This week, I had a chance to review recent results with a private client (aka Car Count Hacker . You may find this surprising, specially when you find out the size of the shop.
I detail it all in this video.
You can see the entire video here. I welcome your comments or questions.
I welcome your comments or questions.
Hope this helps!
"The Car Count FIxer"
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By Joe Marconi
Can someone truly have two personalities? A real life Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—the one you see, and the one everyone else sees? I had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde employee a number of years ago; we’ll call him Dr. J. He was my shop foreman and helped the manager run the daily operations. Dr. J was employed about five years before things began to change.
I first learned about Dr. J’s erratic behavior from a few of my employees. According to these employees, his behavior was destructive, disrespectful and rude. He never acted differently in front of me, so I had a hard time understanding what was going on. I talked to Dr. J about what others were saying, and he looked stunned.
“Joe, I really can’t tell you why anyone would be unhappy with me. I get along with everyone,” he told me.
I met with the employees who expressed concerns and let them know that I appreciated their feedback. I told them that Dr. J had been with us for a number of years and that I had never witnessed any unusual behavior from him. I tried to look at all sides and suggested that perhaps he was going through some personal issues, so let’s try to be a little more understanding.
Out of respect, the employees agreed—but not for long. I was away on a business trip when I got a disturbing text message from one of my technicians. The text read, “Joe, if you don’t do something about Dr. J, we’ll deal with it ourselves.” It was late when I got the text, but decided to call the tech anyway. He told me in great detail what Dr. J was saying and how he behaved. I was shocked by what the tech told me. Could this person be a real life Jekyll and Hyde?
It was early Monday morning, my first day back, when my office manager came into my office, closed the door behind her and said, “Joe, if you don’t do something about Dr. J, people are going to quit.” I knew at this point I had a real problem on my hands.
I brought Dr. J into my office and told him everything that I had heard. I told him that the employees did not like the way he treated them and that the harsh words he used was causing a problem with everyone. Again, Dr. J was defensive and denied everything. However, this time he told me his perspective of the situation.
According to Dr. J, the rest of the employees were not pulling their weight and that all he was trying to do was to motivate them. I tried to explain to him that criticism and harsh words are viewed as an attack. And if this strategy is repeated over and over, people will push back and shut down—the exact opposite of any intended good. I could tell by the look on Dr. J’s face that he really didn’t agree with what I was saying, but he told me that he would take my opinion under consideration.
After that meeting, I paid careful attention to Dr. J’s treatment of others. All seemed good. Then one day, I witnessed the Jekyll and Hyde persona for myself. Dr. J didn’t know I was in the front office as he lashed out at one of the technicians. The tone and the words that came out of his mouth were unacceptable and appalling. I saw firsthand what everyone in the shop was experiencing. After repeated attempts to correct his behavior, his conduct never improved. It was time to let him go.
I never found out what changed Dr. J, but I did feel confident that I gave him every opportunity to correct his behavior. While Dr. J may have fooled me initially, I have to admit that I did see that the mood of the shop was tense and morale was down. With Dr. J no longer employed, morale improved and everything went back to normal.
The workplace environment is a delicate balance between culture and production. It’s also filled with emotions. People want to rally together for the greater good. But, they also need to know that their leader protects them from any threats that attempts to harm the team. It’s also wise not to readily dismiss the concerns your employees express to you. Be on the lookout in your shop. You just might have a Dr. J of your own.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on December 7th, 2018
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Just throwing a stone in lake to see what ripples. I did some searching and didn't find to much information. I am also intrigued about the idea due to several owner's continuing to contact me over the years after I have moved on, moved to another shop, moved to another state, etc.
