It has long been the battle cry of owners and managers in our industry that “We can’t find good employees.”

The Technician.Academy motto is “Respect is Learned”. There is also the phrase in management training that “Good leaders are made, not born.” Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go”. I believe the same holds true for our employees, whether technician, advisor, or otherwise.

Having said all of that, most people have a natural aptitude for certain areas. Some are more mechanically-inclined, others prefer office work. The trick is finding the right person and putting them in the right position.

I was recently on a conference call with a group of 20 automotive service advisors. A young woman on the call told her story of how she got into the position: The shop owner had hired her as a part-time bookkeeper to come in a few hours a week and help keep the accounting up to date. One day she was there when the owner could not keep up with the phone calls. She stepped in to help with the phone and found that she enjoyed the interaction with people more than crunching numbers. Today, that shop has another accounting person, and she is one of the most successful advisors in Canada.

I believe “good” employees are out there and not really so hard to find. Of course, much care needs to be taken to hire the right person to begin with. There are volumes written on that subject, but let me offer this nugget of wisdom: do not wait until you are in a panic and NEED someone NOW before you start looking. You should constantly be on the lookout for great talent.

Here is a short list of proven ways to develop your own superstar employees:

  1. Clearly defined expectations on both sides. Two dealerships I’ve worked at had 3-ring binders that were passed out to all new hires that had probably over 100 pages of rules and regulations. Of course, no one reads all of that before signing, but none of them bothered to ask what the employee expected. In my early years, you were happy just to have a job, but in today’s market, a good employee can pretty much demand what they want. If you are not willing to meet their expectations, someone else will.
  2. Set the example. Don’t come in late, leave early, or disappear in the middle of the day just because you can. I agree that there are privileges that come with certain levels of responsibility, but your employees will mimic your actions.
  3. Train, train, and train some more. Oftentimes, we hire a person, give them a title, turn them loose, and expect amazing results. Time spent training that new hire is time well spent. Frustrations for both will be lessened, the new hire will be more productive faster, and that person you felt good about in the interview may have a chance to meet your expectations. Also, do not send your lowest producer to train the new hire. They will train the new person to become a poor producer.
  4. Understand that people come with baggage. Bob Cooper says, “When you hire Larry, you also get Mary.” The reason most of us have jobs is because we have responsibilities. Family will always come first in their lives just like it does in yours. Also, when you hire a person, you are taking on a part of the responsibility for that person’s family. When you casually “downsize” and remove a breadwinner’s income, it can create a tremendous financial burden on an entire family. If you expect a 2-week notice before an employee leaves then you should give them a 2-week notice before letting them go. If you are afraid employees will steal from you during those 2 weeks, then maybe you should not have hired them in the first place.
  5. People are not tools to be used up and discarded. One previous employer believed in the three B’s: Bring ’em in, Burn ’em out, Bust ’em loose. His philosophy was that there are plenty more where that one employee came from.

A couple of closing thoughts:

Take care of your employees’ vehicles too. What does it say to a customer if your advisor has to take their car to another shop to get it serviced or they drive a piece of junk?

You cannot overpay a “good” employee. If you are not willing to pay your best employees what they are worth to you, someone else will. If they are producing, reward them accordingly.

Article By: Bruce McDowell

Bruce is currently a Service Advisor for Garber Diesel Service Truck & Trailer Service Center

Bruce’s credentials include: AMAM through AMI, ASE Certified Service Advisor, Ford Motor Company – Master Service Manager, Master Service Advisor, Master Parts Manager, Master Warranty Administrator plus 2 Management Degrees, Stationary Engineer License, and Retired Navy. And above all… modest.