John Timmermann knows the joys of being an entrepreneur—and its risks. Before opening in May in , the businessman spent years riding a roller coaster of successes and disappointments he said many people haven't seen.
"You're only as good as your last deal in people's minds," Timmermann said during a recent interview at . He added: "It's a tough road."
That translates into work weeks of six or seven days for himself and DentEx colleague Jayson Kaplan, constant tracking of financial accounts and participation in conference calls from home while his family eats dinner nearby.
But don't think for a minute that Timmermann is quitting. He's as busy as ever with multiple endeavors, and he's convinced that entrepreneurs will help jobless U.S. residents get back to work.
After all, he said, they put the country on the map.
From new hire to franchise owner
Timmermann, who lives in Sunset Hills, has been hard at work for a long time. He traces his journey as an entrepreneur to 1989, when his high school friend Scott Blind became a licensee for Dent Wizard, a company that performed paint-less dent removal. The industry was brand new.
He relocated to Boca Raton, FL, to work as a salesman for Dent Wizard of South Florida. Blind worked as a technician.
About three years later, Timmermann had the opportunity to buy a group of Dent Wizard franchises in St. Louis. Blind had taught him all about the business, and Timmermann's wife, Cindy, landed the franchise's first commercial account for $1 million in the wake of a bad hail storm.
The couple sold and pawned many of their personal possessions, including cars and jewelry, to purchase the franchise for $75,000. Dent Wizard of St. Louis launched in 1994 and generated about $250,000 in revenue during its first year. It had offices in Ellisville, St. Charles and Hazelwood, among other cities.
In 2000, they sold the franchise to Cox Communications for a multimillion-dollar figure. The company had grown to include 50 employees and a revenue base of $5 million annually. It worked with car dealerships across the St. Louis area.
In the years that followed, Timmermann pursued several projects. He was a founding director of the Business Bank of St. Louis for two or three years. He began companies outside of the automotive industry.
The ups and downs of entrepreneurship
As is true of many entrepreneurs, he said, more of them failed than succeeded. The economic downturn also presented challenges because he was heavily invested in real estate.
"Twelve years later, we basically came back to our roots and started this shop," Timmermann said.
in Richmond Heights opened in late May this year. Business got off to a good start thanks to a hail storm just a few weeks earlier. He's proud of the work performed at and notes that it's environmentally friendly. It doesn't require paint or solvents, and no metal is thrown away in the process.
"It's a craft that takes guys years to perfect," Timmermann said. He expects the company to do between $500,000 and $750,000 in business this year.
In addition to running , Timmermann is a licensee for the gun manufacturer Winchester. He owns its line of gun-care products including solvents, wipes and aerosol products that are carried by national chain stores throughout the U.S.
He's also working with Larry the Cable Guy to bring the comedian's line of products including barbecue sauces, marinades and pasta sauces to St. Louis.
The automotive market has changed since he first ran the Dent Wizard franchise. More companies are offering paint-less dent removal services, for example. So Timmermann, Kaplan and the contract workers employed by aim to provide quality service. Customers' vehicles often look better after a DentEx paint-less dent removal than they did when they were purchased, Timmermann said.
Timmermann recommends that beginning entrepreneurs invest in themselves. That means spending money on the people and technology that are integral to their business.
He learned his work ethic from his father, a bus and truck driver who worked three jobs. He and his wife have two daughters, Paige and Lauren, who attend St. Andrew's School in Boca Raton. They also are parents to six dogs, including a Yorkshire terrier, an 80-pound labrador and a standard poodle named Ruby.
Timmermann said he is tired and should be retired. But he thinks his story is a good one for people who might be considering quitting. He thought about giving up many times.
Instead, he keeps going.
"It's a survival of the fittest," Timmermann said.