Shop Life

Tips for Aligning with Vendors for Training

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Last June, we had a paint vendor provide my business in Alaska with on-site training. They brought a guy in from out of state. 

I made sure to have that vendor train every single one of our estimators. We shut down our estimators for the day. That company came to me later and was blown away; they said “You’re sending every single estimator to training?” I said “Not just every single estimator, but every single employee that every thought they might want to do estimates.” 

The value of aligning with vendors for training is huge. I can’t even put a number on it.

If I can get my employees trained to use products the right way—or, to fix dents more quickly—that’s where the money’s made. 

These days, my shops hold training opportunities in as high of regard as we hold a discount, or overall pricing, when it comes to vendors, especially some of the larger ones. When partnering with a vendor, we don’t just look at price. If we have an opportunity for training with a specific vendor that we normally wouldn’t get, then that vendor is going to win out against their competitors. That’s a huge factor when I choose vendors. 

Some vendors offer training. Some offer nothing. But it’s extremely valuable when they do. 

I often have to send employees out of state for training. And, although that’s not the end of the world, it weighs on my shops. When you factor in the cost, an average round trip plane ticket might be around $600. Then you have the costs for a hotel, a rental car, food, and so on. 

Plus, it’s not ideal to have your employees away from their families at night. Because that takes a toll on a lot of them. If they’re going to be away for weeklong training it adds to a lot more arm-twisting to get them to go. And, we operate in teams of four in my shops, so, even if you were just going to take one employee out of each team for training, you’re talking about a 25 percent reduction in work. 

It’s detrimental to your shop, big time. The cost to travel for training goes on and on. 

So, we do everything we can to get in-state training. And it’s tough. It requires us to fight and negotiate with vendors. 

When shop owners are talking to vendors, it’s important to express how bad they want training provided. Because a lot of times the big companies that supply us with stuff do offer training, but we don’t mention to them that we’d like to take advantage of that. They have to know how important it is to you. 

We learned that from our dealings with one particular vendor. We were switching the kind of sandpaper we bought, and I told them one of the main factors for me switching is because of the training opportunities offered by my new vendor. Their response was “Oh, we offer training.” I said, “I’ve been buying sandpaper from you for 12 years, and you’ve never brought up training before.” But I had to self-reflect from that and acknowledge that it was probably my fault, because I never told that vendor how important training was to me. 

You have to express that importance to vendors, otherwise they don’t know. If all you’re doing is sitting down talking price to them, then they think that that’s all that’s important to you.

 

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