Tire dealers seeking reliable, competent talent for their service bays shouldn't overlook someone who's probably the last of a breed: the Baby-Boomer car buff.
This ``car guy'' or the rare ``car girl'' could be the best long-term solutions to the technician shortage that service shop owners are battling. Here's why.
In a nutshell, the mature car guy can provide the experience and leadership your service department needs to weather the tech-shortage storm.
Yes, he'll probably cost a lot more than the assorted characters, crazies and wannabes who've already found their way into your store's service department. But he's also bringing so much more. His pure skills and extensive experience will boost the store's bottom line and enhance its precious reputation.
What these fellows lack in manual speed they more than make up for with street smarts and diplomas from the School of Hard Knocks. When they fix something, the vehicle goes out and stays out-and customers remember it.
What's more, the mature car buff from my era also brings intangibles on which it's difficult to put a dollar value, leadership and work ethic. Schooled or unschooled, the younger workers need these intangibles because they may not have gotten them at home or at another job.
Some bosses gripe all day about the poor work habits of younger techs and their lack of pride in workmanship. But instead of just talking, smarter bosses take action on these shortcomings by hiring a mature car buff tech who informally leads by example. They claim it's the best thing they ever did.
You see, the mature guy-who doesn't appear as threatening as a boss does-can set an example without sounding heavy-handed or overbearing to younger guys who have already had an earful about their work habits.
I often meet the mature car guys at technical training classes. You often can spot them by the balding patches and gray temples. But to me, the more-obvious clues are the fact that they're the first ones to show up and the last ones to leave the classroom. Get to know them and you'll discover they're the same way at the shop: First in, last out.
Get to know them and you'll find that these mature car buffs share a common motivation: their love of automobiles and the challenge of troubleshooting. Like many Tire Business readers, these are Baby Boomers who got hooked on cars during the heyday of Detroit muscle. Curiosity and zeal spurred these guys to figure out how to make muscle cars go even faster. If you haven't noticed, these same traits serve these fellows well back in your service department.
Not everyone could successfully squeeze more horsepower from a muscle car engine. The relative few who could stood out among their peer group as being smart and resourceful. Likewise, not every tech can diagnose an intermittent stalling condition quickly and accurately. Those who can are recognized as being a cut above the crowd.
Doing what few other people can do really feeds a person's self-image and self-confidence. It's an ego boost most rank-and-file workers never experience. This boost or mental rush is what keeps these fellows coming in early every day. They just thrive on it.
Another aspect of this rush is the new troubleshooting challenges facing them every day. As car-crazy kids, they learned that no two engines, no two drag strips and no two competitors were exactly the same. It kept them on their toes and kept their hobby exciting.
Today, these Baby-Boomer car buffs sing a very similar tune. They say they'd rather die than be chained to a predictable, 9-to-5 job. They crave the challenge of a new diagnosis on a different vehicle. Bored? Thanks to the work they do, these guys say they don't have a chance to get bored. The only thing they can count on, they add, is that troubleshooting the next vehicle will be different from the last one.
Hang around with the mature car buff and you'll find his love of automobiles and new challenges is infectious. He's not ashamed to say how he digs cars and the work he does. Maybe this ``infection'' is just the medicine your underachieving service department needs. Think about it-because he could well be the last of a breed.