You don’t wake up one morning and say, “You know what? I’m going to start selling used tractor parts for a living.”
For that idea to take shape, you’d need to know a little something about tractors. You’d need to understand the pesky economics regarding supply and demand in the used-tractor market. You’d need to know where to find your inventory and – more importantly – your customers. It takes time and a lot of work.
So how did David Shea of Vermont Tractor Parts LLC come to dominate the used tractor parts space on eBay? Lucky for us, he took a break from his fourteen-hour work day to tell us how he got there and what he wishes he’d have done differently.
David, tractor parts? How did you settle on such a narrow sales niche?
By accident. I bought a used tractor locally. I used it on my property until the engine blew up. Then I decided that I’d try to recoup my investment by selling the working parts on eBay. I went into it blind. I didn’t know much about eBay or tractors. But, before long, I’d sold the entire tractor and was looking for others to piece out. That was probably seven years ago. Since then, I’ve sold enough parts to rebuild countless tractors from the ground up.
Do you think it’s difficult to grow when you’re entirely invested in one-of-a-kind (OOAK) items, especially of the sort that need a lot of prep?
I didn’t think about that at the beginning, but, yes. That’s definitely the case now. It’s been good in that I have a solid inventory source here in Vermont and a steady supply of customers, country wide. I do pretty well for myself, and I have an amazing support system in my family and business mentor, Dick. However, my work is all-consuming. Essentially, I buy huge pieces of machinery, disassemble them, clean and inspect each piece, and that’s all before I get anything listed. If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t focus on selling one-of-a-kind (OOAK) items like this.
That’s a really good point for new treasure-hunt sellers. You have to think about how you’ll grow and scale from the very beginning, right?
Yes. I’m so far into this now, there’s no going back. I have thousands of listings and more inventory that I need to get listed. I also have a 4000 square foot, climate-controlled storage space so that my inventory is well protected from rust and corrosion during our harsh winters.
You’re invested. So, even though you’re very successful in your space, if you could start over, you wouldn’t sell tractor parts?
Not exclusively. Going into this, I had no idea how much hard labor would be involved on a daily basis and how much of my heart and soul would go into listing and taking care of customers. And, I surely wasn’t thinking about the fact that I’d need to eventually run it like a real business.
Well, the good news is you’re great at what you do. Also, your story can help other sellers. If you could start over, what would you do differently?
I’d do a lot differently, but here’s what I’d say to my younger eBay-selling self:
Solid advice, David! We recognize how hard you work. Thanks for helping other sellers along the way.
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