This week’s blog post is going to go into a bit of detail on how I do my business, what watches that I will work on, and why I don’t work on certain watches. First, please keep in mind that I repair watches full time as a “business,” this is not a hobby. I graduated from the Bulova School of Watchmaking in 1977 and have worked for the past 38 years every day as a watchmaker. I worked for the first 22 years from (1977 – 1998) at our family jewelry store, Sirianni Bros., working with my father, uncle and cousin as a watchmaker and jeweler. After the death of my father I left the store and started my own repair business in 2001. I work at least 10 hours per day Monday – Friday, and at least 3-4 hours a day on the weekends. I have been very fortunate to build the business from the ground up over the last decade and have learned a lot about what it means to “be your own boss”. I am going to answer some simple questions that I am routinely asked and will use a few of my favorite movie quotes to get the point across.
Why don’t I work on chronographs or very complex watches?
Answer: A quote from Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry will answer this one, “A man’s gotta know his limitations” What that means for me is I know what I am good at and what is good for my business. Chronographs and very complex watches are just not what I specialize in, they are more trouble than they are worth to repair. The comeback rate on a chronograph is quite high, they need to be perfect, and in short, just not a good business decision to base your business on.
Why don’t you work on every watch that comes into your shop?
Michael Corleone from the Godfather can answer this one. “ It’s nothing personal it is strictly business.” Please keep in mind that not every watch that comes into my shop is in good working condition and some are simply “worn out”. Some watches are just very inexpensive or of poor quality and I am trying to do the customer a service by not taking his money knowing that the watch will not run well even after an overhaul. This is one of the toughest things to impress upon a customer. Please remember, this is a business not my hobby.
Why won’t you fix my old watch, it has lots of sentimental value?
This is a problem that I struggle with just about every week. Fore example, a good customer sends me his grandfather’s 100 year old pocket watch and wants it “restored”. I need to make a quick decision to see if this watch is going to run well enough to guarantee after a simple overhaul. Sometimes I make the right decision, sometimes not. Here is a quote from my Dad that should sum up this situation “ You need to know when to quit, but more important, you need to know when not to start!” The biggest way to lose money in my business is when a watch “comes back” and I need to redo the repair. From that point, I am working for free, which is not a great way to stay in business. The best way to eliminate comebacks is not to do that watch in the first place. This is hard for customers to understand when I tell them NO on a certain repair.
I am not in a hurry, you can work on it in your “spare time” to get it fixed.
This is the comment that I hear from customers all the time, they are more than willing to let me work on their watch for as long as it takes to get it finished, but they only want to be charged the normal overhaul cost no matter how many hours that I spend on it. First, keep in mind that I do not have ANY spare time, and what time I do have I would like to have some sort of time away from work just like everyone else. Next, when I sit at my bench, I need to get paid, just like everyone else. For example, I just had a plumber to my house for a minor repair, his charge is $50 per hour, no matter how long it takes to finish the job. I don’t think that he would take my work home and do it in his spare time at no charge. Just like everyone else that works full time, I have lots of bills to pay, gas, electric, Internet, phone, hospitalization, retirement, etc….. When I sit at my work bench I need to make a profit, period!
Trying to do customers a favor sometimes is not a good business decision.
I try to go above and beyond to try and fix every watch that comes into my shop, but sometimes my small town ideas get the better of me. My biggest problem in business is learning to say NO to a customer on a watch repair.
Please don’t get mad at me if I tell you your watch needs to go to the factory for service or if the watch that you just bought on Ebay is not what you thought you paid for. Please don’t shoot the messenger for giving you bad news. The seller made all of the profit, but now I have all of the problems. Also, when another “watchmaker” goofs up your watch, please don’t expect me to perform miracles to correct his mistakes.
I hope that I have not offended anyone with my long post today, but these details of how and what I do everyday are the basis of how my business works.