William Kivit was born on November 30, 1994 in Chicago, Illinois. During his childhood years, William grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois. At a very early age, William became fascinated with automobiles and trains and accumulated a very large collection of both, a collection that he still displays. William attended grade school at St. Paul of the Cross Catholic School. At St. Paul of the Cross, William was active in several extracurricular activities, including scouting, sports, and fundraising.
During grade school, William was on the school basketball team and Park District team. The St. Paul of the Cross basketball team was very competitive in its conference and during several years, the school team was a conference champion. William also played on a traveling basketball team named Rising Stars. The Rising Stars team played in tournaments throughout Illinois and Wisconsin. In addition, William enjoyed playing on the Falcons traveling football team.
After completing grade school, William attended Maine South High School located in Park Ridge, Illinois. While at Maine South, William played for the school basketball and football teams. During his first year of participation, the football team won the state championship. As the challenges of higher education progressed, William focused on his studies and planned on pursuing his passions, which were primarily automotive related. During this time, William also was hired as an apprentice and began working at a local automotive repair shop to help further his skills.
Upon graduating from Maine South High School, William attended Triton College located in River Grove, Illinois. At Triton College, William majored in Automotive Technology. After graduating from that institution, William moved to Wisconsin to start his own business, as well as to advance his career. William understood how difficult it is to start a new business and elected instead to establish his business slowly and on a part time basis. While doing so, William was also hired as a General Motors Service Technician at Kudrick Chevrolet and Buick located in Mauston, Wisconsin.
William has been a General Motors Service Technician for the past two years. In his free time, he enjoys the country life, which allows him to enjoy nature and the open spaces. During the summer months, he can often be found boating on the Wisconsin River, and during the winter months, he enjoys riding his snowmobile in addition to working on his restoration repair business.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
Kivit Restoration and Repair began as a small automotive business focused on general vehicle maintenance and the customization of automobiles and pick-up trucks. The company was founded based on my passion and interest in all things relating to cars and trucks, which was stoked at an early age by acquiring various collector cars with my family. The Kivit family has owned various collector vehicles including a 1970 454 Chevrolet Chevelle Super Sport convertible, 1968 Chevrolet Camaro 396 RS/SS, 1970 Dodge Challenger 440 six pack, 1995 Porsche Carrera, 1995 Jaguar XJS convertible, and 1991 Toyota Supra Turbo. In addition, I’ve owned and restored various trucks, including a 1986 Chevy Silverado square body and a 1990 Chevy full size Blazer.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical day begins at 7:30 AM, which is the time I start work as a General Motors Service Technician at Kudick Chevrolet and Buick. As a Service Technician, all work performed is based on a book time established by General Motors to complete various repairs and perform maintenance. As a result, I am incentivized to perform the tasks on time or quicker, resulting in a pay scale that will match or exceed industry standards. When working at my own business, I use a similar mindset to complete projects. The sooner a project is completed, the sooner a customer’s vehicle is returned. The repaired vehicle must also always reflect a job done fully and to industry standards. My typical day starts and ends in a similar fashion. Efficient productivity can only be realized by understanding the complexity of the task and what is necessary in terms of tools, knowledge, and the optimum time necessary to complete the task.
How do you bring ideas to life?
In my spare time, I enjoy watching automotive related shows and researching projects on the internet. These various mediums provide me with new technology developments and popular trends in customizing vehicles. This knowledge helps me to translate my thoughts, designs, and ideas to restoring and improving actual vehicles. I also enjoy attending various meets, shows, and auctions to witness the innovations that are surfacing in the market and how I may be able to improve them.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The custom truck market is very active and exciting. Most recently, I purchased my own Chevrolet 2500 diesel pick-up truck. The project took most of the winter and has resulted in several sponsorships from various vendors serving the market. Taking a project vehicle from disrepair—having rust all over it, rife with wear and tear—and then restoring it is very rewarding. Throughout the restoration, the thought was to make the truck better than new. As a result, most of the suspension was powder-coated, the chassis was undercoated, and a new bed was purchased. During the painting process, all panels were treated with rust inhibitors, as well. When attention was focused on the engine, stronger cylinder head studs were installed, as well as an improved turbo, and various intake and other parts were powder-coated to highlight the custom look and backed up with improved reliability. The transmission was completely rebuilt to higher standards in order to handle the increased horsepower. To finish the custom look, the transmission housing was powder-coated along with the drive shaft.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
When I start a project, I remain focused until it is finished. A satisfied customer and a project completed above expectations is what I always strive to attain. A satisfied customer may tell their friends about your work and business. However, an unsatisfied customer is sure to tell as many people as they can about their negative experience. These days, social media elevates and escalates the opinions of people regarding their consumer experiences. It is therefore critically important to make certain that the people you service know that the job was done correctly and leave satisfied with the product and their experience. Referrals and repeat customers are what make any business successful.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Prioritize and keep your expectations realistic. Do not over commit or be incentivized for the wrong reasons. Learn as much about a project or skill as possible before starting a project. Too many times, one’s expectations of oneself can exceed what is reasonable or possible. For example, there was a time when I was restoring my 1986 Chevrolet Silverado and I had decided to install a new engine. My expectation was to have it installed and running in a single day. The reality was that there were so many systems to make operational on that model, such as the transmission, fuel system, and cooling and electrical systems that my initial expectation was not realistic. This is particularly true when working on older vehicles. Oftentimes, parts need to be retrofitted or modified in order to combine the old with the new. The new parts and materials may not match up perfectly, so extra time might be needed. There is also the time needed to make final adjustments to the fuel system and engine timing to ensure proper performance. Any issue, such as an unanticipated leak will also take extra time to correct. The likelihood for an entire project to be completed without an issue is often not realistic, especially for restorations.