Savvy owners and managers often ask me about worthwhile reading material for their trainees and novice technicians.
At the very least, I always refer them to Paul Grech's book, ``So You Want to Become an Auto Technician.''
Mr. Grech's insightful reflections on a lifetime in the independent automotive repair trade and accurate assessments of common worker problems are worth the price of admission for bosses and employees. His book also elevates and inspires by reminding us how valuable a good technician really is.
This author's history is a classic Baby Boomer story. Mr. Grech showed an aptitude for mechanical things at an early age and was repairing automobiles full time by his late teens. When the opportunity to buy out his employer arose, he seized it. The rest, as they say, is history. He has operated a full-service shop (Allied Engine & Auto Repair Inc.) in downtown San Francisco at the same location for more than 30 years.
The Grechs have survived and thrived in spite of economic downturns, changes in the neighborhood, techs and managers leaving, etc. Although his examples and advice don't apply to everyone and every business, Mr. Grech's experience speaks volumes. Simply put, he has walked the walk in auto repair.
We've all had our challenges both correcting and motivating basically good employees who need help in certain areas. Sometimes, reading the same rules or advice from a third-party source such as Mr. Grech is all the validation a worker needs. They take it to heart because they hear from an external authority figure.
Allow me to cite some of the pearls I found in this book. The first thing Mr. Grech emphasizes is the need to listen effectively to superiors in the shop and then comprehend and carry out verbal instructions successfully. The same holds true for following written instructions found in technical literature and service manuals. I think bosses reading this column would agree that those simple mandates cover a great deal of ground.
Also, I welcome Mr. Grech's constant emphasis on the importance of behaving maturely and taking responsibility for one's self. This straight talk is especially meaningful in an era when a phrase such as ``failure of imagination'' replaces one such as ``major failure''-period!
Maturity and responsibility also mean that when you are the last one to touch the vehicle, you will be blamed for whatever else happens.
The sooner aspiring techs learn this fact, the better off everyone in the service department will be.
The author stresses that it's not just nice to remember rules and facts-it's a necessity. Likewise, it's critical for aspiring techs to develop solid work habits so they can condition themselves into following proper procedures instinctively. There's a major difference in productivity between doing something instinctively and having to be reminded of it.
Another welcome, timely theme concerns substance abuse. That is, a worker isn't likely to comprehend or remember important verbal or written instructions when he's strung out or hung over. Substance abuse also impairs perception and manual dexterity, which leads to calamities such as stripped threads, broken fasteners and/or personal injuries in the shop.
According to Mr. Grech, a vital product of maturity and mental alertness is simple awareness. You must be able to see what is really there, not what you think is there, he emphasizes repeatedly throughout the book. This means you don't jump to conclusions. This means you don't assume that this vehicle-not to mention the possible failure-is just like the last one you repaired. During diagnosis, begin with the possibilities that are the easiest to either confirm or discredit, he advises. Once again, bosses, how much ground does this advice cover?
Although a few of Mr. Grech's actual repair examples may appear a little dated, his book is chock-full of the simple but essential tips workers really need. Get a few pages into this book and you'll realize this man is, as they say on the street, the real deal. Listen to him, and I think you'll reap dividends from the book.
To get a copy of this book, contact Mr. Grech directly at (415) 474-7323.