Technician recruitment is the single biggest issue facing tire dealers in 1999 and in the first decade of the next century. To succeed at recruiting new blood, dealers who perform automotive repairs must exemplify professionalism and charge adequate labor rates.
You see, anyone worth considering as a long-term hire will expect a thoroughly professional work environment, a competitive salary, incentives and good benefits. Owners and managers must recognize that unless they charge adequate labor rates today, they won't be able to afford good techs tomorrow.
Tire Business editors asked me to discuss the gravest issues facing tire dealers in 1999. I didn't hesitate to cite tech recruitment as the biggest challenge of the near future. Although I've discussed attracting new hires in previous columns, repeating the topic is worthwhile because recruitment is the single most common concern I hear from owners and managers everywhere. Plus, if getting good techs was so easy, everyone would have them.
If you remember nothing else about recruiting the tech of the future, keep the following points in mind. First, recognize that the caliber of tech who will keep your dealership competitive in years to come is no grease monkey. Instead, he or she is a highly motivated professional for whom recognition, respect and job satisfaction is as important as a good salary.
To attract professionals, you and your facility must look and operate like professionals. Remember that you'll be selling this prospective hire the concept that your store is the place to build a career. You probably won't make the sale if you, your existing workers or your facility contradict your sales pitch.
If your service department isn't bright, clean, modern and well-organized, why would a top tech want to work there? If your own workers aren't walking endorsements for your leadership and sales skills, why would a self-respecting prospective hire come on board?
If you're not sure what modern and efficient workshops look like, take time to visit the cream of the automotive service crop in your city. You'll quickly learn what you're competing against to attract top tech talent—then upgrade your facility accordingly.
Better techs realize that ongoing training is an automotive fact of life, so they'll expect you to share their philosophy. Don't just say you support training. Be prepared to tell the prospective hire what your expectations and/or standards are. For example: You budget for and demand each tech to take 10 hours per month of updated schooling. You might clarify that the store's annual training budget is X dollars per tech.
Note that many techs are looking for work because their existing bosses are not as committed to growth and improvement as their workers are!
Wrangle your way onto the advisory boards of local trade schools, high schools and community colleges that offer automotive training classes. Teach the teachers what you demand in a prospective new hire. Apply the old tact, ``Inspect what you expect,'' to that school's curriculum.
Your interest and contributions will earn you the instructor's trust and admiration—not to mention key referrals on the best of the graduating class!
Don't overlook the final part of this puzzle. It takes money to create the package of advantages described earlier. If your existing labor rates don't accurately reflect the store's true cost of doing business—including the cost of keeping and attracting top talent—then you'll never compete successfully for the quality of personnel you need.
In other words, those dealers obsessed with being the lowest-cost auto repair providers in the market usually attract the lowest-cost, lowest-quality workers!
However, the prerequisite to charging adequate labor rates is looking and acting like you're worth it. Investing in training and overall image improvements now enables you to walk the proverbial walk. Gradually building the business up to the point where it earns realistic labor rates is the only way I know to afford tomorrow's techs.
Instead of developing labor rates based on the true cost of doing business, some repair shops blindly set their fees relative to whatever local new-car dealerships charge. That mindless technique is sinking countless shops into the red and will certainly bury them in the not-too-distant future. Think about it!