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Despite the recent influx of smartwatches, people have continued to show a strong preference for old-fashioned clocks. These are clocks that need regular maintenance and occasionally break down, requiring a professional to fix them.
Clock repair businesses service worn-out and malfunctioning clocks. The industry has traditionally been dominated by older men, who are now retiring and leaving opportunities for young business owners. Many established businesses report backlogs of six weeks up to one year, which shows that there is demand for this type of work.
Who is this business right for?
Anyone who appreciates clocks and is mechanically gifted may like owning a clock repair service business. Having a passion for clocks helps business owners connect with customers and maintain enthusiasm for the work. A mechanical inclination is necessary because clocks that need to be serviced are intricate machines.
What happens during a typical day at a clock repair business?
A typical day at a clock repair business involves:
- talking to customers about their clocks
- servicing clocks (in-house or at customers’ locations)
- ordering or making parts as needed
- testing clocks before returning to customers
What is the target market?
A clock repair service business attracts a wide swath of customers. Typical customers include collectors and people who inherit family clocks as heirlooms. Many customers who have inherited a clock get the clock serviced even if repair costs are greater than the value of the clock.
How does a clock repair business make money?
A clock repair service business makes money by servicing clocks. Dale Foust and Jason Hahn, two professional in the industry, explain that the typical clock service involves:
- Ultrasonically cleaning the clock
- Polishing visible parts
- Testing and troubleshooting parts
- Replacing worn-out and broken parts
- Cleaning and testing the clock a final time
What is the growth potential for a clock repair business?
Most clock repair service businesses remain relatively small. They’re typically one- or two-person operations that serve the local area. For instance, repair professional Mike Murray maintains a service area of 25 miles from his business’ location.
Having said that, some well-established businesses have clocks shipped to them. This doesn’t account for a large portion of business for any clock repair professional, but a few receive the periodic order from a distant customer. Dale says these orders usually come from referrals of local customers.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful clock repair business?
Running a successful clock repair service business requires knowing how to service and repair clocks. Business owners have a few ways to gain this technical knowledge:
- Some experienced clock repair professionals (e.g. Bob of Tascione and Mike Murray via Clocksmiths) offer training materials
- A few junior colleges have certificates and associate degrees in clock repair
- The National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors offers workshops, online courses and webinars
Above all, multiple people in the industry underscore the importance of working under an experience cock repair professional.
What are the costs involved in opening a clock repair business?
The costs involved with starting a clock repair service business are minimal. In addition to training, business owners need a:
- Space to repair clocks
- Vehicle for making house calls
- Set of specialized tools
In order to keep the initial outlay low, business owners can set up a space in their home for completing repairs and use their personal vehicles when on house calls.
Together, tool costs may total a few hundred dollars. Clockworks, which sells repair tools, has one tool that costs $250. The other tools are $55 or less, with many priced under $20.
Business owners who want to purchase an established operation will still find that clock repair service businesses are affordable. Spokane Clock, for instance, is available for $40,000.
What are the steps to start a clock repair business?
Once you're ready to start your clock repair business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your clock repair business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your clock repair business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a clock repair business?
When opening a clock repair service business, securing a traditional retail location is unnecessary. In fact, it can be detrimental to a business.
Many established professionals run their businesses from their home on a by-appointment basis. By doing so, they:
- Keep overhead costs low
- Do not have to maintain set hours
- Can go on house calls anytime
How to promote & market a clock repair business
A clock repair service business’ advertising efforts should be focused on reaching customers within the business’ defined service area. Local search engine optimization and gathering customer reviews will help a business attract customers who search for a clock repair online. Sponsoring groups and placing ads in local papers will increase offline awareness.
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How to keep customers coming back
A clock repair service business can keep customers returning by providing a high level of service. Impressing customers will help ensure they come back when their clock needs maintenance, and it can lead to referrals.
How and when to build a team
Most clock repair businesses are one- or two-person operations. When businesses have an employee, the employee usually helps customers while the business owner does most of the repairs.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a clock repair business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
Certificate of Occupancy
A clock repair business is generally run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a clock repair business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your clock repair business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
The prices charged by clock repair service businesses vary a fair bit, but most repairs end up costing several hundred dollars. On the low end, a new business owner made $150 fixing two cuckoo clocks. The work took 5 to 6 hours and required no parts. On the high end, Mike Murray charges between $300 and $1,400 for most services. He also marks parts up by between 100 and 300 percent (occasionally 1,000 percent for rare parts).
What are the ongoing expenses for a clock repair business?
When run out of a home, the ongoing expenses for a clock repair service business are minimal. They include a portion of the business owner’s utility and vehicle costs, along with any advertising fees. A retail location adds a lease payment, more utilities and other fees, which is why many business owners avoid getting one.
Many repairs require parts, but parts costs are built into customers’ bills. They may be charged separately or included in a flat fee.
How much profit can a clock repair business make?
A clock repair business can make a significant amount for a simple small business. Spokane Clock averages $4,500 in repair work each month. If a business is run from home, almost all of that revenue will be profit. (Spokane Clock has a retail location.)
How can you make your business more profitable?
To increase revenue, a business owner can become a wheel specialist (horological machinist). This requires advanced training, but once trained a business owner will be able to make the small wheels used inside clocks.
Few clock repair professionals are wheel specialists, so becoming one can help attract higher-paying work. Sometimes, other professionals in the industry will even order custom-made parts from a wheel specialist they know.