By Brent J
Hi everyone, I’ve been a shop owner for 20 years, I have a small 3 bay shop in a small town of about 3,000 people. My question is how do I deal with being so busy all the time, I’ve been trying to find another experienced tech for about a year now. I’m so swamped all the time I can’t keep up, I’m 54 years old and just about ready to get out of the business because I can’t take it anymore. I’ve run ads online, in newspapers, on Facebook. No response ! I have 2 other techs. We’re so busy every day I’ve gotten to the point of leaving the phone off the hook for half a day. I used to work a lot of hours when I was younger and just refuse to do it anymore. Pretty much worked my life away. We’re scheduling 2 weeks out. I’ve even gone as far as telling people I’m not accepting any new clients. We do good work and have a good reputation, but sometimes I feel like I’m letting my good customers down cuz I don’t have time to get their car in the next day when they have a problem. I put an add online through a newspaper and it went to 20 different sites and papers for a month straight and got 2 applications out of it, neither one for the experience I’m looking for. I offer a great salary, I supply all the tools, contribute to retirement plans, paid holidays, don’t work weekends and contribute to health insurance plans. Still can’t find anyone. Anyone have any ideas?
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Our Service writer is paid 8% on all sales. When he is off for 2 days, we have another hourly person that service writes. My question is we pay the SW that was off for 2 days 8% on all sales, but take them as vacation days. The person filling in (he does a great job) pay him the difference if he was service writing and would be commission. Looking to see if somebody has a better solution. If the regular SW is on vacation, I can figure the sales from his last day till he comes back. That is not a problem
By Joe Marconi
There’s an old Japanese proverb that says, “The footsteps of the farmer are his best fertilizer.” In translation, this means that the closer you are to your crops and animals, the easier it is to observe and respond to their needs. Business owners, just as farmers, have a sixth sense about what’s happening within their company. And, for the most part, business owners are the driving force behind the success of their companies. And it’s not always because of any particular training. Many times, the mere fact that the buck stops with you gives you the mental fortitude to push forward and find solutions to daily problems. Your gut evolves into a very valuable management and survival tool.
The majority of business owners created their business with a dream and the passion to make a difference in their lives and in the automotive industry. They clearly understand the sacrifices that are needed to get a new business off the ground, and also the years of dedication it takes to reach a point where the business becomes financially stable. But, running a business takes its toll on even the toughest person, and time away from business becomes equally important. So, the question becomes, can you build your business to the point where your presence still remains when you’re away?
Before I go on, I want you to consider something—and that’s your future. I know that many of you have a young company and plan on working for decades to come. But life goes by quickly and it can also throw you a curveball. Please take my advice with this; if you’re a business owner and you are not planning for your future, you are making a big mistake. I know too many shop owners that were forced to walk away from their businesses after decades of work with nothing more than memories. Their dreams turned into nightmares due to lack of planning. Sit down and write out what your future looks like. You will probably need help with this, but you need to think about a continuity plan and an exit strategy.
OK, I got that out of the way; now back to the article. Here’s the bottom line. Taking time off and having your business run smoothly without you there should be one of your key goals. But the truth is, many shop owners can’t let go. They find it hard to take any time off, let alone leaving their baby in the hands of a manager or another key person. They even feel guilty when they’re away. And there are others who realize that in order to have a fulfilling life, the only way to continue the business is to step aside and stay away.
I don’t know what type of person you are. But what I do know with certainty after nearly 40 years in business is that, for the sake of your health and for the well-being of your family, you need to create a business that allows you the freedom to take time off. And that starts with hiring and keeping the right people; people that share your culture and work ethic. Free time away from the business also requires that you understand your numbers, can generate a consistent profit and establish strategies to continually grow the business.
Achieving your goal of taking more time off is more dependent on what you create than the actual work you do. Create a culture where people come to work because they want to. Create a management style that allows you to reach out to your employees and help them achieve the things they want out of life. Create a work environment where the people you employ feel they are part of a unified vision where everyone will enjoy the fruits of their labor. Lastly, create strong relationships with all your employees from the very first day they are hired. Building this culture will help to ensure that your employees will perform the same each day, whether you are there or not.
I know for many it will be hard to let go. After all, your business is your baby, right? You founded it; you worked hard for years and dedicated your life to it. But, every baby grows up and becomes an adult. And adults should become self-sufficient. If you build the right team with the right culture, you will gain the confidence that the people you employ can do an amazing job in your absence.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on September 5th, 2019
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I'm curious to hear about pay structures out there that are successful. We pay all of our techs hourly, regardless of what is billed, and then offer a bonus program based on productivity each week. Ie, they bill 60% of the time they were paid for, they get $xx additional dollars per hour, bill 70%, get $x, bill 80%, get $x etc etc.
Anyone have any pay structures that are working well for them that they would want to share? I've debated flat rate, but not sure how other non-billable tasks would get handled - ie unloading tire deliveries, cleaning up the shop, shuttling customers, etc.
Our current structure seems difficult for the techs to track, so I'm hoping to simplify as well as motivate them.
By Elite Worldwide Inc.
Let’s say you’re looking to hire a superstar technician. You find one who has a proven track record of success, and put them through a well-constructed interview process. You decide that the person sitting in front of you is the perfect fit, and you make them a formal job offer in hopes that they will agree to join your team. They agree, and for the first time in a while you’re able to sleep throughout the night, because you know you’ve done your due diligence, and have finally found the top tech you’ve so desperately been needing. All good so far, right?
