It may look like magic, but
I will never forget the first time I saw gold being applied to the emblem of
a car. I had heard all about putting 24K gold on automotive emblems but I
was still quite skeptical. I have a fairly technical background and I
thought I understood how electroplating worked. I just didn't understand how
you could do it while the emblem was on the car. The person showing me the
process made it a big presentation. The drain apron was taped into place and
the emblem was prepared by stripping the chrome and activating. After a few
squirts from the rinse bottle I was finally going to see the magic. I was
not disappointed, as the wand, with its' charge of "purple jelly" was rubbed
over the surface of the emblem, the gold immediately began to glimmer before
my eyes. I was both humbled and elated to see how simple it was to perform
the magic of applying 24K gold.
It will always be fun. Somehow I've never lost the feeling of wonder and
magic that I felt that first time. I guess that I've picked up the wand and
watched the gold go on at least 10,000 times, and I still love to plate.
During the last few years we've seen hundreds of people come into the
portable plating business. Every month we log thousands of minutes on our
toll free number answering technical and marketing questions. Most of the
people on the other end of the telephone line are hard working entrepreneurs
who also felt the magic the first time they saw the gold go on.
Most do it for the money As I think of the
people I've worked with
over the years, I can't help but notice the great differences in the levels
of success that has been achieved. As fun as gold plating may be, the
reason most people get into the business is to make money. Not all of the
platers we work with have the same objective or ambition, some just want to
be able to make a little extra money when it is handy and others want to be
full time and develop extensive business. Regardless of your level of
interest and ambition, it is probably a good idea to take some pointers from
those who have achieved excellent success in the portable plating business.
In this issue of our newsletter, I have profiled a father and son team that
have achieved success in the portable plating business. During the interview I
asked about their secrets of success. As you read his story you may notice
some of the same things that I noticed over the years while working with
many different successful platers. I believe that there are common elements
in any successful plating business. In fact, the same elements are evident
in virtually any successful business. I want to mention three that I feel
are particularly important. While everyone has their own personality and
spin on each of these elements, I am sure that the level of success any
business achieves will be somewhat dependent by how well the necessary
elements are put together.
Vance plated 1400 cars in one year
Service is the key to the plating business.
Vance and his dad have been in the plating business longer than just
about anyone else in Northern Utah. Vance services new and used car
dealers in the Salt Lake and Ogden areas, his father Marvin also works his home
town of Ogden and makes bi-weekly trips to south eastern Idaho and
Montana. Marvin likes the "road trips" because he is the
only person out working the more remote areas. His dealerships
always know he is coming and make sure to have cars lined up for him to
do. Vance sees more competition than his dad because he works in
the SL area. He drops in frequently to chat.
"There are always platers coming into my dealerships", Vance says.
"Sometimes they [the dealership] will even give em a try, they'll offer to
plate the emblems for some ridiculously low price and then I'll get a call
to come and fix their work." Like any successful business, the
portable plating business relies on a commitment to customer
service. Vance carries a cell phone and has an ad
in the local phone book, but his clientele is so well developed that he can
pretty well schedule all the work he wants to without trying to expand his
Planting the seeds. Vance says that when
he first started it was not always smooth sailing. He had to make several
trips to some dealers before they would even give him a try. The key to
Vances' success is, and always has been persistence, service, and honesty.
Vance always treats his customers how he would like to be treated and never
fails to keep customer service at the top of his priority list.
Stick with what counts. Vance and Marvin are
both masters at avoiding unprofitable work. Marvin tells me that you can spend a lot of
time on work that doesn't pay much or that will be a problem in the future.
Some of the work that Marvin avoids is stainless fender trim, and oddball
custom stuff that requires extensive cleaning or preparation. "I just stick
with the stuff that I know will pay well and not be a problem". That advice
is well worth listening to.
Back up your work. In a business like
ours you need to do what you can to make sure the customer is happy with
your service, including the price. Part of the technique is not to give
the customer too much detail about your costs or pricing. Vance told me
recently, "I don't break out the price on individual emblems or items if
I can avoid it." "If I tell someone that I'll do a package on a car
including the wheel centers for $250 and they ask for the price of just the
wheel centers, it sure won't be $100." "I just tell them that you can't
break the package prices down like that." Your customers might not
understand the economy for you in being able to do more work on a given
trip. The less detail you can give your customers on costs and pricing,
the simpler your life will be. We all have to do some touch up work or
warranty work from time to time. If someone brings an item back that has
had the gold polished off, I will usually repair it for free but I always
make sure that they know I am going "above and beyond the call."
See the people. None of the other parts
of your business are important until you have customers. You won't have
customers until you let people know about the service you are offering.
There are hundreds of marketing ideas. I believe that there are two good
ways to promote your business that platers should consider. The first is to
place an ad in the yellow pages of the local telephone book. We have a
small ad in the Salt Lake telephone book and that ad has brought us more
plating revenue than all other sources combined. I am always amazed when
people who have had their system for years call and complain about a lack of
sales, and they don't have an ad in their local yellow pages. I'm not
talking about an expensive ½ page ad for portable gold plating, in fact I
would discourage most anyone from buying any more than a small ad that
mentions Portable Gold Plating.
The Second method is to visit automobile dealerships. You need to develop a
positive attitude and be persistent, don't let some guy at a dealership who
may be having a bad day get you down. These guys sell gold packages for 4
or 5 times as much as you get paid so there is a lot of profit in the deal
for them. In some areas, they may have other people calling on them to do
the plating. Unless your competition has equipment produced by Gold Plating
Services, they have inferior equipment. All you have to do is add a
superior level of service to the superior equipment you have and you will be
able to provide more value for your customer.
Making a good living. Vance and his
family are horse lovers. Vance's family enjoys many outdoor activities
such as skiing, riding snowmobiles and horseback riding. They compete in chariot
races and breed miniature horses. They recently moved onto a large new
ranch with enough acreage for their horses, barn and riding arena. The
arithmetic isn't too hard, 1400 cars at somewhere between $125.00 and $250.00 per
car is an excellent income, especially when you consider that the cost of goods
is around 10% and there is
virtually no other overhead.