Just a preface... been in the automotive industry for roughly 13.5 years. Started young, fixed own cars, modified own cars, worked on neighbors cars, cousin's, friends, you name it. Began to be the "go-to" for everyone and everyone in my community, school, baseball team, etc until I went to college. I began searching in college and founded an explosive automotive car club at a highly accredited university, graduated with a major in business in 2008 (the recession people...) and found a difficult time finding jobs in my metropolitan area. After a few months and scratching my head thinking about how I couldn't pay student loans by just doing sidework in my backyard, I sold cars at a local dealership nearby. A year and a half later, I transitioned into the service department. That is when I found my hidden talent of reasoning, negotiating, persuading a customer into spending money on their 198X bucket, that the repair was 4 times the value of the car. It was then I began to learn the value into servicing your vehicle, how to be attentive and listen to your customers, learn the trigger points and motives that persuaded a customer into a sale and continued to refined those traits I had acquired. I was even a consultant for a short period of time for automotive repair shops and learned even greater value into how to drive customer sales and keep them coming back. I ran several shops across the city, from the mom and pops to the high volume gas stations to the full blown performance shops and certified AAA approved and NAPA approved auto shops. Every shop had their quirks and each shop was different in each and every way. But I adapted. I never had issues finding success at each of these shops and each experience was more satisfying in the end than anticipated. I moved one from certain shops due to low wages, long hours, extra long commutes, and my quest to fulfill the roll of a husband. My wife wanted to take up acting as a full blown career so I find myself in LA, just running another shop, making the owner tons of money and trying to figure out my next move in life.
So I have to ask you this question. If you had a certified ASE C1 service writer that was willing to cover for you, from open to close for your small business, that you trusted to straight up pick the ball up and run with it, has extremely valuable knowledge of a technician yet is capable of selling a coloring book to blind man, is it something that you as an owner would be interested in for a right price for someone to keep your business open, fluidly moving for a week to two weeks, and be confident that this person would not just screw everything up?
This isn't a "I will fix all of your problems in your shop" kind of ordeal. I just really understand how automotive repair works and have been in so many different situations and have been bored for quite some time now that I am looking for different opportunities to establish a career in not running my own fixed location but remotely helping your location when the help is needed. Now if you think I will come on board to dissect your business because you think I can help you run your business better? I absolutely can but that is not what I am looking for. I am interested in coming in as a "friend" to help out and run your shop privately so you can take that dream vacation to Maui and not have to sweat about the shop and what to do with your employees or that appointment for the coolant leak for Mrs. Robinson's cadillac after you replaced her water pump last week. I need a full 411 lowdown about the shop. It will involve some lengthy forms to fill out about liability and 1099 contractual employment and the fact that I will be an official representative of the business for that week or so. But it may give you the breath of fresh air that you have been looking for. I have done it for my previous bosses a few times and I plan on continuing to help him out when I have the time and am in a position to help. I still got contacted after being 3000 miles away and I am the first go-to guy in this situation because I am reliable, willing, and right man for the job. Some of you think I am crazy but I am certain that there is someone out there is desperately figuring out a way to take a few weeks off without having to close the shop and suffer a major loss in business.
What are your thoughts?
contact: [email protected]
The following words are NOT foreign to me: Mitchell, Alldata, Shopkey, quickbooks, RO Writer, Reynolds, RepairPal, AAA, ASE Certified, warranty claims, write it right
Growing Up With Wrenches
Unlike kids of today, my childhood was long before video games and color TV. Most of my free time was spent climbing trees, playing in the crick (creek, to you city folk), riding my bike, and tinkering with anything that had a motor. Wrenches, sockets, and screwdrivers were just part of growing up. I would tear apart an old mower just to see what was inside. Most of the time it would end up in a pile of parts. But, by the time my dad came to see what I was doing, he would stand there in disbelief and just shake his head. Then dive in and show me how to put it all back together. Good times for sure. There was no You Tube, no on-line help. Just dad and son, and I’m sure it’s the same way my dad learned his tinkering abilities too.
These days it’s all about the computer with their programs and the internet with its billions of websites. There aren’t as many kids that I know about who spend their summer vacations building tree houses or turning an old horizontal lawn mower engine into a homemade go-kart like I used to do. Times have changed, but the need for those wrenches are still as important as it was back in my youth. However, now a lot of those early learned skills have to be developed through a trade schools or at a high school shop class. That is if the economy hasn’t budgeted the shop class out of existence.
Growing up with wrenches was just something I did. Which is probably what led me to enter the automotive field as a career. It’s a good living, and you get to meet a whole lot of wonderful people every day.