Your new hire comes to work on Monday, and you’re off to a great start. And then…. it happens. Within the first few weeks you start to get the sinking feeling that you may have hired the wrong person. There’s no question that they can fix cars the right way, and they do it quickly. They also show up every day on time, and they keep their workplace clean. The problem is, they don’t follow your procedures very well. Your key employees are telling you that the new guy seems to complain quite a bit about meaningless things, and they’re sad to report that he’s not very social either.
You start to hope that he’ll either “adjust or come around”, or that he’s just dealing with some personal issues that will soon pass. But after a month or two you reach the inevitable conclusion – this guy doesn’t like to follow rules, he has an attitude that doesn’t fit well in your shop, and your other employees are not very pleased that he’s working with you. After many sleepless nights, you decide to let him go, and you start the process all over again.
Unfortunately, many shop owners live in this world of high employee turnover, or end up telling themselves that they’d rather keep someone who’s not a good fit than run the risk of simply swapping out one bad employee for another. If this sounds all too familiar to you, then consider this:
The trap most shop owners fall into is they hire people for what they know, and they end up firing them… for who they are.
To put it another way, shop owners often hire people for their skills, and they fire them for their behavior. So, the best-kept secret to hiring superstar techs and advisors? It’s going a step beyond learning about their skills and experience, and learning more about who they are as a person. As someone who has grown some of the most successful shops in America, I’ve learned over the years that in order to hire top employees that my entire team will really enjoy working with, I have to pay very close attention to their personalities and behaviors during the interview process. I do that to this day with Elite, and it’s been one of the most important keys to my hiring success. However, I also know that my perception of someone’s personality will only take me so far, so I have every applicant complete a 45-minute online behavioral assessment before the first interview. Here’s why.
An assessment can tell us whether an applicant has the propensity to follow rules, how social they are, their level of optimism, how open they are to constructive feedback, and a whole lot more. Not only do these assessments help us conclude whether the applicant is even someone we should interview, but they also give us direction on where we should dig deeper, and the questions we should ask during the interviews. For example, if the assessment suggests they are not very social, then you know you need to ask questions about how they worked with others in the past so you can discover if there were personality conflicts, ego issues, etc. If the assessment suggests they have a propensity to ignore rules and procedures, you can ask them specific questions about how they inspected and repaired cars, and how they interacted with the advisors.
So here’s what I’m going to ask you to do. First, think about the people you’ve fired. Hopefully it hasn’t been many, but I suspect you will discover that with rare exception, the reason you fired them had little to do with their skills, but was because of who they were as a person or how they behaved. Secondly, I’m going to ask that you accept the fact that there are many behaviors (and propensities) that will show up on behavioral assessments that you or I would never be able to detect during an interview, no matter how thorough we may be. And lastly, consider that if you do the math, hiring the wrong person is going to cost you at least $5,000.
If you now agree that you need to dig deep and learn more about who the person really is before you hire them, you need to do what Fortune 500 companies and the top shop owners in America do, and have every applicant complete a behavioral assessment before the first interview. There are many companies that provide such services, such as Predictive Index, Berke, and Myers-Briggs, to name a few. We use Berke, and have been quite pleased.
If you do begin assessing the people you may hire, then you have my promise: You’ll have a much higher probability of hiring the techs and advisors that your other employees will enjoy working with, they’ll follow your rules, and you’ll be able to go to sleep at night knowing you have an incredible team…of superstars.
“Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers the industry’s #1 peer group of 90 successful shop owners, training and coaching from top shop owners, service advisor training, along with online and in-class sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can contact Elite at [email protected], or by calling 800-204-3548."
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By Joe Marconi
Below is a link to an article in Ratchet and Wrench Magazine about what Valvoline is doing about the tech shortage. The aftermarket needs to look at social media and other unconventional ways to bring techs to our industry.
By Joe Marconi
Perhaps the worst time to look to hire a technician, is when we lose one. At that point we go into “Crisis Hire” mode. We most often settle for anyone, rather than taking our time to find the right person.
We need to take a lesson from large organizations and sports teams. Their strategy? They continually recruit. I did not say continually hire, I said continually recruit.
You need to be on the look out for the talent in your community. Find where the best of the best are working now. Reach out to these people, get to know them.
Make is part of your overall business plan to stay in touch with trade schools, the military for returning vets, and any other employee agencies. Identify key people in your local auto community and ask questions; where are the best technicians? How can I contact this person? Who knows this superstar tech?
In other words, allocate a significant portion of your time in the area of recruiting. Your goal is to have people in the pipe line. So when you lose an employee you have a list of contacts to reach out to.
In the book “Work Rules”, a book about Google and its employee strategies, the author states that Google follows this rule: “Hiring is the single most important activity in any organization"
By Joe Marconi
One thing I see different with young techs today from years back is the lack of hands-on experience. In my era, mechanics got their start pumping gas, working with their father on the family car and helping friends. By the time you landed a job in a garage, you had the basics under your belt.
I am firm believer in hiring entry level techs, always have been. I contact the trade schools; Lincoln Technical, Universal Technical Institute, etc. I have to tell you, the last few years have been a bit discouraging.
When I look at their resumes I am shocked that they never worked in a repair shop. Oh, they have worked as a camp counselor, at the local deli, at Rite Aid and Apple Bees. But no hands on mechanical work? Some of them never worked on car other than what was required at school.
These schools are pumping out techs by the thousands. Are they all like this, and where are they too?
Our future is dependent on a strong entry level workforce. I think we need to rethink the process. I also think that trade schools should adopt a concept similar to the medical field. Nurses and doctors must go thru mandatory work at hospitals while still in school and then go thru internship programs. You would never put a doctor in an operating room, fresh out of Med School with no hands-on experience. Would you?