Too Cool for Internet Explorer

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Pay Up, $ucker


When you hear the name Jesse James, who do you think of? The outlaw from the 1800s?

If you ever watch the Discovery Channel, you recognize the name from the show, Monster Garage, and think of the motorcycle outlaw. Interestingly, the Jesse James of today is actually a shirt-tail relative of the wild west outlaw of yesterday.

From growing up in Long Beach, California, to having his signature tool box sets sold by Mac Tools, West Coast Chopper T-shirts sold in Wal-Mart, and having his own TV show, you can’t help but ask, “What’s Jesse James’ secret?”

In the early days of West Coast Choppers (site may not be safe for work), Jesse worked by himself, making custom motorcycle parts in a corner of his mom’s garage. Today, he has more than 50 employees working in his 18,000-square-foot facility.

As owner of West Coast Choppers, Jesse James has built up a business famous for custom motorcycles and counts many celebrities and other famous people among his customers, who are happy to pay $60,000 to $150,000 for his two-wheeled works of art.

I’ll admit that I’m not a regular Monster Garage viewer. I enjoy the fabrication and building part, but personally think the endings are lame. If you watch the show, you will quickly pick up one of Jesse’s secrets. The guy really knows what’s cool. He’s a real artist when it comes to metal (he’s not afraid to make lots of noise banging metal with a hammer), chrome, and paint. His creations look fast even when they’re parked.

Another trait of Mr. James is that it’s obvious that he loves his work. How cool is it that he’s become a millionaire though some hard work? Even today, he’ll tell you that he can’t believe that he gets paid so well to do what he loves.

Probably the most important secret of Jesse James’s business is tattooed on the palm of his right hand. When his primary business was fabricating custom parts for dealers and distributors, he sometimes had trouble collecting payments from these businesses. This led to him getting the tattoo shown above.

During a recent Monster Garage episode, Jesse had given a challenge to a group of high school students (I think it was to build a mini race car—Jesse supplied the kit car parts, but kept the instructions, hehe) in one week of shop class. It was during one of his visits to check on the students’ progress that he took one of them aside to offer some personal advice. (If this show accomplishes one thing, I hope it’s to convince schools and students that shop classes are important.)

The advice that Jesse shared was something that he’d learned from one of his mentors early in life. It was the fact that people like to be charged. You heard Jesse right—people like to spend their money!

From a business standpoint, Mr. James knows what his products are worth (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look at these prices for motorcycle fenders!), and isn’t afraid to price them accordingly.

A college professor told me a similar secret to running a successful business. “No one ever went out of business by charging too much for their product or service.”

Hopefully, you immediately recognize the obverse of that statement, that obviously there have been businesses that failed because the owners charged too little.

So what are Jesse James’ other secrets to success? What’s yours?

» Posted by AKM at 03:27 PM (ET)
Category: Musings


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