|Sometimes it’s the job you don’t get that starts a career.
Tim Hogan was fresh out of college in 1989, with a hard-earned degree in
business administration. The Water ford, Conn., native was sending out resumes
during what he calls a “dead job market,” and getting few hopeful replies.
Old corroded outboards like these provide invaluable
parts. Hogan has a complete engine breakdown and parts-cleaning system
in his shop.
Tim Hogan of Waterford, Conn., runs the outboard
Hogan and mechanic Mike Conti check Internet orders.
Customers from Europe, the Middle East and Asia inquire about parts
To keep busy, he repaired an old out board motor and sold it. “I’ve been around
boats since I was a kid, and I love the water,” says Hogan, who owned his first
outboard-powered boat at age 13. “So, it was kind of a natural thing for me.”
What he was really doing was finding his business niche. “I quickly realized
that the demand for quality used out boards far exceeded supply,” says
Hogan, 34. “I got a few more engines, fixed them up and sold them, too.
Before he knew it, he’d rebuilt and sold 40 outboards, most of them 70 hp and
up. “I saw that this could lead to a business,” he says. “So, I decided to give
it a try.” He set up shop in a small shed on the Niantic River waterfront and
went to work. He spent six years in the tiny (1,000-square-foot) building,
establishing a reputation among the local anglers and pleasure boaters.
Now Hogan runs his Outboard Exchange shop from a two-story, 15,000- square-foot
building next door to where he got started. A 10,000-square- foot warehouse
filled with engines and parts is nearby. Mechanics Eric Barboza and Mike Conti
work full time, and others may be hired soon. Internet sales have expanded
Hogan’s market from the local fishermen and pleasure boaters to customers all
around the world. ‘1 just sent off some parts to a customer in England,” says
Hogan, standing at the computer mounted on his front counter, checking his
constant barrage of c-mails. Other prospective customers have contacted him from
Denmark, Hawaii and Alaska. An ignition module, crankshaft and lower unit were
recent ly shipped to Indonesia.
The grand opening for the new building is expected to be held this fall. “I had
hoped to move in here during the off-season, but the timing wasn’t right,” he
says. “So, it’s been a busy summer, moving and expanding the business.” The
Outboard Exchange deals in engines mostly from the 1980s and newer with
Johnson, Evinrude, Mercury and Yamaha figuring prominently in the workload. He
both reconditions and remanufactures the outboards, services what he sells and
also supplies parts.
The most popular engines are the remanufactured ones, according Hogan. “They
have new pistons a hearings, a new thermostat and water pump and rebuilt carbs,”
Hogan plains. “The lower unit is also completely rebuilt.” The engine is then
painted and new decals applied, needed. (When Hogan couldn’t original decals for
one older engine, had them re-created at a print shop using a computer.)
“For many the new engines are just too complicated... you need
a laptop computer and a lot of software to work on those engines.”
- Tim Hogan
The owner gets a one-year warranty and, in many cases, saves more the half the
cost of a new outboard of similar horsepower, Hogan says. “A 115- engine costs
just under $10,000 new and our remanufactured engine sells around $3,400,” he
says. A remanufactured 140-hp engine might sell I about $3,600. “We like to say
that don’t cost a customer money, we save him money,” he adds.
Most of Hogan’s work is on outboards 70- to 140-hp, although he does take
smaller and larger engines, and works on both 2-strokes and 4-strok While the
prices arc attractive, there's more to the demand than saving money, according
to Hogan. “There’s been a surge of interest lately, and the demand is greater
than we can handle,’ he says. ‘One reason is that the older engines are known
quantities, and people feel comfortable with them. They have a track record, a
reputation, and everyone knows how they perform.”
With new engines, the buyer may be helping the maker to work out the kinks on a
new design. Hogan says. “You’re not going to know the real story on a newly
designed engine for a few years.” He cites the reliability problems Out- hoard
Marine Corp. had with its FICHT fuel injection system when the company
introduced the technology.
“With a specific used engine, I go back and check the factory service bulletins
to see what tended to go wrong, and design that weakness out,” Hogan says. “The
1988 Yamaha outboard had problems with the [piston] wrist pin, which we’ve
solved by using a new piston.”
For many, the new engines are just too complicated, Hogan says. “You need a
laptop computer and a lot of software to work on those engines,’ he says. “A lot
of people just can’t keep up with that kind of thing. The old engines are
simple. People call me up trouble-shooting, and we try to help them out. I give
away a lot of free in formation, hut I think it pays off in the end when the
customer needs some work done. He thinks about us, first.” In fact, Hogan is
considering holding a few outboard maintenance classes in his new shop over the
winter. There is a downside to Hogan’s success story. While Barhoza and Conti
are usually busy at their new expanded workstations in the new building, Hogan
is called away increasingly to the phone or the work at the computer. “I’d
rather be at the workbench, myself, taking apart an engine and getting it
running again, and having a satisfied customer take it away” he says. “That’s
what I like about this business.”
For information, contact Outboard Exchange, 362 Rope Ferry’ Road, Water ford, CT
06385. Phone: (860) 437-0060.