out. The Samba as been my main forum since at least 2 years.

I save van from a certain death, It's a hard job.

Benny
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pinealservo
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clearly you do love Vanagons, and you are also probably a little bit crazy to do what you do, but I salute you for following your passion even if it ultimately isn't sustainable. We're all better off for the information you share here, and I'm sure you have plenty of happy customers that appreciate the vans that you've rescued from the jaws of the crushers.
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sbclayton
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 11:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, Ben, you love Vanagons. And passion is good! But Vanagons are even more complicated than women - they love, they tease, they put you on top of the clouds then dash you to the earth below. They will be your very most faithful companion, and support you even during your darkest times. They will toy with your emotions, resisting your most dedicated efforts to appease them, then turn around and respond to your ministrations without protest. They are a cheap date, yet high maintenance. They are fiercely loyal yet everbody's friend. They can be at once intensely intellectual and at the same time perfectly play the part of the naif. They flirt shamelssly, but also know how to be serious when the moment requires.

You say your job is killing you? It probably is, you know. But as with all things that require great passion, it is probably well worth it. I, myself, would rather be the moth to the flame than the caterpillar on the leaf. Better a few years of shining glory than endless decades of la vie quotidienne, la vie pleine d'ennui. N'est-ce pas, mon frère?
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noganav
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 12:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Every job is hard. If you don't like it, you can either feel sorry for yourself, or do something else.

Sounds like the new owner of your van is happy with their purchase.

mattmack24 wrote:
Great news Benny the Vanaru is alive and well and living in Seattle. This has been a long journey and one that one should not enter into unless the vehicle is worth it.

In this case the van is totally worth it and we love it. Ben's reputation is well deserved and we are looking forward to many years of happy camping.

Benny is not in perfect shape so there is room for a few modificiation to make it ours but it is a great van and ready to go :0) I want to thank Ben for the opportunity to own the Van.


What could possibly be wrong with that?
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ALIKA T3
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 12:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"A vaincre sans péril,triomphe sans gloire."

You do love the vans and that makes your life less boring I guess.

Thanks for the input,and stop crying,we love you Laughing

You just need a little boost to give back power to that engine plant deep in your heart.

I was always told by my french buddies to create my own vanagon business in France,I never wanted to.I like working on my van,(and also I don't trust anymore monkey-mechanics) because I know I won't have a problem doing this or that,that won't break between my hands because rusted out etc....well done job to think ahead for an easy later intervention etc....that's not true on customers van.Always something shitty,specially on diesels...I don't want to do shit like that over and over,repeating what I've done on mine to make it better.

Vanagon people in France don't have that much cash,it's usually young average income people.I was doing things under the table for people who came to me,but I wouldn't do what you do:receive here all my respect for that.

I prefered doing plumbing back then,more money,more time for surfing and great amount of cash on the side.That was my smart choice,starting from working on sales to working in the crap (no joking)

You made your choice,and I'm sure it fits your lifestyle,even if you don't become a millionnaire Crying or Very sad ,"quand il y a de l'eau dans le gaz,faut mettre de l'eau dans son vin" Wink

I don't know if you're married or what,but that's sure even harder when you live in a couple .

Hey,why don't you charge twice more and work twice less for the same quality??

See,it's that simple.People should pay be more for Benny Laughing
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IdahoDoug
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 12:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ben,

As a fellow small business owner, might I suggest you consider raising your prices? That's right, I said "raise your prices". If the quality work you perform on a vehicle you are familiar with (and therefore efficient at working on them compared to others) is not generating enough revenue in a normal work week then you are underpaying yourself through your pricing.

You now clearly have enough experience to do this. And you clearly have a solid reputation for quality Vanagon work which people seek you out for. Perhaps its time for you to revamp your pricing to match the work you do.

I frequently run across people who love their work and business and are fanatically good at it, but who are not making enough money to expand to the next step. I don't know you other than here on Samba through your posts and the way other people speak of you so highly, but I think you might be in this group. I am always amazed at how much customers will pay for quality work and I suspect you are still pricing yourself at ordinary work prices.

