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How to Run a Manufacturing Engineering Business

Whether you’re buying an existing manufacturing engineering business or starting from scratch, these tips can help you succeed.

Designing a product or manufacturing someone else’s design is one way to build a business, but it takes a special talent to both engineer and manufacture the product you’re selling. If you’re in the small niche of those who do both your own designing and building, you may be at a big advantage when it comes to owning your own business.  

Because this dual skillset is something of a niche, running your own manufacturing engineering business can present a great opportunity for success. But like every entrepreneurial endeavor, it’s not for everyone. 

Getting started

Running a successful manufacturing engineering business begins with getting a good and accurate picture of the market. Both in your area of expertise and in your geographical area, it will be critical to assess the competition.

If you’ve purchased an existing business, this will be much easier to assess based on insights from the previous owner. If, however, you’re starting a brand-new manufacturing engineering business, you will need to do some benchmarking of the industry at large.  

You’ll also need to educate yourself on the rules and regulations of the city or state in which you’re running your business. Be sure you are clear on the manufacturing stance in your area. Does your area offer governmental aid or economic development incentives? Is state funding available? Are you educated on your district’s environmental laws or tariffs on particular products that are part of your manufacturing?

Pay attention to the back-end business details

The skills you possess to both design and make your own products give you something of an advantage over more saturated types of businesses. Those skills alone, however, won’t ensure success if you aren’t cut out to run your own business and if you don’t understand the rules of engagement.

First and foremost, it’s important to be realistic about what will be required to support and run your manufacturing engineering business on a daily basis. In addition to the talent and skills you possess, you must also be business-minded and able to deal with the back-end details of business ownership. This includes bookkeeping, budgeting, ordering supplies, managing employees and business connections, and other duties that have little to do with the professional training and knowledge of your trade.

Hire the skills you need (or lack)

Be realistic about what you can and can’t do in your business and, if necessary, hire employees that can bring in the skills you lack to help keep the business running. This includes an accountant and a lawyer who can help you with the financial and legal details of running your business.  

Also consider that, while you may be a talented manufacturing engineer, you may not be a salesperson — and that’s OK. You should be focusing on where you can add the most value to your business anyway. If you’re not savvy in marketing, find someone to help you market your products and interact with existing and potential customers.

If you’re buying an existing manufacturing engineering business for sale, you’ll want to make sure that any staff members that will be retained are qualified, skilled, and well-versed in the customers your business intends to serve. Remember, it doesn’t matter how great the products you make and build are if no one’s buying.

Determine your customer base

One of the benefits of buying an existing business is gaining the established customer base that comes along with it. In this scenario, you have a clear picture of the types of clients that find your products valuable. Therefore you know who you are serving and who you are looking to market your products to in the future.

If you’re starting your own business and what you’re producing truly is niche, defining your ideal target customer will require a bit more work. You’ll need to define some personas of who you believe your best customers to be, and use those characteristics to inform what you’re making and how and where you’re selling it (in stores, online, etc.).

Embrace a ‘try before you buy’ mentality

“Crawl, walk, run” is a popular sentiment in the manufacturing engineering business. That’s because there will likely be some trial and error involved in finding exactly what works for your business. Therefore, consider mitigating major expenses until you come up with the processes and plans that work well. For example, consider leasing or renting space, and even manufacturing tools, until you find your groove.

It will take some time — and likely several product iterations — to find the perfect part to make your business run like the well-oiled machine you desire, so do what you can to avoid major capital expenditures in the meantime.

Develop a business plan and stick to it

Any successful business operates with a plan. As your new business ramps up, it’s important to document all aspects of it so that you can define what works well and what doesn’t. Successful processes should obviously be repeated and unsuccessful ones should be ditched.  

We touched on marketing above, but its importance can’t be overstated. Marketing is crucial to your business, so define a strategic marketing plan and spell out the details on how it will be executed. 

A manufacturing engineering business presents a unique opportunity for success as a business owner. By defining your business goals, aligning yourself with the right employees and partners, and putting in the work required, this business is a lucrative opportunity for the rare and talented manufacturing engineer. If you’re interested in buying an existing manufacturing engineering business, click here for a list of businesses available for purchase.

Bruce Hakutizwi

About the author

USA and International Manager for, a global online marketplace for buying and selling small medium size businesses. The website has over 60,000 business listings and attracts over 1.5 million buyers to the site every month.


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