Read as Jon Hantsbarger talks about his career in Classic Car building and restoration. Find him at www.precisioncarrestoration.com and on the Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
I am a General Manager for Precision Restorations out of Saint Louis, MO. We are one of the largest classic car and hot rod builders in the nation.
How would you describe what you do?
I manage a grown man’s toy store. Seriously, I get to play with cars every day. It can be tough, but it can be tons of fun too.
What does your work entail?
Being a general manager, my job entails basically anything and everything that the shop needs.
This can include but is not limited to:
-Search engine optimization for our website.
-Developing, initiating, and monitoring social marketing campaigns.
-Developing and nurturing new sales leads.
-Developing estimates for new jobs.
-Presenting and selling the job to the client.
-Managing the cash flow and income for the business.
-Nurturing and communicating with our current clients.
-Photographing the in progress work for the website and for the clients.
-Handling client issues should they arise.
-Helping the technicians on the projects.
What’s a typical work week like?
One of the great things about working in this industry is that there is no typical work week. Every day will bring new surprises and new challenges. It really keeps you on your feet. If I had to sum it up, my week is split into three equal areas; production management, sales and marketing (both traditional and online).
How did you get started?
I have a double major from the university of central Missouri in Business Management and Automotive design. Once I got out of college I managed a few Automotive chain stores and dealerships. Finally I came to Precision Restorations as a production supervisor and have worked my way up from there.
What do you like about what you do?
There are several things to love about what I do. I would say that the two main things are having something new to do every day and working with the clients. When a client brings a car to me we develop a close relationship, and for a few reasons. The first reason being, this usually has a lot of sentimental value in it (grandma’s car, dad’s car, etc…) and the build usually takes 7-8 months which gives me a lot of time to get to know the client and their family.
What do you dislike?
The surprises that come up on the projects throughout the build. Being that we are dealing with 50 or 60 year old cars you never know what problems you are going to run into. This can make it difficult to successfully manage production and project deadlines.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I am personally paid by a generous base salary and commission on the sales.
How much money do Muscle Car Restorers make?
Most entry level technicians will make 15-18 per hour while an experienced tech can make upwards of 30 per hour. We are a flat rate facility so there are opportunities for bonuses for the techs too.
Management here is a lot like other business, we make our money based on how the business does. It can be anywhere from 50k on up.
How much money did/do you make starting out?
I started out making around 50,000 per year.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
To be on the management side we are looking either for 10+ years of experience for the production management side or a business background in automotive for the business management side. Most of the technicians come in one of two ways: They either have 5+ years developing their skills and have the background required or they get specialized training at a school like Wyotech.
What is most challenging about what you do?
For me it is keeping a steady flow of jobs coming in the shop. We are a large facility that requires quite a bit of cash flow to run smoothly. In this economy it is hard to avoid the peaks and valleys.
What is most rewarding?
This is an easy one. It is seeing the look on our clients face when they come to pick up their car that has not been on the road for 20-30 years. There is nothing else like this for me. I do also enjoy the sales aspect of the job, it is quite a rush to close an $80,000 job.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
You have to be passionate about the field. It is a tough business to be in with a lot of competition out there. You have to love what you do and work hard to excel every day.
How much time off do you get/take?
We get one week after one year, two weeks after 3 years, and 3 weeks after 5 years.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
I would say that it would be how intense these jobs are and how long they take to do. You see all these shows on TV that show a car getting restored in 7 days. What people don’t realize is that those shows have a team of 50-100 people working on the car and unlimited budget for parts.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
For me it would to get into building some of the higher end cars $250,000+. Also, we would really like to open up a few other shops in other states to bring our business model to more people.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
It is a tough, grueling world to work in. There is no glamor in it like you see on TV. But if you really love it and you love the cars, it can be very rewarding.