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I'm getting ready to loose my only technician other than my self,... Since the begining of February to current date we've only managed to bill out 56 hours @ 55.00 an hour, I pay Mark my technician about 13.00 a flat rate hour. Although not included we've changed probably 80 tires as well which I make 7.00 ea and pay a flat rate of 3.50 each tire. The monthly shop expenses are roughly 860.00 a month. And as well still needing to buy more equipment s/a a 2 post lift, and a decent code scanner, So I'm needing about 5 thousand dollars, and am only able to pay myself a minimum share to get to and from the shop everyday. I'm extremely leary of hiring someone else, a) not having enough work for them, B) concerned w/ how much to pay a tech whom I don't know. As well I've know Mark my current full time technician for about 20 years, and know I can trust him, and would like for him to eventually be able to bounce from writing ro's and wrenching, while I bring on an additional technician to take his posistion. He's getting ready to possibly go back to my dad and his dad's old shop that they just reopened. Biggest issues was that his cell phone got stolen from the shop Saturday, and whom I rent space from likes to have customers in the back while we're working on there vehicles i.e. putting custom wheels and tires on there car. I have pressed the issue with Joe the quote un quote owner of the building whom I rent space from about keeping customers up front. And told him I may be loosing him due to the fact of his phone getting stolen.

 

I am wondering what is a good starting rate to pay a new technician whether they are fresh out of school or 20 years experience. With someone who proves themselves and can turn out good work quickly and up sell additional work I have no issue paying them what they're worth. Any ideas on a resolve to hopefully keep Mark, resolve his stolen phone issue, and a determining factor of bringing on another technician at this time to increase productivity in the shop. All on the same note being able to maintain profitability, and happy employees?

 

I've only been open for business for 9 months, and it seems that we are growing steadily every month.

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If you are paying Mark flat rate and you have only booked 56 hours over the last six weeks it means he has only earned $728.00. That is only decent pay for about one week. Is this part of the problem? How can you increase his earnings? Why are your billed hours so low? What labor guide are you using?

 

Mark is honestly a savior I see him being a great asset to my shop, and would like to be able to reward him for sticking it out with me. With tire changes and etc, he's averaging 200-300.00 a week. Financially he tells me that he's not worried about it, (how much he's making) "Because he's enjoying what he's doing, out of the house, and his wife takes care of a majority of the finances at home, she works in the ER at our local hospital." It's more of a hobby to him. He told me today that he doesn't want to go back to our Dad's shop, that he enjoys working together as a team with me, and for the most important part his wife wants him to work for me and not go back and work for his dad. So it seems the biggest hurdle will be him telling his father he wants to stay with my shop.

 

As far as Dad and Dad's shop, they originally sold it less than one year ago,... Just the business, and customer base to let's say MIDAS just to leave big names out and signed a non compete clause. Well (MIDAS) about two months or so ago started to fall behind on rent, then out of no where, fired their technicians, closed the doors without saying a word to anyone. Well good news for Dad and Dad so to speak, non compete clause is void, (MIDAS) is off the building and let's just say (Dad and Dad's Automotive) is back on the sign. Well MIDAS ran off all of Dad and Dad's techs and he is short handed, hinting at the idea of me closing down the shop back to wrenching in the shop, and Mark working the front desk. The biggest issue is I can say no, as I did when I was 18 and ignorant, decided I absolutely hated general service, Ford's Chevrolets, and everything else reverse engineered, I got a job working for a Speedvision World Challenge Porsche GT3 team, and developed a background in automobiles that were engineered properly (LOL). Well 5or 6 Professional Race Teams, 11 years, and two beautiful little boys later; I found that fly in help, traveling across North America not having enough time for family. Here I am.

 

But as well I believe other than just starting out, business, and economy being slow. Things at the shop tend to be picking up with a steady pace or at least growing in that direction. I want to keep Mark if I can, get him writing ro's, and scheduling work. So that way I can be out in the shop more, and possibly hire more help. I put an add on Craigslist for AUTOMOTIVE TECHNICIANS NEEDED, just to see what was out there... Had an interview today with a guy with no tools, recieved a resume from a guy with only heavy equipment experience, a backyard mechanic with 38 yrs experience who sounded like Jed from the Beverlly Hillbilies, and a phone call from a Honda Tech claiming he's making 50 thousand a year WHINING to me over the phone like I'm his psychologist of ten years requesting 26.00 and hour flat rate to start, and the last but not least a 19 year old kid just out of high school living with parents, attending the local community college for automotive technology, who currently works at Jiffy Lube, needing to find a job as internship for college credit with a real repair facility.

 

I'm thinking of bringing in the latter. Seams like a bright kid, had very good phone manners. And I believe with him working for me, would be great hands on experience with detailed explanation, and better due to the fact my shop not being that fast paced. He has an interview tomorrow so we'll see how it goes, I just hope he's not covered with tattoos, piercings, crazy hair, and painted on jeans LOL.

