Jim Shepherd, co-owner and founder of Shepherd Engine Development, Inc., spends three to five nights a week providing track support for his clients and business partner, Chad Holladay, at race tracks from March to mid-October. Jim and Chad believe wholeheartedly in the value of building relationships with people, and in this case race car drivers and teams, to maintain and grow their business. The company specializes in building technologically-advanced, dyno-tuned race engines for the circle track and drag racing markets. Since the business opened in November of 2013, they have also been servicing the automotive restoration and performance community and selling performance parts from a wide range of companies.
This is familiar territory for Jim, who has worked in engine shops since graduating high school. He spent several years in Wisconsin working for Wegner Motorsports, eventually working his way up to shop manager. While there, Jim built engines for NASCAR, ARCA, and other national and local racing series, plus helped provide engines to many nationally-known drivers and teams. Jim has clearly established himself as a professional in the racing industry, with nearly 20 years of experience. His business partner, Chad, who owns and runs a successful trucking company, brings strong business savvy to the company along with helping in the shop when needed.
When Jim needed help further developing his business plan to open Shepherd Engine Development he went to Paul Heath, director of the University of Iowa SBDC. Paul helped him with financial projections, market research, business planning, and a genuine understanding of cash flow principles.
“Paul Heath definitely went through things thoroughly to explain what they meant,” Jim says. “He helped put what I know from day-to-day experiences into what that looked like from a money standpoint.”
Jim considers his SBDC business counseling experiences incredibly helpful to getting his business to where it is today. Jim says, “The SBDC is a good resource for understanding the nuts and bolts. Business owners should use SBDC services if they are lacking financial expertise.”
Currently, Shepherd Engine Development employs one additional individual full-time, who is quickly learning the ropes of the business. Jim’s wife, Lisa Shepherd, contributes to the business by helping with the books and by keeping the shop’s Facebook page updated.
In terms of marketing, the business is well-represented at race tracks by Jim’s presence as well as in limited sponsorships of the racing facilities themselves. Some of the company’s clients have put the shop’s logo on their cars after they were serviced at Shepherd Engine Development. In addition, company staff members attend trade shows and the business does some minor advertising in trade magazines.
“When we were just getting started we had four engines on the build list and now we have over 25,” Jim said after a year in his quickly growing business. Drivers using the shop’s services had an incredibly successful year of racing, which helped the shop to gain some impressive clientele. Shepherd Engine Development classifies itself as a regional company and focuses mainly on the Midwest, but also has clients who come from as far away as Canada and North Carolina.
The business sponsors the Little Racers Car Club whenever they can. Whether that entails donating monetarily or giving the group t-shirts, Shepherd Engine Development is happy to contribute in any way they can to a group that is getting young people involved with racing. They have a lot of faith that this organization will raise the future of their sport.
“We are here to continue getting better at what we do and to build our clientele list,” Jim says. “We want to make a good living doing what we love.”
To learn more about this Solon, Iowa business and their engine building services, visit the Shepherd Engine Development Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/shepherdengines?fref=ts or their website at http://shepherdengines.webs.com.