How did I do on my guesses?

I also want to say what others have before me, which is that you are an asset to the Vanagon community that is unique and priceless. And I hope you are able to combine your obvious love and passion for this unique vehicle into a greater degree of success. I have only owned my Vanagon for 11 months and it has been pure work, zero driving enjoyment (OK, not counting last weeks 45 minute drive - heh) but I'm already highly aware of you and your talents. And like you, I am totally hooked on Vanagons - already plotting my 2nd one in fact.

So consider this as a way to change things. Be confident about it and stand on your experience. I have a Masters in Business and most small business owners undervalue their work to a tragic degree.

Apologies to anyone who is about to have Ben do some work. You have 15 days to engage him before a 20% price increase hits on May 1st. Heh.

DougM
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IdahoDoug
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 12:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, I see from the above post I am not the only one thinking this!!

DougM
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Zero419
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 3:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you might be happier as an airplane mechanic. Work your 40hrs, get a paycheck, and go home.
Work on your own van when you want and how you want.

You sound miserable. Doesn't seem worth it to me.

Or like others have said, raise your prices 30%, lower quantity (not quality), less stress.

Did you ever see the "Dirty jobs" episode with the guy that made fireworks? He turned his fun, exciting hobby into a full time job. He hated his life. You can tell by the look on his face in every scene.
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JPrato
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

IdahoDoug wrote:
Ben,

As a fellow small business owner, might I suggest you consider raising your prices? That's right, I said "raise your prices". If the quality work you perform on a vehicle you are familiar with (and therefore efficient at working on them compared to others) is not generating enough revenue in a normal work week then you are underpaying yourself through your pricing.

You now clearly have enough experience to do this. And you clearly have a solid reputation for quality Vanagon work which people seek you out for. Perhaps its time for you to revamp your pricing to match the work you do.

I frequently run across people who love their work and business and are fanatically good at it, but who are not making enough money to expand to the next step. I don't know you other than here on Samba through your posts and the way other people speak of you so highly, but I think you might be in this group. I am always amazed at how much customers will pay for quality work and I suspect you are still pricing yourself at ordinary work prices.

How did I do on my guesses?

I also want to say what others have before me, which is that you are an asset to the Vanagon community that is unique and priceless. And I hope you are able to combine your obvious love and passion for this unique vehicle into a greater degree of success. I have only owned my Vanagon for 11 months and it has been pure work, zero driving enjoyment (OK, not counting last weeks 45 minute drive - heh) but I'm already highly aware of you and your talents. And like you, I am totally hooked on Vanagons - already plotting my 2nd one in fact.

So consider this as a way to change things. Be confident about it and stand on your experience. I have a Masters in Business and most small business owners undervalue their work to a tragic degree.

Apologies to anyone who is about to have Ben do some work. You have 15 days to engage him before a 20% price increase hits on May 1st. Heh.

DougM


2X, You price your work to help your customers repair their Vanagons, however you won't/can't continue with your current business model. If you go out of business, you can't help anyone. Raise prices, lower quantity, increase QUALITY and you might be able to keep doing what you are doing.

About being a aircraft mechanic, unless you are working on the big private jets, that is another good way to starve to death. Airlines have out sourced a lot of their work. Small aircraft owners are tighter with a dime than car owners. Screw up with a car and you catch a lot of grief. Screw up with an airplane and Feds come looking for you!
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DAIZEE
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 5:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All of the above PLUS Ben why don't you seriously consider publishing a book. You have most of the material and excellent photos. You could call it Ben's Place. I'm not really kidding.
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RCB
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Its the nature of the beast that most artists dont make for good businessman.
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funagon
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ALIKA T3 wrote:

Hey,why don't you charge twice more and work twice less for the same quality??


