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The elevator industry continues to boom across the country as most public and many small commercial buildings are installing them to better accommodate their customers. Once established, the chance to continually provide service and maintenance for the life of the building can help create a self-sustaining business. The successful owner of an elevator business will be eager to take on a project using engineering, electrical, and business skills.
Who is this business right for?
The owner and operator of an elevator service business will have professional connections among the building trades, unions, city leaders, and state safety inspectional services. You will be highly motivated to continue to expand your area of influence while keeping all your current clients satisfied with your services.
What happens during a typical day at an elevator installation and repair service?
Your business will be the soup-to-nuts solution for everything related to an elevator from design to daily maintenance. On a daily basis your company will:
- Work with general contractors creating the design for a new elevator
- Install new elevators in active construction sites
- Complete regular maintenance that ensures safe operation of elevators
- Schedule repair appointments
- Provide 24 hr. emergency response for mechanical failures
- Coordinate annual safety inspections with state inspectors
- Remain informed on changes regarding rules and regulations
What is the target market?
Any general contractor that is building apartment complexes, commercial buildings, or industrial complexes will need an elevator company.
How does an elevator installation and repair service make money?
Your clients pay a fee for annual maintenance and inspection. Emergency calls require an additional payment. The installation of a new elevator requires highly trained technicians that will earn the company a sizable payment for their work.
What is the growth potential for an elevator installation and repair service?
The beauty of an elevator business is that with each new elevator installed, you organically create a return client for the next 50 years. As time goes by, you can expect the need for additional repair technicians to increase. Expanding into neighboring markets becomes a real possibility.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful elevator installation and repair service?
The skills needed to actually repair elevators will not be the same ones needed to run this business. You should have excellent knowledge of every aspect of the design, installation, function, and maintenance of elevators, but not necessarily the physical experience. Otherwise, you will need:
- Excellent business management skills
- Expansive contacts in the construction industry, including trade unions
- Ability to create proposals for a project on time
- Time and people management skills
- Knowledge of building codes, safety rules, and regulations
- Solid knowledge of OSHA standards
- Networking skills to generate new clients in a rapidly expanding industry.
What are the costs involved in opening an elevator installation and repair service?
This will be a multi-million dollar venture, possibly in the 9-digit range. Your mechanics earn about $80,000/yr while design engineers will expect a $200,000+ salary. A single two-floor elevator can cost several million dollars from design to manufacturing. Tools, trucks, insurance premiums, office space, and a marketing team will all be part of starting this venture.
What are the steps to start an elevator installation and repair service?
Once you're ready to start your elevator installation and repair service, 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 elevator installation and repair service 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 elevator installation and repair service 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. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
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 an elevator installation and repair service?
As a bonus, the elevator industry is growing at a steady 10% per year, providing thousands of opportunities to build an expansive customer base. Should you locate a city that is on the edge of a building boom, that is your door for success. Since elevator companies are few and far between, once you install an elevator, that building manager will likely return to you for maintenance and repairs for the next 50 years. You will need to actively curate new installation jobs over the first 10 years to firmly establish yourself in the community.
How to promote & market an elevator installation and repair service
Your company will attend trade shows for the construction industry. You will need to become an active participant of your local chamber of commerce, support trade unions, and even work with politicians to establish profitable relationships in the business community. Personal visits to construction sites and headquarters help to keep your name at the top of the list. Make sure to charge a fair, not low, fee for your services.
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How to keep customers coming back
You will have to actively build your customer base. For the first five years, you will be submitting proposals for as many projects as possible. While few contracts will come through, your brand will be placed in front of the people cutting the checks. Once you have installed an elevator, it is fairly difficult to lose that customer as there are few elevator companies to compete against.
How and when to build a team
The elevator installation trade is one that still relies on apprenticeships to train its workers. It requires four years to move from apprentice to journeyman. While you will hire your project management team at the outset to start generating designs and proposals for construction sites, you will need to work with existing elevator repair companies to train your mechanics and technicians. Once you have several masters on your payroll, you will be able to start your own apprenticeship program.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an elevator installation and 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.
Elevator installation and repair businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example of one such services agreement.
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Certificate of Occupancy
An elevator installation business is generally run out of a building. 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 an elevator installation 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 elevator installation business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Labor Safety Requirements
It is important that your business complies with federal and state labor safety requirements. The following link provides an overview of employer responsibility regarding labor safety.
How much can you charge customers?
Annual maintenance contracts for a single-car elevator in a small building run around $5,000 to $7,000. Emergency responses earn $200/hr. A high-rise building with multiple shafts and cars can generate a $100 million contract for construction and installation of a new elevator system.
What are the ongoing expenses for an elevator installation and repair service?
Your payroll will be a significant portion of your business as salaries for your employees run twice the national average. You will need to maintain offices for your engineering and design team. Tools, trucks, and heavy-duty equipment require capital investments with replacement costs factored into your annual budgets. Operational costs will be in the millions.
How much profit can an elevator installation and repair service make?
It is not unreasonable to expect a million dollar profit to be seen on a single installation project, but keep in mind that completion of a major bank of elevators in a high-rise building can take one to two years from proposal to completion. Regular maintenance visits generally charge 2.5 times the hourly wage for the technician, which provides a healthy 10% profit after business expenses are covered.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Larger construction jobs generate higher payouts while requiring fewer workers for the task. However, when you are starting out completing several smaller jobs in a short amount of time is crucial for building your reputation in town.