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Shop Leaders: Be Present

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Ed Worden, a sales representative for in-shop consultant and product provider Kent Automotive, says that most of the time, owners and managers are in their shops, paying for I-CAR training, paying for certifications, paying for vendors like Worden to come by and make sure their techs are up-to-date on tools and trends.

But training should go beyond those in-shop sessions. Worden says it must become a team activity, involving both technicians and management. He knows that, when it comes to the effectiveness of training, you have to know what equipment and procedures your technicians should be trained on—and who would know that better than the technicians themselves?

That’s why Worden encourages participation from management when he visits shops. That commitment to making training a more unified effort is what drove Gary Boesel, owner of Jordan Road CARSTAR in Centennial, Colo., to write a FenderBender Award nomination for Worden.

“It is very common for Ed to approach technicians in the shop and request feedback on products, while suggesting any new products to help with efficiency and or quality,” Boesel says. “His honesty and commitment to the success of his accounts is felt throughout our local collision shop community.”

Worden covers what he sees at shops during training, and how management can be more effective following up with employees after classes.

We provide a lot of in-shop classes to train shop staff on equipment and help them better understand what they’re getting out of an I-CAR class. We go a little deeper in a live setting. And we like to make our classes an open forum, allowing everyone to step in, test things out, and ask questions. It’s an open forum on the types of repair procedures. I get a lot of feedback from techs.

Technicians really understand the needs and issues facing a shop. A lot of times when technicians go to the owners or shop foremen and explain the issues they’re having or the products they need, owners and shop foremen don’t react properly. It’s not that they don’t trust their technicians’ judgements—I think they do listen to their techs. They’re just concerned with a million different things. And you really need to take the time to engage your techs.

I think for management to best understand what they’re up against, the way the industry is going, the way cars are changing, they really need to be speaking with their employees on a regular basis. The techs are very on top of today’s repair procedures. They’re going to know plenty about what needs to happen, what products and materials they need.

If the owner wants to get involved with their technicians and really learn what they need in the back of their shop, I would highly recommend owners sit in on these training classes. That would help them better understand what their techs are faced with regarding today’s repair procedures. A lot of the owners don’t do that.

It’s all about education and communication. Listen to the questions your technicians are asking during class. Get a sense of what they’re really concerned about, and let that guide your conversations afterward.

Follow up with them after class and gauge how badly they need this training or this equipment or that tool. Have a real discussion with them about return on investment and what your shop will have to do to make the investment worthwhile.

A huge part of that is going to be making the time for these conversations. I really think it should be a priority if you want to continue to improve your repair process. If you can’t attend training, make sure someone from management can.

Have a sit-down with at least one person afterward, and then bring up topics at your next meeting. Do whatever you can to get feedback, because your technicians really do want to be heard.


FenderBender Awards Insights feature past FenderBender Award nominees. To nominate an inspiring collision repair professional, or for more information, go to fenderbenderawards.com.

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