Monday, May 20, 2013

In Search of a Good Technician By Bob Spitz Management Success!

Bob Spitz
Snr VP Business Dev
Management Success 
Let me tell you a story about a shop in Anytown, USA.  Anytown is an expanding upcoming prosperous suburb of a major city.  The town has four dealerships and twenty independent service facilities.  Pat’s Family Service Center is one of them.  Nice shop, good customer base, plenty of work.  In fact too much work as far as Pat (the owner) was concerned.  Pat was frustrated and worn out from the long hours that come with not having qualified help.  He fired one of his three techs that day and ended up back turning wrenches to get the cars done.  He knew tomorrow was already stacked up and he would be turning away new work, which he knew was a really bad idea. So that night sitting in his office with his hand on his head he was thinking,

“Where do you find good help?
There are no good techs in my town.
I ran an ad for a month, but the only guy who showed up was the one I fired two years ago!”
Pat was disgusted and thinking maybe he should close the doors and do something else. He tried everything he knew how to do and it was not working.  His kids were growing up without him and he and his wife had not had a vacation in years.

Although this is just a story this is one of the most common problems in any industry that requires skilled labor.  It is not just the automotive repair industry.  If you are suffering from this problem let us take a look at some things before you throw in the towel, hop in your truck and head off into the sunset.
Do You Really Need Another Technician?

In some shops, the solution will turn out to be getting more production out of the technicians you already have. In other shops the problem can actually be too many people on board. There is a guideline you can use to sort this out. Take your gross sales (minus sales tax) and divide by the number of production people you have. The resulting figure should be at least $17,500 per production person per month. Most shops should be in the $17,500-$20,000 range. If you are a specialist, your numbers should be in the $20,000-plus range. If your number is a lot lower, you’re not getting enough production out of the guys you already have.

All too often, an owner’s solution to low production is to hire more people. However, if the shop is not properly organized for production, more employees will only add to the confusion and adversely affect your income.

You Really Do Need Some Techs!

But sometimes you really do need additional help or a replacement. While you may have had some frustrating “adventures” trying to find a new technician, rest assured that there are good employees out there. You just have to maintain a good attitude and persist in your search. If you believe that “there are no good techs”, or “nobody wants to work,” you probably will prove yourself right and you won’t find anyone! So that is the first step; decide that it is possible to find someone. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready for the next step.

Working the Grapevine

In every community there is an informal communication system called the grapevine. Good technicians don't usually have to look in the paper for a job; they just use the grapevine to find out which shops in town are good to work for. Here are some people who can help you get your message out on the grapevine.

Tell him what you need and want in a tech; give him your business card. Keep mentioning it to him WEEKLY.

Parts Vendors
Talk to the salesmen you deal with, and even the parts delivery people that go into most of the shops in your area. Again, give them a business card or two that they can pass on to prospects. Some parts houses have a bulletin board on which you can post a small ad.

This is probably the most ignored communication line available to you, your loyal customer base. Put up signs in your sales and waiting areas. If your zoning codes allow it, put a similar message on your marquee or on a signboard in front of the shop. Your customers might have a friend, a relative or a neighbor who is a technician looking for a job.

Local Trade Association
Many local trade association chapters actively help members find technicians. They run ads in the paper (paid for with membership fees), they contact tech schools, interview applicants and sometimes will even build a pool of prospects and resumes that their members can utilize. Usually the pool includes guys with all levels of skill and experience. 

Churches and Synagogues
Talk to your minister, your priest or your rabbi. Let him know you want someone to join your family of employees. Give him a business card, a 3x5 ad for a bulletin board, or run an ad in the Church Bulletin. Or do all three.

Local Business People
Spread the word via everyone you do business with in town, from the person you see every week at the grocery store, to the guy at the printing shop. Give them all business cards and let them know what you need and want.

Vo-tech Schools
Contact anyone you know at the local Vo-Tech, or call one of the teachers and ask for the names of the best graduating students. You might even end up hiring one of the teachers! One note of caution: some Vo-Tech schools are magnets for addicts and criminals who choose tech training to stay out of jail or the army. Make sure the school has high standards for its applicants.

Military Placement Agencies
A local military base will sometimes have a placement service for guys leaving the service. Call and see if they have one of these offices.

 If so, mail or fax them a description of what you need and want in an employee. Guys with motor-pool experience and military discipline usually make good employees.

By now you’ve gotten the idea that you cannot ignore any possible avenue of communication for your search. The more you tell people what you need and want, the better your chances are that you will find what you need and want.

Place an Advertisement

If, in spite of your efforts, the grapevine does not provide enough prospects, do some advertising. There are some very good web-sites for placing help wanted ads. Not only are they less expensive, but you are likely to get higher quality prospects responding to your ads in them.

Your ads should be worded so that they will attract people with good attitudes and some experience. It is better to hire someone with less experience who wants to be part of the team and is willing to work, than to hire some “Super-Tech” with a giant chip on his shoulder. An employee with a bad attitude will affect everyone’s production and drive you crazy.  I have personally heard from many clients how well the  ads they got from Management Success work.

It is also better to hire two or three guys at the same time because one might not show up for work, one might not be able to produce and only one might be a “keeper.”  Rarely will you run into the problem of having too many good technicians on board.

Your positive attitude can create a good, secure atmosphere that will attract and keep good employees. On the other hand, a negative disposition can repel the best guys. Good people don't want to work for a grouch, and sane people don't want to work in a chaotic, insane environment.  Similarly, employees that have a lot of baggage, such as drug or alcohol abuse problems they bring into the workplace, will contribute to an “unsafe atmosphere” that will drive the good prospects away.

Sloppily run, unprofessional shops that have no basic systems or policies in place will attract non-productive, unmotivated technicians who cost you more money than they make you. On the bright side, a tightly run, efficient shop in which everyone is making decent money and which has policies that limit personal baggage will be most likely to attract good technician prospects.

The bottom line is that, in spite of any difficulties you might encounter in the adventure of finding technicians, over 80% of the people out there are decent and willing to help you achieve your goals. Positively decide you are going to find the right one of them for your team. And good luck in the hunt!

“Hi Honey, I leaving the shop early, things are under control.  Why don’t I pick up the kids from school?”

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