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Some questions about the repair business

5/2/2003 6:51 PM
Some questions about the repair business
Hello everybody! I have an opportunity to start an amplifier repair business in my town. I'm a local musician and I have recently found out that there are no repair techs in town that work on tube amps. I have a electronic service degree from my local community college and have been building and designing tube circuits for some time. I've been repairiing amps every now and then for freinds, and I feel very confident in my ability to diagnose and repair amps. The local music store needs someone to repair amps for them and I would like to take the plunge into serious repairman. Since I am essentially a newbie I have some questions however, and would like anyone who has experience in this field to respond.  
1. What is the best (or more importantly cheapest) way to get specific amplifier parts? Up to now I have only accepted repairs of amps that I know how to get parts for such as Fenders. The local music store is NOT an authorized dealer for anyone... All used gear.  
2. What do you think I should charge for labor, and what should I expect to pay the music store for referral? Up to now, I have just received payment from friends in the form of Budweiser.  
3. Is there any advice I could use? What would you have liked to know before starting?  
As you can probably tell, I could have the opportunity to have a fair amount of business since I would be the only repairman in a fairly large town. I would just like to be prepared before taking the plunge. Thanks in advance for your help. Aaron
5/3/2003 6:31 AM

Where are you Aaron, what is your town?  
1.Are you planning a shop open to the public, or are you planning for the store to handle customer pickup and dropoff? IE basement shop or rent a storefront? Serious issue there.  
If you have a shop at home and the store will deal with customers, fine. Good spot for you to be in.  
What to charge is always a question in business. You have to charge enough to make money and yet be fair to your customers. I may only charge $40 an hour, but I will have a $60 minimum on a tube amp. But I am in Lansing Michigan where life is not so expensive and there are about 400,000 in our community. I make my living off it from a small one man shop. If I lived in NY CIty - I mean right in Manhattan, my rates wouldn't work. Expenses are far higher there.  
Maybe no one around you fixes tube amps, but if they fix solid state stuff, it is all repair. What do they charge? If the going rate is $35 an hour, start there, you can adjust once you know what you are doing.  
Don't pay the music store so much as a dime for referrals. Get real. This is a two way street. What will they pay for you keeping customers in their store because now they can fix things? That is the deal. Once affiliated with this store, they now have service to offer. That makes purchases of this used gear more attractive to customers. And if they know there is service there, they will come into the store with their repairs even if they had no intention of shopping. Once in the store, they will no doubt look at product and some will make purchases. Any retailer will go for ways to increase traffic. The other side of the coin is you get steady work. You mutually benefit.  
Whare to get parts? Well, all over. More than anything I replace broken jacks and pots. Most repairs are not complex enough to get out the drawings. There are suppliers like MAgic Parts, New Sensor, CE Dist, and others who sell the common parts. MAgic sells generic stuff like tubes, jacks, etc, but they also sell Peavey and Fender parts - at least common ones. Smart Parts sells parts for many brands. Parts is Parts sells Korg related stuff. Many brands will sell you parts - Peavey will for example. You pay retail though. You can always get the part somewhere.  
I use probably two dozen suppliers regularly. The above mentioned amd places like Mouser, Allied, MCM, Jameco, ANtique Electronic supply, Parts Express, others...
5/3/2003 8:14 AM
Jack Collins

