Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to some common questions

Business Climate

The headlight restoration industry is highly fragmented.

LensDoctor® uses a patented process so you shouldn’t find anyone else doing what we do in your area. However, there are competitors using DIY kits or adapting products / tools used to do paint while still others are sanding and then clear coating headlights.

  • You already know how the DIY kits do, not very impressive
  • The products adapted from the paint care industry look so-so initially but do damage in the long run and ultimately look worse than they started out
  • Clear coating headlights is very difficult, not to mention time consuming / expensive.

As far as the competition in the your area goes, I can’t honestly tell you but you could ask around or check Google.

LensDoctor won't knowingly open another dealer in your are without first talking to you. Only if you feel they wouldn't pose a threat to your territory would I set someone else up.*

*However, LensDoctor cannot prevent another dealer from moving locations

Most are done on site.

Sometimes, body shops will remove the headlight(s) and give it(them) to you to do. I don’t recommend this because it’s much harder off the car. The car acts like your helper in that it holds the headlights steady while you work on them.

I don't recommend driving the cars off the lot either. If you drive the car off their premises, this will have a dramatic effect on your insurance (garage keepers policy).

If you have someone who wants to bring a car to your location that's fine but I generally don’t adjust my price based on the location the work is done unless it is particularly far away.

  • Car dealers, I charge $65/car (though they would like it to be $50) for cars on their lot and $95 in the service drive.
    One guy I trained charges dealerships $75/car or 3 for $150.
    I tried giving a “package deal” e.g. all the cars on their lot @ $30/car (only about 1/3 needed work).
    With the latter, the upside is, if they’re selling 100 cars/ month, they are a $3000/ month account. The downside is you spend 2-3 days, all day at one dealer and if they decide to get rid of you, you suffer a big drop in income ’til you get more business.
  • Repair shops I charge $95/ car.
  • Body shops I charge $50/ headlight for self payers and $100/ headlight for insurance companies.
  • Private party I charge $100-150/ car depending on the car.
$500,000 Garage Keepers policy is what most dealerships ask for. You do need to protect yourself and your clients but seriously... you are making their cars safer than they've been in years.

Marketing and Promotion

I didn’t spend much money on the types of marketing you speak of. Of course I made some business cards. My only formal advertising was through Google AdWords. With AdWords you can specify zip codes to cover and generally only parties who are interested tend to click on your ad. Knocking on doors worked best for me.

  • AdWords - My cost ranged from $65 - $150 per month. I didn’t give it much of a test though e.g. I didn’t run different campaigns to see what worked best. But if your focus is on doing individuals, in my opinion, AdWords should be your first choice over other types of marketing. I would suggest trying different campaigns though to optimize your return.
  • Business cards - You can get a thousand for less than $75 and they will last you forever from my experience.
  • Knock on doors - Cost? An hour or so of your time + materials.

In most cases, all you need to do to get a car dealer on board is to do a free demo. Only someone with confidence in their work would offer this.

For example; walk a dealership’s used car lot and find a car with bad headlights. Go talk to the decision maker and offer to fix the one you found for free. Do one side, go find that person again and show them. Have them feel each side. It’s likely you will be beaming with pride at a job well done and that alone will clinch the deal. From there on, you just need to show up every week at about the same time (twice or three times depending on volume).

I can supply some basic design options that I've used over the years. You can make them your own with a little modification like adding your business name, phone number, etc. These will be available by special request right now but I could make it a free download if the demand is there. I recommend Vista Print as an affordable solution for all your printing needs.

Top Concerns and Reflections

I would have gone directly to franchise car dealers instead of independent used car dealers.
If a company is just you naturally the concern is that if I get hurt and can’t work. In CA I paid into SDI (state disability insurance) and that took care of me but if I left my accounts too long I stood the chance of having a competitor come in. I was lucky to have a couple good employees.

A customer's first question is usually "Will it last".

They may have had a "buff job" by their detail guy only to have it start to come back in a month or so.

I tell them "A year from now, it will still look as if I had just done it".

That is the case with 99% of my restoration jobs. You will start to see it coming back in about 18 months and probably want it done again in 24 mo.

The cost is a distant second, but generally you aren’t going into a high pressure sales situation. The need is obvious (appearance, safety) and you will not likely try and sell to someone without one of these needs.

I avoid any high pressure sales by observing a prospect’s demeanor. Example; You’ve identified the need and present it to you prospect. If he/she doesn’t ask how much you charge, then they aren’t a good prospect. Don’t bother doing a free demo. Give them your card and thank them. Ask them "When would be a good time to stop and give them a free demo" (give them another chance to ask for your price) but that’s about as far as I would go... Move on.

Prior to when I first started LensDoctor, I was disabled from a car accident. I don’t believe that another employer would have been able to accommodate my condition as well as be able to pay me as much as I was able to earn myself.

Employment Thoughts

To excel in any business you need...

  • A passion to succeed
  • To pay attention to detail (do your best work)
  • To enjoy helping others

LensDoctor, Inc. is an S Corp. and I’m an employee. I use a payroll service which simplifies things a lot.

An S corp doesn’t pay income tax but is a pass-through entity. The earnings are passed-through to the shareholders.

You should talk to a tax accountant about your best tax strategy.

I probably don’t treat it the same as other principles of S Corps because I want to show an income (via pay stubs) and add to my SS account. This has many benefits when applying for loans, etc.

Self employment tax seems high but it is really just your contribution plus your employer’s for social security.

I tried 2 different ways.

  • One I paid salary of $500/week. He took over completely while I was in the hospital. He did good but this wouldn’t work for most, I believe and therefore I don’t recommend unless you know them real well.
  • Another I hired as an independent contractor, paying 40% commission. Be careful of the tax code in this case. They cannot work exclusively for you and you cannot set their schedule. Otherwise, they are employees.

Dealerships and bodyshops probably won’t want to see you on the weekend.

I really don’t think I can give you the best advice for only "working on the side". About my only suggestion is for you to use AdWords. Try not to reach too far away from your home base for side jobs.

I don’t recommend Craigs List. It’s free so you will get clients looking for the lowest price.

You might try talking with people at your church or other organizations you belong to.

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