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So this year I have taken my shop towards the next level and am at a point where I need good advice and wisdom before proceeding.

I went from a one bay facility to a two bay facility and added a second lift. I am the only person working. I am looking for an employee so I can get out of the shop and start doing sales and management. I have spent a lot of money over the last years in business on tools and equipment. I need to grow because I am just way too busy and slammed with work quite frequently and staying very late at the shop to complete tasks. I have very little personal time and need to delegate. Several large ticket repairs often cause my schedule to back up. I plan to save up money to hire a good technician and to be able to start them out and have money for the hard times until I can get them up to the "speed of trust". I have worked at shops in the past and have seen employee turnover and have seen where we found a great technician but the boss couldn't pay on time for whatever reason and the tech would end up leaving. I don't want to be in that situation. 

Question 1: I need to know should I be looking for a master tech or maybe a mid level tech who knows their way around??? I dont really want to take on an apprentice because I don't have time to train them and babysit them. I want someone who can hit the ground running. It would be nice to turn them loose and not have to worry about the repairs they are doing. I want to make an employee handbook and agreement for shop procedures, cleaning, showing up on time, policies, etc. so they will know up front what is expected. 

Question 2: What should I expect to pay them? Salary, flat rate, bonus, a combonation of any of these? Starting pay vs normal pay? 

Question 3: How did you go from a one man army to having employees and bigger successes?

I really don't need help to find one at the moment although I am open to suggestions but I want to focus on the questions at hand. I am a good tech but I am also not the fastest because I am picky and want things done right. Call it OCD or whatever but I don't like come backs. I am also a great service adviser and would rather have a tech doing the work so I can run the business.  Thank you

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#1) I think this depends on what kind of business you have or want to have. Our shop is mainly undercar so I basically have little need for a master tech(Right now).   We have a great business using really good B techs. Whatever level tech you think you need for your business, hire really good people. Don’t hire average to save a few dollars an hour. You will get mediocre work, you will be out in the shop helping them and looking after them. Defeating what you are trying to accomplish.

#2) If you want to and do hire good help I think flat rate or hourly with bonus ( which is what we use) would work the best. All have advantages and disadvantages. Have a discussion with the tech, how do they prefer to work? Set your hourly rate at what you need in order to hire that really good tech. Next put together a system to track his hours and productivity and hold them accountable.Reward them when they over achieve. I also hate come backs so you have to monitor that, but you need a quick wrench. You will make your money in labor. I have a old army helicopter mechanic. He hardly ever has a come back, but he is slow. The labor dollars between him and my most efficient tech would make your head spin. So now we use him to do really good inspections and turn the wrenching over to the big dogs and let them work.   

#3)  Can’t answer this one. 3rd generation.

#4) You wont be able to run the business as a service advisor either. Not the way you want to or need to. Also hire a great service advisor( When you’re ready) and hire a really good one. They are the face of your business. Make sure they offer great customer service. I look at Chick-fil-A as I’m moving forward with the business. The ones around us are always busy. Inside and out. Everyday, except Sunday. They are more expensive and I don’t personally think their chicken is that much better. So why do people love it so much. It’s their customer service. People love it and keep coming back.

My 2 cents.  

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Greetings,

I would advise hiring a Master Tech on a flat rate / bonus plan. I will never go back to the hourly plan with Techs.

You will be occupied writing service and being the parts man. You are then free to do the smaller jobs as well as the shop owner tasks. A good tech will find legitimate work on every car he works on. Implement an inspection system / sheet on every car.

Employee job description and procedures are a necessary thing as well. It sounds like you have put considerable thought into the process. I have worked with ATI for a number of years now and I have found it very beneficial for me and my business.

Mike

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On 8/29/2017 at 8:47 PM, [email protected] said:

 

Question 1: I need to know should I be looking for a master tech or maybe a mid level tech who knows their way around??? I dont really want to take on an apprentice because I don't have time to train them and babysit them. I want someone who can hit the ground running. It would be nice to turn them loose and not have to worry about the repairs they are doing. I want to make an employee handbook and agreement for shop procedures, cleaning, showing up on time, policies, etc. so they will know up front what is expected. 

I think you should be open to a master tech or a solid mid level or B guy. This will broaden your search. Also don't be shy to interviewing someone with less experience that has the aptitude to learn. I have a lot of industry friends that have done very well taking the delivery boy and bringing them up to the level of a master tech! 

On 8/29/2017 at 8:47 PM, [email protected] said:

Question 2: What should I expect to pay them? Salary, flat rate, bonus, a combonation of any of these? Starting pay vs normal pay? 

This will really determine on how strongly you have a grasp on your business financials. What I mean by that is, you won't be able to begin to figure out compensation until you know what they are costing your business as a COG. Generally speaking my advice is to start a culture of some sort of meritocracy. Make sure that a compensation plan is based upon performance. You will have to fine tune it to make sure that a tech won't just try to milk the system so the bonus will probably have to include comebacks, overall shop goals, etc. 

On 8/29/2017 at 8:47 PM, [email protected] said:

Question 3: How did you go from a one man army to having employees and bigger successes?

 

This is the tricky part. It sounds like you are working really hard (long hours) but you aren't "killing" it financially yet. I am going to assume you are making money but not the kind of money where you could easily pay a tech to replace you and have a lot of room to learn the other side of the business. This is where I would say make sure you are looking at what you are actually charging for your services. What is your Gross Profit % on labor, on parts, what is your Average Repair Order, how many hours are you billing per ticket, daily/weekly/monthly car count. I think if you start by implementing some positive moves on your front end you will have more a financial cushion all the while putting out ads and such to find that first hire.

As far as how we grew well I have a partner that is the "tech" and I was the front end guy. The drawback is we had to share the business 50/50 however we had each other to lean on and we had complementary skills. How I personally grew was getting education, reading (a lot), listening to podcasts and watching videos, going to conferences and in person training events, learning how to be a better business person. I would highly recommend self study as hat's where I found a lot of "power".

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3 hours ago, mspecperformance said:

This is the tricky part. It sounds like you are working really hard (long hours) but you aren't "killing" it financially yet. I am going to assume you are making money but not the kind of money where you could easily pay a tech to replace you and have a lot of room to learn the other side of the business.

There are some factors and truth here. I am a great tech but not the fastest. I admit I am OCD about my work. I am constantly torn between wearing multiple hats throughout the day and one of those is actually working on a car to finish work. Many times I address a car for what it came in for but find other issues that need to be addressed and the car takes a couple of days or more to complete and it causes many conflicts in my scheduling. Another factor is lack of motivation after I have been experiencing burnout. I have had three other guys work for me in the past but they never worked out in the long run and I am tired of come backs and babysitting to make sure stuff is done right. When they were working for me and I had big jobs come through, I did really well financially because I could focus on other things to make the business flow. I am setting my standards high and want to have a great technician.

This leads to an original question. What does a high level tech expect to get paid from an independent shop? you can structure a pay plan all day long whether it is a flat rate, salary, bonuses, whatever but it won't take long before the tech looks at their paychecks and thinks to them self that they aren't making enough and start looking elsewhere. So what do they need to make to be happy? $500 per week? $800?$1000?1500? I am trying to budget this into a safety net. 

Also for those who made a killing being a one man army, whats the secret :)

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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