Tire dealers who are serious about educating their technicians can probably fund training on as little as a dollar per invoice. The key to success is commitment and discipline. Before I offer suggestions on funding training, I must remind dealers who offer automotive services that they're either in the business or out of it. If you plan to compete against full-time auto service professionals, you'd better take the business as seriously as they do.
Part of taking the task seriously is making a commitment to ongoing training. Considering the complexity of today's vehicles, ongoing training isn't just a neat idea—it's absolutely essential to your survival!
Once you've made a commitment to training, stop complaining about the cost and begin budgeting for it. Recently, a Tire Business colleague and I were comparing notes on the training issue. We agreed that in any survey we've read, dealers state that training is a major need, a big necessity. One-on-one conversations with owners and managers at trade events reinforce this belief.
But in almost the same breath, these same bosses complain that they can't afford training.
Have you uttered those words?
If so, I urge you to search your soul. Do you really mean can't or won't? Frankly, some dealers spend more on the company picnic or Christmas party than they do on training. Furthermore, some people in this industry are much more comfortable complaining about the challenge than accepting it.
Don't just sit there—take action! Doing something is better than doing nothing. Some bosses plan for training by allocating X-amount of dollars per employee. They treat the expense like any other cost of doing business. Therefore, their dealerships' labor rates and/or menu prices for common services reflect this.
Another way is to tack a training fee directly onto every invoice. For example, begin adding a dollar to every invoice. Or, increase every invoice greater than $25 by a buck. You needn't give this increase a fancy name or any name at all—just account for it.
Suppose your dealership writes 15 invoices per day, six days per week. That's 90 invoices times a buck or $90 per week toward training. If you average at least 90 bucks per week, you'll generate $4,680 per year for training.
Readers, that ain't hay! Based on the prices I see sponsors charging for one-night, two-night or three-night classes, you could earn your techs a lot of knowledge for $4,680.
If you don't like the sound of that, play your own numbers game. For example, calculate your dealership's average invoice and add a 1-percent training charge to each invoice. How do those numbers look? You analyze it and you make the call.
I can already hear some dealers howling about the additional cost. The reason they're wailing is they don't set their fees according to the actual cost of running their own dealership. Instead, they base their labor rate on what everyone else in town is charging.
That makes about as much sense as you and your wife establishing your budget based on your next-door neighbor's expenses!
The people who insist on setting labor rates this way are engaged in a fruitless price war. If you've lingered in this industry for more than several months, you'll notice that there's always someone who'll do the work cheaper than you will. Consequently, the price war is a battle you'll never win.
Usually, people engaged in a price war dare not increase their prices—not even to support training. That's fine because they'll keep running themselves in circles trying to find ways to stay solvent. When they finally close their doors, the industry doesn't miss them.
Too many automotive service personnel I meet gripe about the money that doctors, lawyers and accountants make. At least part of the reason they make that money is that ongoing training is a fact of life for these professionals. Instead of criticizing them, why not emulate and benefit from the things these professionals do well? Doing so could save your business.