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Train Like Your Shop Depends On It

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Can you imagine painting a vehicle without an air compressor? How about replacing a quarter panel without a welder or rivet gun? While we couldn’t conceive of doing those operations without the necessary tools to do the repair, somehow our industry feels we can repair any vehicle without the necessary training needed to repair the vehicle. 

In the past, an untrained tech might have cost us more time or an eventual comeback. Today, an untrained tech could cost millions. If you’ve been under a rock for some time, just Google search the words “Texas body shop Honda lawsuit” and you’ll see what I mean. 

I believe we should look at training like we look at paint or replacement parts—an absolute necessity to do a proper repair. There’s been enough written about the changes in today’s vehicles that we don’t need to rehash that today. To get more info on vehicle technology, you could go to fenderbender.com and search the word aluminum and it will turn up over 570 related articles. That’s just one example of how vehicles have changed dramatically. If you’ve made it this far down the page I’ll make the assumption you know vehicles have changed and we need to get trained in order to repair them safely. 

The next question to ask is, “How do we pay for this training?” How do you develop a budget to take on this additional expense? Adding on other expenses such as marketing, HR benefits, or even office personnel can be carefully and methodically worked into a budget with the right timing. However, necessary training is a unique expense that can moonlight as a “cost” on your P&L since it’s necessary to have in order to repair the vehicle that’s either in your shop or coming very soon.    

If you haven’t done this before, it would be very beneficial to pull the data to see what vehicles are being registered in your area. Comparing that data with your recent repair history will help you determine what manufacturers you are likely to repair more of in the immediate future. This will help you prioritize the list of training options available to you. You want to begin with the training that will be most useful to you based on your work mix.

Once you know the type of vehicles you will work on, it’s time to research what training is available.    There are many resources to help you compile a list. You could reach out to the OE reps who handle the certification process for each line. If you attend a trade show or industry conference, there are bound to be experts there to assist in compiling a training list. And, of course, FenderBender is a great resource. As I was writing this I searched “training” at fenderbender.com and it showed 2,590 results. 

One way to look at budgeting for training is to determine what top-line sales are required to pay for it. If you send a team of techs to attend a class and the bill is $2,000, then you should know what increase in sales you would need in order to pay the $2,000 without putting a dent into your current budget. If you divide the $2,000 by your gross profit margin (I’ll assume it’s 40 percent), then you have to do an additional $5,000 in top-line sales in order to pay for this expense. The $2,000 training bill would increase your break-even sales by $5,000. 

Another way to find the dollars to pay for this training is to do a review of your expenses. Even if you don’t have any new spending in mind, it’s always valuable to look through your expenses and see if there is any fat to trim. If you’ve never done this before you might be surprised what expenses you are paying that you can either reduce or eliminate. 

Another aspect of the training we all need is the proper OEM repair procedures. This is ongoing training for each repair, not something you can check the completed box. Regardless of how many times we’ve done a particular repair, we still need to review the current procedures, as they change regularly. Some of these procedures are available for free on websites like I-CAR or OEM1stop. Other manufacturers will charge a subscription fee to get the repair procedures from their website. Instead of buying an annual membership, we purchase a daily subscription and invoice that on the job just like a part. You may get pushback from the payer at first, however this is as necessary as any item we put on our estimates. Some shops even have success getting paid for the time to research the proper repair procedures. Regardless of how you choose to tackle it, you should be getting paid for obtaining OEM repair procedures.

Our industry is changing. In order to succeed, we must take training seriously. Don’t let the cost of training keep you from doing it. While I don’t always like fear as a motivator, if you need the extra push, let the cost of not training scare you into doing it now. Once we adopt the attitude that it must be done, we will find there are several ways to pay for it. Create a priority list for your training, see what sales you might need to cover it, and trim your current expenses to help pay for it.  

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