 

As far as labor guides I'm relying completely on Automotive Expert. I'm only charging 55.00 an hour, parts mark up from 20-40%. I have I would say so far about 10 repeat customers, not advertising except for maybe an alignment special on Craigslist, relying on referrals and word of mouth till I can afford to advertise without commiting to some contract with yellow book. It seems though I still get a brow beating on my labor rate, and parts here and there from some customers. I've always been committed to honesty and accuracy, and not selling work that isn't necessary.

 

As far as the cell phone, I am going to approach Joe the owner of the building to at least pay for half. Mark and I have told him and told him over and over again, No Customers in the back!!!! Not only for insurance purposes, but as well stolen tools, cell phone, and for our own productivity. The thing is he's a Taiwanese man who gets all excited when selling wheels and tires, and wants to entertain the waiting guests by allowing them to watch us, work on their cars, and etc. Up until today he has finally started adhering to the employees only in the back rule we've been trying to enforce for the past six to nine months.

 

Thanks Guys for your time and input, I'm sure I've got a lot to learn from you guys, and appreciate all the time in effort you have in reading through these trials and tribulations, and lending a helping hand.

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The issue with the stolen phone is a sticky one. So let me understand; your tech is going to leave you because someone stole his phone? That does not seem right. Not to be pushy, but are there any other issues besides that? How did it get stolen? Where was the phone? If this tech is really that important to you, buy him a new phone and make sure it’s secured from now on. Also, find out what the heck is going on in the other shop. Who would steal a phone?

 

As far as paying a tech, the range is wide. In my area B techs make anywhere from $16 to$ 22 (without bonus pay) and an A techs can make much more. It depends on what level you are looking for and what you can afford.

 

 

The phone was actually sitting where he always lets it set, on the alignment machine, we had some "sketchy customers" in the shop arguing with Joe the owner of the wheel and tire shop up front about the correct size tire for their 22" chrome wheels that go on their buick lesabre.

 

I believe depending on the above mentioned 19 year old college students demeanor, I may like to bring him in. Although I can only afford to at this point either pay him flat rate part time according to his school schedule, or cringing at the idea of paying him hourly. But at this point I'm unsure of weather this would be a wise move, I know that bringing in a more experienced tech I could schedule in more work, (if its available) and I have a feeling it would be. Regardless I feel that expanding my tech base would be a wise move, but whether timing is right at this time I am unsure. I'm thinking at this point I may not be loosing Mark, but I definately feel there is room for one more. Like I've read on this forum, and in which I'm trying to apply,... Not overworking myself, but focusing more so on business growth. I should know for sure tomorrow whether Mark will still be a part of my team. But until then I really feel having myself and two techs is the direction the company should go....

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Keep us posted about Mark. And, please work hard on running the business. This will put you in a better position for long term growth. You can be active, but have a plan. Without a plan, it's only a dream. Dreams are nice, goals deliver results.

 

Well it seems like I will be loosing Mark to Dad & Dad's shop, his father made him an offer he can't refuse. He's wanting to retire and leave the shop to him once they get things back up and running the way things used to be. I can't complain though he's getting what he deserves first and foremost. I honestly hope his Dad isn't feeding him a line of horse manure, and told him he'd have his position back at any time if need be.

 

I did just hire the 19 year old college student, it will be nice to actually make sure through guidance there will be one more properly trained technician entering our field, whether he stays here, or goes onto bigger and better things in the future.

 

Although at this point it seems likely I will still continue looking for a more seasoned technician to fill Mark's shoes. I've been going through multiple emails, and may have one I will be following up with here soon.

 

And Joe, your right, and since being here on the forum and learning alot just in the past couple weeks. I'm a little scared of stepping out of the shop entirely at this point, but will keep that as a focus point for the future.

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  • 1 month later...

I would just like to comment on the "brow beating" you get for your labor rate and parts prices. Don't worry about it, that's my take. There will always be someone willing to do the job for less. However, that person is probably an un-registered back-yard mechanic that does work on the side. He won't back up his work and when the repair fails the customer will be left for dead. I used to worry about my prices until I realized that people may question your pricing but that doesn't mean they are questioning you or your integrity. You know you do the best job with the best parts at the best value (notice I didn't say price?). A small shop like yours and mine will grow by word of mouth. They see a price for a part on the internet and think that is what you should charge them. People will begin to realize what they have with you and will become repeat customers. I would rather have 100 repeat customers than have 1000 customers that only show up once looking for the best price. While you are growing your best asset will be that you will get to know your customer's vehicles inside and out and you will be able to predict when they will be back for service. I wish I was as brave as you and take on some help but I just can't justify it, yet. I was just talking with one of my customers that was leaving for vacation. I told him I was swamped and may not get to his vehicle for a few days. He said "that's great!! When are you going to hire some employees to help out? I want to get more people to use you for their vehicle maintenance needs, but not if it means I have to wait for service." Word of mouth is the best and the worst advertising you can get. If you are doing as good a job as you sound like you are, word of mouth will get you more customers than you can deal with. All you can do at this point is take it one day at a time.

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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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