Hiring Outside the Industry
One of the most successful companies for recruiting in the automotive industry has to be, without a doubt, Enterprise Holdings Inc. That company is famous for recruiting thousands of new college grads and then promoting from within to create a career path for those employees. It’s a strategy that has worked really well for the company and it’s also what inspired our company’s goal of only hiring people who have never worked at another body shop. Now, this is a lot easier said than done, obviously. And we’re not totally there yet. It requires a total attitude shift. And that’s 99 percent of it for us: Hard work, a good attitude and all of that good stuff.
Before we get into the top ways we find people, let me explain why it’s worth it for me to go this way: We found that when we hired from other shops, we were either stealing those employees from another shop or they’d been fired. We were not always getting the best guy looking forward to a great career. Beyond that, I don’t think stealing employees is the best thing to do for the community. I’m just being honest here, but early in my career, we would hire people just to get someone from another shop because they stole someone from me. It was borderline vengeful.
So pretty early on, I realize that wasn’t right and we even have agreements between some of the larger shops in my area not to hire someone from each other if that person still works for them and if he or she hasn’t had a conversation with the owner. Also, we both realized that employees started to use us against one another and it wasn’t always true. Guys will pop in here and say, “I heard you offered this guy this or that” and it’s like, “No, man, that’s not true!”
So if you don’t hire from other body shops, what do you have left? Well, for one, we love hiring out of the service industry. We’ve had great success with people who’ve worked in a bar, restaurant or even banks. They’ve dealt with all aspects of life and face a lot of the same issues we do. My food came out too slow. This isn’t what I ordered. It’s meeting the customers’ demands and setting expectations. The key is getting them intrigued in our culture and our mindset; when we do that, a lot are very surprised at the career that they can have here. To get them intrigued, I often share the success stories that people in our organization have had. I make it real. We’ve had a lot of CSRs go into parts and estimatics, too. We want to help them have a long career here. Also, let’s not forget that I’m a firm believer that you can make some good money in this industry. A lot of people still look at it as blue collar, but there’s tremendous opportunity for growth. Finally, I talk about the technology going into this business and the training. A lot of people hear training and think, “Ugh, another training class?” but a lot of people don’t! They say, “Wow, you pay for all of that? You’re going to get us factory training?” If I can find people that will raise their eyebrows like that, we typically have better success.
By the way, a lot of this might sound like it only applies to front-office jobs, and that is part of the reason we’re developing an apprenticeship program to grow our own technicians, but people from outside the industry can make great techs, too. We just start them in positions like detailer or CSR. For example, I’m meeting with my detailer, who’s been here six months or so, at 1 p.m. today to talk about his next steps. He’s ready for the next level and we want to see if he’s more interested in a technical or parts route.
Now, obviously knowing you want to hire outside of the industry and actually doing it are two different matters. Here’s how we actually find those people: First of all, we’re always on the lookout. My leadership guys and I are always paying attention to someone who gives above-average service. We also rely on word-of-mouth and offer bonuses to employees. I’ve noticed having that vested interest makes a big difference. I recommended you for this job, don’t let me down.
I’ll tell you another unexpected source of employees: relative, friends and even spouses. Of the 70 people on staff, there are many, many cases where we’ve hired relatives, sons, daughters, friends, wives. A lot of companies stay away from that but we have never run into any problems there. We have a pretty agreed-upon set of standards and everyone knows the culture that we have.