This is one man’s opinion and as such I know I am opening myself up to huge amounts of criticism. I am basing this on my experiences working with hundreds of Auto Repair shop owners from coast to coast and I believe the following is true. Technicians are all around you, you just need to do a better job of running your shop and stop making excuses. What I’ve found is the shop owners without technicians are the ones that sit back and spout off with their excuses about why they can’t get car count while the fair is in town, school just started etc…..
- Pay the ones you have what they are worth and give them benefits that can enhance their family life and they will come to you. Techs are leaving your shops for real employers and occupations with quality ERM (employee relationship management, look it up!), fair pay, work/life balance, benefits, NO WEEKENDS and better culture. And they are wisely encouraging their offspring, nephews, and grandsons to stay away because shop owners have long abused good technicians. I realize we can’t all stay closed on the weekend but there are people out there that would love to work a 4 day work week and don’t mind working on Saturdays. Find out what motivates your technicians and use it ‘against” them so to speak for the benefit of them and your shop. This can be a win, win for everyone involved if you will open up your mind to new things.
- Stop waiting until after the dealerships ruin them. Get involved with your local technical colleges. If you don’t have one in your area talk to your local high school counselor. If you start a great Grow Your Own program you won’t ever have to stress out over “finding” good techs. I was on the board of directors for the local technical college and helped them in many aspects of their business. In return I got to meet the students and talk to them about what they wanted and what an independent auto repair facility could provide that a dealership could not. I also found some pretty decent technicians that didn’t know what else was available to them. Some even made pretty good service advisors as well. They knew their way around a vehicle and all I had to teach them was the people skills and our shop processes.
- Stop accepting sub par work from your employees. Productivity. How many of you have techs standing around that need to be fired that are still on your payroll because you are too lazy to fire them or need that security blanket. Eight out of Ten shops that I have worked with have productivity issues and almost all of them think they need another “A” tech. I call BS on you right now. You don’t need another tech. You need a better way of routing work and letting your younger techs learn to do something new. A lot of young techs leave your shops because you don’t let them progress and or have a way for them to advance.
- Pay Structure. How do you pay your current technicians? Again in my experience most shops pay an hourly wage or a “guarantee”. Or heaven forbid they pay them a salary (SMH). If you don’t know why you can’t pay them a salary then we really need to talk. They don’t have an incentive program that rewards the technicians for productivity or if they do it’s so complicated that the techs don’t understand it or if the tech bonuses the owner tries to find a way to not pay them for what they rightfully earned. This has to stop. What do you think the longevity of a tech would be if he didn’t understand and couldn’t tell his spouse or significant other how they got paid. If you need a copy of a tech pay plan for your shop feel free to contact me and I will go over one with you.
- Kids today don’t have a clue about what we do. Lure them in and Invest in Technology. You have to practically be an IT person to work on today’s automobiles. Auto repair, done well, has always been a thinking person’s vocation. Working through problems requires logic and inference and, now more than ever, the ability to troubleshoot difficult-to-diagnose digital malfunctions. If you have invested in it and continue to update your shops technology then Show It Off!! Be proud of the advancements in technology and show others what you have invested in, this goes for both technicians and customers. People still think we can hit their bumpers with hammers and fix their vehicles. If we don’t tell them they will never know.
- Techs are unhappy everywhere in every town across the nation. Be open to finding them and stop being the victim. You can always blame the economy, the shop across town, the technician shortage etc…When it comes down to it though the buck stops with you and you have to take responsibility for what goes on in your business. The reason you don’t have what you need in business is because you haven’t followed up on what needs to be done or you don’t know what you don’t know.
- Always be looking for great new talent. I used to have a terrible habit of when someone walked in the door and asked if we were hiring I would say to them “NO, I have everyone I need” and shoo them out the door. Look at your business as a sports team and always be looking to upgrade your bench. Let them apply and take their information down and then keep it in a file. If you think they might have potential interview them and see if there is anywhere you can use them. They could be head and shoulders above what you already have and wouldn’t that be a shame for your and your business if you never gave them a chance.
- Start an apprentice program, immediately, why are you still reading this? I said NOW! If you don’t have a clue how to start one or start looking for people interested email me and I will send you some samples of ads etc….
- Raise your labor rate by $20.00 right now. Don’t pass go. Get it done. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Oklahoma City or New York City. YOU, your shop and the services you provide are worth it, unless they’re not, which in that case you need to up your game and provide value for your customers.
I’ve been in the auto repair and tire business for over 25 years. There was a “shortage” when I started and it continues till today. What are YOU doing about it? How are you taking your current knowledge and applying it to make your shop better? There are techs out there who would love to see a change and return to what they love, but the ball is in YOUR court, owners and managers It’s past time to be the change you want to see in your business. Stop waiting and start doing.
Chris Cotton is a former shop owner having had a general service repair facility that also did tires and a quick lube that did tires as well. He has been in the customer service industry for 40+ years and has been in the Auto Repair and Tire Industry for over 25 years. He loves helping shop owners just like you get to where you want to go. Chris is the ONLY Certified Profit First Professional serving the auto repair industry. Chris is currently in Washington living his dream of traveling the country with his family and helping shop owners every day through his Coaching Program or with his Business Development 20 Group Meetings. If you are interested in either or just want to talk about business Feel free to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (940) 400-1008.