Yes, charge what you're worth. Then add 10%.
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Zeitgeist 13
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I got outta the biz 'cause I really enjoyed helping folks, but took it personal when they just couldn't be satisfied. I like it now that I can separate my personal and professional lives. Now I tinker on my own rigs as a hobby and only have to satisfy one jerk.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doesn't sound like love to me. After reading many of your posts, you sound pretty miserable. But most of us probably feel underpaid and under appreciated when it comes to our work. Maybe that's why they call it WORK. No matter what you do, you will always have bad days, you will always get work that you wish you hadn't and you can't please everybody all of the time.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree you should raise your prices to make the business profitable.
I work in the photography business and I'm always counseling people to increase their rates and decrease their work loads. Why compete with the other bottom feeders for the cheaper clients? Go after the market that appreciates high quality and can afford it!
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Zero419
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

photogdave wrote:
Why compete with the other bottom feeders for the cheaper clients? Go after the market that appreciates high quality and can afford it!


I know someone who owns a small town lumber yard and this is his motto.

He does not care what the big box stores are doing.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

absolutely raise your prices, dont deal with bottom feeder vanagon owners become the go westy of subaru swaps you've earned it 15-20k for a subaru swap is fine as long as your the best! which from what I've seen and heard you are the best! but personally i would stay away from restorations if possible Ive restored 2 westys and it takes about 6months/ 1 year min to do a decent job and there are always minor flaws your not a factory but restoration specialist and most people expect perfection with body work and paint but nothing is perfect. EXCEPT YOUR SUBARU CONVERSION so stick with just conversions maybe. I am also a small business owner and know its hard to be more expensive than the rest but if your the best in an unsaturated market which you are then whatever you ask is worth it.
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psych-illogical
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ben, the respect you've earned on this site is well deserved. You work has become legendary. Good job. But, if you feel the need to get out of the business, at least keep visiting here and sharing your wisdom. We all appreciate it.

I've heard the same story so many times. A person starts a business because they are passionate about something and then it takes over their lives and they don't enjoy it any more. I had a friend who loved bicycles. He opened up a shop and spent all day selling bikes and talking to customers and half the night working on bikes. He never got to ride anymore. After 5 years he was misserable. Overworked and underpaid. He was not happy. After 10 years he finally decided to close the shop and start riding again. He's very happy now.

I do agree with others. If you decide to stay in it, raise your prices. People can and will pay.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We retired from the German Car Repair business. Now play. Our family ran that for over 50+ years. I do NOT like working on other people's cars! When they get to the 20 - 30 year stage they are just worn out. They need total overhaul. You can not (usually) do one thing only. Then the customer complains why you did not fix something else, too. Your shop rate MUST be of the restoration shop level. That IS what you are doing. In fact, rust and rusty parts cost EXTRA. I know you fight rust constantly and it DOES take longer. You also need (the right) help too. Cost of business. All that running around to get services performed has to be done by a helper (high school kid.) Receiving parts needs a low level person. You CAN NOT do it all and make money. Work smart. You need help. The wife / girl friend needs to be employed (ask the tax person you have to keep the books, right?)

I work with my wife now. She is boss. I do all the details she does not want to deal with. We have others to do the mundane things that must be done, but are not hard to do but are time robbers. Our accounting and billing systems allow us not to worry about bills being paid on time, for example. Work smarter, not harder.

I do agree with what others have written. Some stuff you will find works for you and other things not so practical. You need help friend. You have email which I hope you can respond to for more help.

Keep having fun,
Walt....
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ftp2leta
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Price raised! Thanks for the suggestion.

Got to beat the government/taxes, DOA, remittance... broke lift, compressor, tools....

Thats in my head since this morning, can't get it out. Must be a strong youth souvenir when I was ready to change the world, but I failed. Men life was so simple in those days.


Link

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FI part for sale: http://www.benplace.com/parts_sale1.htm
My site: http://www.benplace.com/vw2.htm
Subi conversion: http://www.benplace.com/vanaru_eng.htm
Youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/ftp2leta
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