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Too often in the collector and custom market, people do not realize the cost and the time that it takes to perform work correctly and to the industry standard. For example, when repairing an older vehicle that originates from a winter climate, rust is always a problem. It takes additional time to complete repairs due to the effort and time required to remove rusted materials. Book time in this example must be increased to allow for the additional time necessary to complete the task. Customers today are well-read in many instances and sometimes simply focus on the book time, even though abiding only by that metric is usually unrealistic. Another example is retrofitting or customizing a particular part or accessory. Say, for the sake of argument, that the part is ordered and reported to be a fit for a certain vehicle. However, upon installing the new item, it is determined that a modification is needed for it to perform or fit correctly. Any retrofitting in that regard takes extra time and is not simply a bolt on process. Customers often overlook these aspects of repair.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Pursue what you are passionate about. Life is not a rehearsal, and therefore if you decide to go into business for yourself, choose a business that you truly enjoy. If you enjoy what you do, time spent working will not seem like work. There is, of course, a balance between being able to earn enough money to satisfy yourself while still enjoying your business.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
As the owner of a small business, I have spent a lot of time networking at various venues, such as meets, shows, and auctions with people that have similar interests. The people you meet and exchange ideas with are often good referral sources in helping to grow your network of customers. It is a constant process that one should not lose sight of or let slip. Sponsoring, advertising, referrals, and networking combine to generate a significant percentage of overall business. It is important to retain your contacts and also to reach out to them periodically. Positive word of mouth, and the referrals it can generate, are critical to success. Upon receiving such referrals, it is also important to understand that you need to reciprocate and refer customers to your network of contacts in return, as well.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Early on, I realized that just because you open a business, it does not mean that customers will follow. This is particularly true in a rural area. Overcoming an initial lack of business required an ongoing effort of asking for referrals, attending various trade shows, as well as networking with current and past customers via advertising and promotion.
In addition, I have had to create alternate revenue streams, which is something I should have done when I first started my business, but did not. An example of a revenue stream is to purchase a basic used vehicle when business is slow, perform basic repairs, and then resell it for a profit. The used car market today is very profitable, as used cars are in high demand due to pandemic-related shortages. In the past, I have also purchased vehicles that have been in an accident but remain repairable. One such example of this is when I purchased a late model Volvo convertible that was involved in a front end collision. I bought the vehicle based on my estimation of parts value for $1,200. I resold the Volvo for $2,600 three weeks later to someone that had the same model and wanted the car for parts. Simply knowing the market for certain makes and models can prove very profitable.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Open an electric vehicle repair business. Being well-read on industry developments and the consequences of new technology, I can say with confidence that electric vehicles are impacting today’s service technicians and their ability to understand the service necessary to maintain proper operation. It is estimated that within ten years electric vehicles will comprise the majority of vehicles on the road. In addition, there are other industry developments, such as new hydrogen and gas technologies that are becoming viable alternatives to petroleum powered vehicles. Each of these technologies will likely create obsolescence to existing automotive tech. For example, electric vehicles do not require engine oil changes, but do require increased specialized maintenance to the braking system to ensure proper operation. Electric vehicles also have an increased danger factor for technicians when being serviced due to the higher level of electrical voltage running through them, which is needed to propel each vehicle.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Most recently, I spent $100 on a specialty service tool. The tool will allow me to perform a specific task in half the book time and will pay for itself after the fourth job. The examples from my own experience are many, but it is wise to purchase the best tools and equipment that you can afford. Quality companies warranty their tools for life, so once you purchase it, you will have it throughout the duration of your career and never need to purchase it again.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Because the transportation industry is heavily dependent on computer processors and chips, it is imperative that I use up-to-date scanning tools. The scanning tools allow me, as a technician, to plug into the vehicle’s port and computer to diagnose what the problem or malfunction is. The code displayed will result in a quick and efficient repair because the code will correspond with a specific component that is not working properly. Without such a scanning tool and up-to-date software, I—or any other technician—would be forced to guess at what the problem is, wasting time and material costs.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Road America: Five Decades of Racing at Elkhart Lake by Tom Schultz. As a car guy who has visited Road America in Wisconsin twice a year since I was a little boy with my parents, the book allows the reader to relive and see how the course has developed over five decades. It showcases the early years of Road America, including the cars and drivers involved, as well as the evolution of motorsports and today’s series. I have met many of the drivers over the years, and enjoyed visiting the pits and watching the crews maintain the race cars . I believe based on my lifetime of experience that Road America in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin is one of the best motor racing tracks in the world.
What is your favorite quote?
“Life is not rehearsal.”
- Pursue your passion in life.
- When starting a business, have realistic expectations.
- Success is measured in many forms and is not just monetary.
- A repeat customer confirms the work is well done.
- Technological developments can create obsolescence.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.