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Cropper: Make Your Shop a Priority

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How long are we going to be living with these shortages?

I recently wrote about being open to hiring folks from outside the industry who are out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just a couple months later and now it’s a matter of finding folks who even want to apply for an open position.

Hiring the right people, especially for body shops, has never been easy, and right now I’m seeing that amplified, firsthand.

Say we put an ad out for a detailer position, something that during other times might have gotten 100 applicants. Nowadays, maybe a dozen people will apply, and we’re lucky if half of them show up when we offer an interview. 

Such entry-level hiring on Craigslist hasn’t been working, so we’ve been placing ads on social media, mainly Facebook. That’ll bring in applications, but you’d be shocked what people put out there for the world to see. 

Lots of folks’ lack of social media literacy, even when showing themselves doing things that aren’t strictly illegal, means they’re never even getting that first call.

It’s not just employees—I recently tried to purchase a computer, a laptop built for business, and that was a no-go, though I could have picked up a standard consumer model at Best Buy. 

That pro-level computer is tough to find because microchips are in short supply. That’s affecting the manufacture of new vehicles and so much more. Fiberglass and some resins could soon be scarce, which will affect what we need to fix cars.

These shortages of people and products have me concerned, though there are things you can do and have control over that can  mitigate their impacts on your business.

People

Even though there are lots of factors making employees scarce, you can only control what’s happening at your workplace. 

We have to remember that workers have a choice of where they work. What are we doing, as shop owners, operators, and managers, to make our shops better for them, to increase the odds that they’ll choose us?

Differentiate your body shop by offering benefits that are an actual benefit to workers. Take a look at how you lead, who you have in positions of leadership, and make sure that you’re creating a work culture that will attract workers. 

Can you set your shop apart by having air conditioning on the shop floor for hot summers, and robust heating for cold winters? Do it.

Basically, if someone’s choice is going to come down to my shop or a competitor’s, I’m of the mindset that we’re positioned to win out most of the time. That position of power came from making long-term decisions.

Find Out What They Want

Need to reevaluate how attractive your shop is to employees? Maybe it’s time to put out an employee survey to find out what people actually want.

For a while there, I thought throwing an annual Christmas party was important but I was dead wrong.

Nowadays, employees value their quality of life over money, since the cash is a given—they expect to be paid for what they do. 

It’s no matter to me if my accounting department wants to work four, 10-hour days per week, so long as they get the job done. Just a half decade ago, ample overtime was a be-all end-all perk. Now, people value closing up shop at 1 p.m. on a Friday so they can go camping over a couple hours OT.

Be flexible with employees, be in tune with the quality of life side, and you’ll be able to hire.

Products

Just like people, when it comes to business partners, work with them to achieve what’s best for the both of you.

Watch your return ratios, pay your bills on time, and treat vendors with respect and gratitude, so when things are short and decisions have to be made about who gets what, you can beat out your competitors because your vendor wants to help you.

Keeping in mind your return ratio is crucial—stock more loosely for a bit because it can help in more ways than one when parts are short—knowing that orders work on commission. As a rule, don’t mess up peoples’ paychecks.

We can’t go out and make the products for them, but if there’s a limited amount of whatever, you want to be on the top of that vendor’s list.

We know this works because we do the same thing. When we have fantastic business partners it’s natural that you give them priority. 

Become a priority yourself by making choices easy for workers and vendors. It will help in the short term with these shortages, and in the long term with whatever comes next.


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