NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah — Like nearly every other tire dealership in the U.S., Burt Brothers Tire & Auto Service has been dealing with a high demand for its products and services and a low supply of tires, parts and technicians.
"You can call it the year of the shorts — short supply, shortage of employees, shortage of toilet paper, all that kind of stuff," co-owner Jake Burt said.
"As Utah is rebounding from the economic toll of COVID, and people are driving more, just sourcing tires has become a full-time job. Working with customers to set proper expectations has also been a challenge to ensure we deliver a quality product and keep them coming back to us."
Product shortages even disrupted plans to open the company's 14th store, in Layton, Utah. Mr. Burt said the dealership has been waiting for months for the delivery of garage doors for the newly built facility, which is expected to open in July.
In addition to finding employees to work at its newest location, Burt Brothers has been struggling to find qualified job applicants to fill all open positions at its stores. So the dealership has learned to be flexible.
"We try to employ individuals that measure up to the Burt Brothers standard, but we've had to make a lot of adjustments to accommodate employees," Mr. Burt said.
"We've not had to sacrifice our values or commitment to our customers by doing that. Sometimes it's allowing them to work less hours or to come in later or longer lunch breaks or two days off in a row during the week, versus one day," he said, noting this strategy of flexible work schedules has helped attract new employees.
He gave the example of one recent job candidate who was working temporary jobs so he could take care of an ailing parent two days during the week. Burt Brothers accommodated by letting him take those two days off every week.
"And he's one of our best employees," he said.
Mr. Burt said he expects this type of work flexibility to become more common to attract job applicants.
"You're doing anything you can. You're throwing them all the money. Sometimes money is not even the answer. You can go to McDonald's and make $15 an hour.
"It's a hard industry we're in — it's hot in the summertime, it's cold in the wintertime, and tires are dirty, and there's grease and oil and all that kind of 'fun' stuff."
Mr. Burt also touted the company's other attraction — a career plan for its employees.
"I think what we've done really well with, as we've gotten a little larger, we've developed a plan that is basically a road map for their success. So we can take an entry level C-tech, the bottom starting out position, and map out how they can become a technician A or work through an apprentice program for mechanics and end up being a master technician.
"There's no 90-day time line or anything like that, but there is a pathway that, if they get these qualifiers, they'll move to the next level. From that level, with some work experience and more time, crossing off a few more qualifiers, they'll get to the next level.
"Having them have a path that is put on a piece of paper, that they can physically check off with their supervisors and their mentors to help them progress down the way, that's been really eye-opening for us on just giving candidates and employees a pathway on how they can succeed."
The dealership, which has about 330 employees, including 50 part-timers, also provides training programs and helps pay for schooling and tools for mechanics and apprentices.
It's a program that has been really well-received, he said. "We've been seeing some success with it."