But, as it has been for decades, there’s still a big shortage of mechanics out there. As I see it, the big problem isn’t so much a people shortage, but a shortage in “qualified” mechanics. I look at it this way. Back in the day of carburetors and vacuum modulated transmissions a lot of guys and gals didn’t go to any school to learn the trade. Most picked up bits and pieces of how things worked through on the job training. The older mechanics would teach the younger ones and so on and so on. But, all of a sudden the average age of the “qualified” and “experienced” mechanic is well over 50 years old. Somewhere along the line less and less of the younger generations wanted to pursue a career in the automotive field.
What happened? From my point of view, I see a few things that might have been the cause. First off, the computer age. Cars went from points and condensers to electronic ignition, then onto the full blown electrical nightmare we have today. The older generation of mechanics all had a similar background working with hand tools and could understand the basic principles of an automobile. But, as the industry changed to more and more electrical systems their knowledge base dwindled.
The smart guy who wanted to stay up with all of these changes did what was needed, and that’s study as much as possible. While the other guy who was still stuck with the learn as you go method would just slap part after part on until they got it right, and yes, there are a lot of “guessers” still in the business today. Now, the car wasn’t as simple as it was before, and the average dad wasn’t able to tinker on his family car as past generations could. But, the change to the computer age isn’t the only reason that caused this shortage of qualified mechanics. Ultimately it comes down to the amount of time and effort to learn these new systems, the amount of investment one has to put into it all and most importantly their overall income.
The average professional mechanic has well over $100,000.00 invested in personal hand tools, tool boxes, and testing equipment over the course of their career. But, the pay varies as much as the diagnostic fee does from shop to shop. So, maybe part of the problem for the new techs coming into the business is NOT making the decision to start a career in the automotive repair trade but, making the investment in the tools when the pay isn’t all that great.
So, where does all this low wage, high investment come from? The investment into tools is an easy one to figure out. But, the wage side of it is a bit more complicated. Let’s face it, all those shops that feel the best way to keep work in the shop is by having the lowest hourly rate is the real problem. Nearly all consumers make the general assumption that all mechanics are the same and that price is their only factor to be concerned with.
In my opinion, right there is the real problem. Instead of shouting about a shortage of mechanics, which by “body count” their certainly isn’t a shortage we should be talking about doing something for the consumer. By starting at the bottom with those low rate/low skill shops and pulling them up to a more qualified level of expertise.
Look at the attendees of any one of the trade schools or college based courses and you’ll see that there is a turnaround in the quality of the mechanic field just waiting to happen. But, nothing like growing up with wrenches. It’s the tech schools and the attrition of the parts swapper shops that’s going to make the changes. The tech schools allow an individual not only to learn those same skills I learned growing up with wrenches but an even more importantly the skill needed to be a qualified mechanic and whether or not this trade is right for you.
It not going to be easy to make sense of all the information and skills that the future mechanics will need to know. They’ve got to be a whole lot more aware of so many different systems than what a few hand tools can help with. But, there’s still a place for the right person with the right kind of natural mechanical ability especially if they have those growing up with wrenches skills. There still out there, but some of them don’t know they have those gifted skills because they didn’t have the opportunity to experience any of it in their youth. Then again, the trade schools have their hands full teaching the basic hand to eye coordination, as well as bringing the students up to speed with the latest greatest electronics, so someone with that natural talent will likely shine through.
Eventually, all those shops and mechanics that try to undercut their prices will fade off into the distance. Fewer parts changers and guess-until-ya-get-it shops, because the cars are getting smarter every year and the mechanic will have to do the same. Maybe, the days of growing up with wrenches is a thing of the past. Now we need more and more trade schools, conventions, seminars, and podcasts to keep upgrading our skill levels. Hopefully, in time, the trade will have the respect and salary to go along with the advanced diverse knowledge the modern mechanic needs to have. Even if they didn’t grow up with wrenches.
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By Garrett Davis
Like many in this business I have started out doing side work. Luckily I had a boss at one time that explained a lot of the buisness side to me. Not at the point I am making as good of money or better in my home shop as I do at my full time job. Right now I am feeling the physical and mental pain of basically working 2plus full time jobs. At what point do you consider yourself successful enough to quit your day job and go fulltime?
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