I just started my business a few months ago.  
Like you, I started by doing repairs for a small  
music shop.  
I've been charging $30/hr with a $30 minimum.  
I think I'm gonna raise it to $40 in a few months  
$30 is really too low with all the outside stuff I have  
to do.  
I advise you to invest in a stamp with you name  
and address on in and some repair tags. You fill  
out the tag with repair info, costomer contact  
info and then stamp your contact info on the  
bottom tear off part of the tag.  
I had a couple of embarrasing moments early on  
when I couldn't find one of those scraps of paper  
a clients name was on.  
I'm also starting to pick up warranty work for  
Crate, Marshall/Vox and Custom. This was all  
set up through the music shop. They vouched for  
The music shop would like costumers to contact  
me directly, but sometimes they take things in  
too and call me to pick it up.  
At this point I'm beggining to think about investing  
in some stock parts like tubes, jacks, big electrolytics, more resistors etc.  
We do have a pretty good electronics store around  
here and I'm over there all the time.  
I'm really enjoying this business. At the very  
least I've been able to justify upgrading my  
electronics tool collection.  
A couple of weeks ago made a real breakthrough  
in understanding how tubes work. I always  
sort of knew...  
I've been doing all the work in my shop/garage.  
Clients just come the front door of my house and  
bring their amps into my living room. We discuss  
the problem, I give them an estimate and the  
claim tag and tell them when it will be fixed.  
When it's done I give them a call and arrange  
for a pickup time. This is always evening  
or weekend as I have a day job.  
So far that's worked pretty well and I haven't  
gotten any complaints.
5/4/2003 6:47 PM

Thanks Enzo and Jack. Let me clarify some things. What I've been told is exactly what Enzo said. I have my equipment and bench at home and the store will deal with the customers for me. I was already planning on making some tags and I like that suggestion.  
Oh ya... I'm in Lincoln, NE. The main repair shop is the largest music store in town and they have a somewhat shady reputation so most of the people I know that play music in town like to shop at the other music store that I would be associated with. As an example of this... I recently was brought a peavey tube amp that had no sound. After quickly testing the tubes, I found out that one of the output tubes was shorted, which had blown the power transformer. After talking to the amp owner, I found out that the tube had been sold to him by this repair shop four days earlier in a Ruby box for $12. It was NOT a ruby tube... most likely a used tube. The repair shop made no mention of re-biasing the amp, just plugged the tube in and sent him on his way. I took care of him, but he was borrying amps for a few days because of this.  
The music store that I would be dealing with has been refering business to the other store out of nessecity so that is why they would like to have a tech of their own.  
Thanks for the parts catalog suggestions... I already have a catalog for all of those places mentioned. I believe I'm going to charge $30 bench and $30 min.  
Thanks again for your help. Aaron
5/6/2003 3:19 AM
Jeff Seal
Aaron, the biggest problem I encountered was not having someone to simply answer the phone!!I spent more time working late on units because I had to answer the phone, source parts, order parts and answer everyone's questions. I finally got someone to handle the phones, billing, contacting customers, parts ordering etc.  
You cannot make any money if you're trying to handle it all..Today, for example..repaired (uninterrupted) MM hd150, 63 Vibrolux reverb,  
Qsc 1400, Peavey Protege, Akg wireless, Akg headset mic, Tc electronics chorus...quick math means the company made (minus parts) about $320 and another $100 in parts sure to include shipping, ordering time in your parts cost.  
I get paid half, $160, the company makes $160, and pays my front guy $72 for the day.  
If I had to answer the phone and give directions, shop hours, status of repairs...and all the other outside traffic, I don't honestly think I would have finished the Vibrolux..(Recap, replace out of tolerance resistors...still took about 3 hrs.)  
which means the company would have made $62.50 plus the $18 worth of parts...  
Just some thoughts for you but manage your time wisely, If you ain't making money, you gotta be spending it...bills, bills, bills
5/7/2003 12:48 AM

Jeff is right, distractions and interruptions are your worst enemy. It may take 20 minutes to think yourself back to where you were before a 5 minute interruption. Accidents are also more likely to happen if you can't be completely focused.  
It's great if the store will be handling all the customer stuff. Separate a part of the day for parts ordering & paper work etc. and part of the day for repairing. This will also help keep better tabs on actual repair time for each unit.
5/7/2003 6:25 PM
Rick Erickson
How to make a small fortune in the repair business.
Q)How do you make a small fortune in the repair business?.  
A)Start with a large fortune. :)  

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