Have you ever had your techs come up to you and ask to have a 6 a.m. meeting? It’s usually never a good sign, right? Imagine my surprise when a few years ago, my techs called that meeting—only to present me with a fully realized solution of how to improve our team setup. And I’ll be honest: They were correct. Let’s back up for a second to explain what our setup was at the time: We had one team and it was the whole entire shop. Now, that’s actually a fantastic way to do it. It benefits the body techs to send a car to paint that’s 100 percent ready for paint because they’re paid off the productivity of the painters and vice versa. If one person is looking out for the best interests of the next person, work goes fast. The problem is that you outgrow the size of your team. At one point, we had 17 or 18 people on one single team. That’s too much—and that’s exactly what my techs told me in that meeting. They couldn’t focus on the report card, the underperformers were drowned out by the overperformers and couldn’t be held accountable, and it was impossible to tell in what area they were actually lacking. Their proposal? Let’s break up the teams.
In my next column, we’ll get into the exact makeup of our five-person teams (quick summary: two A-techs, two B-techs and a C-tech), but first, how do you even know how many teams your shop needs? And when do you know it’s time to add a team?
Obviously, it all depends on the volume of the shop. Right now, our largest location has four teams. That shop did $7 million last year. Our second shop has two teams with $2.5 million. Our newest location that we just added has three teams and will do $5 million in 2018.
Those are the broad strokes. Now let’s get into the finer details. The best report card for your shop is performance. You need to watch the performance of your team in a number of different ways. The big thing for us is hours produced total, hours produced per day and touch time per time. Then, at the end of the pay period, we look at the total efficiency (although we do try to look at that live, too). For us, 35 cars per team is where we’re clicking pretty well. From there, we look for a touch time of 3.5 hours per day or higher (which is well above market average in my area), a nine-day total repair and near 200 percent efficiency.
If I have a team that’s not performing with their efficiency, my first course of action is to see if it’s the wrong mix of people on the team. It could be that there aren’t enough A-techs or honestly, their personalities just don’t click. They have to be able to jive. So, we’ll move people around—sometimes on a quarterly or as much as a monthly basis—based on how well they get along. What I’ve found is that you don’t have to have the best person on the team, necessarily, but all the personalities have to work well together. Plus, as people grow and get better, they’ll often switch teams because we have a need for their skillset.
Next, you need to make sure that your existing teams really are at capacity. For a long time at our largest store, I was convinced $4 million per year was all we could do. Well, as you get the efficiency better and better, you’re able to add growth. Now we’re at $7 million per year, which I never thought was possible.
But again, there is a max to every team and there comes a time where you will have to add a team. I typically listen to the feedback of the team first. Their input is far more valuable than my input. If the team starts getting to the point that they have more going on than they can reasonably manage or handle, that’s when it’s time to add a team. I think you also need to keep quality of life in mind. If a team has too many cars, their stress level will be higher and it gets to a point where it’s not fun anymore. That’s a good sign. Once it gets to the point where they feel it’s unmanageable and they’re handling more than those 35 cars per team, you’ll likely need to add a team.
Then, we can do some rock star numbers. Our production and efficiency went through the roof. The efficiency of a traditional body shop would between 125 percent to 150 percent. If you work it right with a team, body and paint can be near 200 percent and better with proper scheduling and proper manpower. Our high-moving body teams run between 190 and 210 percent—and that’s how long our techs were on the premises, total, bathroom breaks and all.