Because he wants to. I know that might sound crazy, but after shadowing me around the past 2-3 years, going with me on hundreds of deliveries, helping me diagnose, repair, clean and paint hundreds of machines, he really enjoys the challenge of repairing appliances. As hard as that is to imagine, a particular work becomes more enjoyable the better you get at it. That’s what’s happened with my oldest son.
Update: Moses still does the occasional appliance repair, but he’s fallen in love with computer programming. You can read more about his latest blog post that got picked up by HackerNoon.
Now before anyone gets all worked up that I’m robbing my son of his childhood, here are a few more details. Each day he goes through his normal routine just like our other children. Breakfast, family time, household chores, schoolwork (we homeschool our kids), various activities like swimming in our local pool, lizard hunts with his brothers, bodyboarding at our local surf spot, reading, writing letters to his friends back on the mainland etc. Throughout the day, we have chunks of time where our kids can do whatever they want. Our oldest son simply chooses to use some of this free time to fix and resell broken appliances.
How much time does he spend on it?
Each machine takes an hour or two to diagnose, fix, clean up and paint. Out here in Hawaii, there is much more rust on machines which causes takes more time. We go through a handful of machines each week.
How much money is he making from it?
As his skills have improved, so has his pay. I am now giving him $10/hr for his work on machines and that’s not me being a charity case. He can now process machines almost entirely by himself once the machine is at our house and has done so many times.
I still need to make some money from the local repairing and selling of appliances, and I do have to help with the pickup, delivery and some of the moving of the machines and a bit of the painting. There are occasional times when he needs a little more muscle as well. As time goes on, I’ll have him take over the operation entirely and he will keep all the profits. I think it’s good for him to work hard for years and prove himself capable of the task and not just get it handed to him.
Why are you doing this now?
I want to use my time to help as many people as possible. We now live in an area with 100x fewer people than we did before. This means less supply of broken appliances, less demand and ultimately a surplus of my time. So I decided that instead of working really hard to only maybe slightly increase business here, I would use most of my time trying to help more people. That includes writing on this blog, developing Tradeskills.io and our wholesale appliance parts site ApplianceSwap. There are single blog posts here that are read by as many as 400 people a day. The time I spend on Tradeskills.io can help hundreds of students with their appliance businesses all across the country and Canada. Time on the wholesale parts store helps these same businesses save thousands of dollars on parts and offer lower prices on the machines they sell.
When I spend my time helping someone start their own appliance business or resale business on Craigslist, occasionally it’s helping people start a new career and earn a living for potentially decades to come. Some of the letters from my students of the school and readers of this blog I’ve received have brought my wife and me to tears when we realize that impact had. This has had a big impact on me as I’ve been wrestling with how best to use my time.
Am I going to still be involved in the appliance business?
Yes. It’s going to be another 6 1/2 years before my son will be able to drive so he’s going to need me for at least that much longer. Also, there are always new appliance repair issues, as well as things to learn in the appliance business and it’s good for me to stay sharp and connected.
What good is this going to be for your son?
Countless things. It teaches him to work hard, that hard work is rewarding, that he can do almost anything if he sets his mind to it, at any age. To question our culture’s way of doing things. Why can’t a 9-year-old learn a trade and add a lot of value to other people’s lives? It teaches him how to invest his money when purchasing partially broken machines to refurbish. It teaches him that learning new skills is a good investment of his time. It teaches him to save money, as there aren’t very many things that he needs to purchase at this moment, though he’s very generous with his money. I’ve encouraged him to set goals like purchasing his first house when he gets older with cash instead of getting a loan. It teaches him to use his time wisely, on things that will last. He still plays video games now and then, and has a lot of fun doing things that every other kid does, but in greater moderation.
What does this all look like?
Today, my son inspected and diagnosed a broken Kenmore washing machine that was destined for the local landfill. He found a broken lid switch and broken agitator dogs (the little plastic pieces that cause your agitator to grip when agitating). He then took the washing machine case off, found the correct replacement switch and replaced it. After that, he took out the agitator in the middle of the washer and replaced the 4 agitator dogs and put the agitator assembly back into the machine. He then hooked the washer up to a garden hose and ran a test cycle to make sure everything else was working correctly. While the cycle was going, he cleaned and sanded down the outside of the washer to get the machine ready to paint with appliance epoxy. He’s now about to start painting it. I’m going to help with the painting as it can be a little tricky to not get runs. But he’s getting better.
This was all done this afternoon while I was writing this post and he earned $20 in the process.
Now we are off to go grab a burger.
Hope you all are doing well! Let me know if you have any questions. I’d also love to hear stories of what you are teaching your kids, or stories of your work experiences when you were a child.