DO IT FOR A LIVING is a podcast where YOU, the performance racing industry enthusiast and shop owner can hear from the best minds in the performance racing industry talking about business and tech. We discuss new products and services and the best resources used by the big dogs. You can listen on your way to work or in the shop. With new episodes coming out every Monday, you'll find interesting topics and valuable information you can use to build your performance business. Now take this information and use it to build the next record-breaking car or innovative product.
163: Stewart Waliser of Stews Self Service Garage
Stewart grew up in a Seattle suburb and was an active kid. When he turned 16, he got a beater $500 car and was tasked with keeping it running. He used this car to learn maintenance and slowly acquired mechanical skills. He went to college and continued to modify cars. He was living gin the dorm and didn’t have a place to do the work so he called several shops, but nobody would allow him to do the work at their shop. It was at this point that he shifted from wanting to be a surgeon to owning a DIY garage. He spent all winter break creating a business plan and researched other self-service garages to see if the idea was even feasible.
After dealing with a shady real estate broker, difficulties with city zoning, fire marshal fixes, and having to relocate with a 3-day notice, he was finally able to open his self-service garage. He has now been in business for 5 years and has signed another 5-year lease. The goal for this year is to expand and grow the business. He currently has 7 bays with lifts, provides tools and some specialty machines, and employees 4 employees to help around the shop. They keep things simple by charging a flat rate for time and not doing a la cart charges to use tools or ask questions.
162: Nathan Cicio of Cicio Performance
Nathan grew up in Florida working on cars to help his dad’s business. In his twenties, he moved around always chasing entrepreneurial ventures but wasn’t always focused on cars. He eventually purchased a 2002 WRX Wagon and then he was hooked! The modifications began and he couldn’t get enough. This led to starting a performance shop with two buddies and eventually meeting Doug Wilks who was the owner of Top Speed Performance. Nathan then began organizing tuning appointments for Doug to fly in and tune several vehicles at once.
After some time, Nathan offered to buy the business from Doug and run it on how own terms. He kept the original employees, changed the name to Top Speed Motorsports, and grew the business over the next ten years. He recently changed it to Cicio Performance and now has two locations. One is in Atlanta, GA (the Top Speed Motorsports location) and the other is in Virginia Beach, VA. He has plans to open a third location in another year or two.
With the new name, Nathan focused his efforts on running the business efficiently and tracking every metric possible. This has allowed him to open the second location and he is able to split his time between the two and manage them. His goal is to ensure his customers have a pleasant experience and work to get the cars completed as quickly as possible. He still works on GTR’s but is expanding the services to 911’s and plans on doing a ton of work with the new C8 Corvette when it comes out.
161: Chris Riggs from Speed by Design
Chris got his career going in cars by doing a buy-in for body kits while he was in college back in 2001. He ran this business all through college and made a decent living. But, after graduating, he became a medical salesman. He worked there up until 2012 when the company he was working for got bought and he was given a buyout payment. That same year, he started Speed by Design.
Initially, he wanted to do installs for GTR’s. He soon realized that Oklahoma wasn’t large enough to warrant a specialty shop like he wanted to make so he shifted gears and focused on manufacturing and e-commerce. He has continued to grow the business over the years and is proud to offer quality products manufactured in Taiwan. They have expanded from just GTR parts to Fords, AE86s, and are beginning to offer McLaren parts.
160: Ben Silcock and Andre Simon return to discuss HP Academy
Its been about 4 years since we last talked to Andre and Ben of HP Academy. Originally, they were focusing on keeping the business small and running it themselves. They soon realized that they needed to hire some extra help. They have grown to 7 people and really helps generate content.
Andre and Ben now release interviews each week and have greatly expanded their online education program. The online courses include tuning, engine machining, race car wiring, and vehicle setup. They are currently working with Engineered to Slide to even create a set of fabrication courses so be on the lookout for even more great content!
If you’re interested, they are always looking for talented individuals to join their team. So, feel free to reach out to them if you think you are qualified.
159: Bryan Thompson of Powerhouse Racing
Bryan Thompson started out in Utah and bought himself a Toyota MR2. He quickly started modifying it to go faster. He ended up going to college to get a Computer Science degree but was cut short because of his love for cars. He then followed a friend to Dallas to begin working at Dinosaur Performance (which later purchased Powerhouse Racing). Soon enough, he was giving the reigns to run Powerhouse Racing. Even though he preferred working on cars, he soon realized he could develop parts that he really needed to make. After a few years, Bryan was given the opportunity to buy Powerhouse Racing and jumped on it!
He has spent the past few years focusing on manufacturing products and expanding their offerings. He is putting systems in place to better handle the demand for their parts and try to get them out quicker while continuing to improve the products.
158: AJ Hartman returns for an update on AJ Hartman Aero
Back in 2017, AJ was humming along and making composite parts for race cars and street enthusiasts. He was approached by a customer who was wanting to help AJ scale the business, so he sold off 49% of the business. They changed the name to RHR Composites, hired 2 people, contracted some aerodynamic parts to be designed, and moved to a larger facility. Along the way, their vision for the future didn’t align so AJ had to buy out his partner to take back 100% of the company. Even though it was a huge struggle, AJ looks at the events as a learning experience and tries to keep a positive outlook on the situation. He shrunk the company back to just himself, changed the name back to AJ Hartman Aero, and the business is humming along nicely.
He has focused on reducing waste and improving efficiency within his shop. Even though he has moved out of the 6,000 sqft shop and back into the 2-car garage behind his house, he has been able to get more product out and make more money. This goes to show how important it is to focus on efficiency versus trying to make more money. AJ set his mind on improving the business and getting the most use out of his time. This has translated to higher profits with fewer resources.
Your recent episodes have been great and very informative. Thanks for taking the time to have these folks share with us and the effort that it takes to get it done!
If you want to learn about the background of the players that make the industry run, their struggles, failures, successes, and business ventures, this is the podcast for you. Occasional unnecessary cursing detracts from what is otherwise a great podcast.
Very Informative & Inspiring
It’s great to hear from industry leaders on their path to the top. Love the podcast.
🗣 Can you do a podcast with SS SHAUN of HHP (Hewitt High Performance). That would be a dope episode.