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Hello from the central coast of california!


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Well I guess its time I introduce myself. My name is Kevin Burk and I'm slowly considering opening up a shop.


Some background info:

Originally I was trying to go to school for a mechanical engineering degree. I wound up getting a part time job at an auto shop cleaning the shop and shuttling customers around. I very quickly started working on cars and within a year had my own bay and lift there. While the engineering idea was failing, I was supporting myself as a mechanic. After 8yrs there, I thought there had to be better ways to make money, and I really wanted to get into manufacturing and do more engineering oriented work.


I was able to find my current job. I work for a small engineering firm doing prototype work and small production runs. We do a lot of work with drones, but its been slow due to budget cutbacks these past few years. I generally like what I do, machining, fabricating, design work. However, I have some differences of opinion with my boss who seems unable to lead well, and I feel like I've topped out here. No real benefits and no raises for the past 6yrs now has me looking for other opportunities. The more I stay here the more this job feels like a dead end. I feel its difficult for interviewers to get a sense of what I do exactly for this company and how that might relate to the job I'm applying for. On top of that the lack of any sort of degree, engineering or otherwise doesn't help. My work is pretty close to that of other engineer friends that I have, maybe a bit more hands on though, but the lack of an engineering degree prevents me from applying for engineering positions.


So I feel kinda stuck. If I could find another job with greater opportunity and future growth I would go that direction. I've been trying to break into the equipment repair side of things for a while now with no luck.


In the back of my head though, I've always had this interest in owning my own company. A year and a half ago I started doing offroad fabrication work on the side out of my home shop. That actually went better than I thought it would and I made more money than I thought it would. However, that went on hold last april with the birth of my son. I didn't make a ton of money with it, and I wasn't allways busy, but it gives me some confidence that I could handle and run my own shop.


I know enough to know that offroad fabrication in my area won't support a full time shop. Its difficult to set a shop rate for a fabrication shop. Typically there are few other shops doing what you do, and your customer base tends to compare your prices to bolt on solutions. The repair industry is different, very comparable, and I have some experience there. If I could start a shop with repair as the backbone, I could indulge my other passions when I have time and someone willing to pay.


It looks as though I'll be going back to school for a bit this next spring to finish out my AS in Auto Technology at the local CC. It'll help to finally add a degree to my resume. I'm actually looking forward to taking the auto shop management course they offer.


I've got a thread in the business help section 0-60 Starting out as a larger shop, that describes a bit more of what I'd be looking to do.


Currently its just a pipe dream. Once again if I could find a better job I'd go that route instead. Not sure I have the cojones to start a legitimate business just yet.


Now that I've rambled your ears off......


Thanks for listening,


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Thanks Joe!


Luckily it looks like I'll be able to take the shop management class at the local CC this spring. I would also like to look into some other business management classes either at the school or elsewhere. Not really sure where to look for automotive oriented business coaching or seminars?



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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Got your attention? Good. The truth is, there is no such thing as the perfect technician pay plan. There are countless ways to create any pay plan. I’ve heard all the claims and opinions, and to be honest, it’s getting a little frustrating. Claims that an hourly paid pay plan cannot motivate. That flat rate is the only way to truly get the most production from your technicians. And then there’s the hybrid performance-based pay plan that many claim is the best.
      At a recent industry event, a shop owner from the Midwest boasted about his flat-rate techs and insisted that this pay plan should be adopted by all shops across the country. When I informed him that in states like New York, you cannot pay flat-rate, he was shocked. “Then how do you motivate your techs” he asked me.
      I remember the day in 1986 when I hired the best technician who ever worked for me in my 41 years as an automotive shop owner. We’ll call him Hal. When Hal reviewed my pay plan for him, and the incentive bonus document, he stared at it for a minute, looked up, and said, “Joe, this looks good, but here’s what I want.” He then wrote on top of the document the weekly salary he wanted. It was a BIG number. He went on to say, “Joe, I need to take home a certain amount of money. I have a home, a wife, two kids, and my Harly Davidson. I will work hard and produce for you. I don’t need an incentive bonus to do my work.” And he did, for the next 30 years, until the day he retired.
      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. So, here’s mine. Money is a motivator, but not the only motivator, and not the best motivator either. We have all heard this scenario, “She quit ABC Auto Center, to get a job at XYZ Auto Repair, and she’s making less money now at XYZ!” We all know that people don’t leave companies, they leave the people they work for or work with.
      With all this said, I do believe that an incentive-based pay plan can work. However, I also believe that a technician must be paid a very good base wage that is commensurate with their ability, experience, and certifications. I also believe that in addition to money, there needs to be a great benefits package. But the icing on the cake in any pay plan is the culture, mission, and vision of the company, which takes strong leadership. And let’s not forget that motivation also comes from praise, recognition, respect, and when technicians know that their work matters.
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