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Managing Vacation Time

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Maintaining a work life balance is important, and part of that is taking vacation time. Managing time off isn’t always easy, especially when your staff size is small to begin with. Tim Paap, owner of Paap Auto Body in Mattoon, Ill., has a staff of seven, including himself, producing $1.3 million per year. The shop has an office manager, production manager, two technicians, a painter, a painter’s helper and a detailer. Last year, Paap was able to take 30 days off for various training events and even took time off to pursue his other hobby—racing. Paap says he’s able to do this because he has created a system to balance vacation and has created a culture in his shop where people know and are encouraged to take time off when they need to. 


We always want to ensure timely repairs, regardless of team members taking time off. Our biggest concern is always customer service. I have a staffing model that allows for flexibility and supports our team taking time off. If someone is taking vacation in the shop, I can fill in for that position as necessary. We also have a back-end estimator that can fill in when needed and any team members that are ahead of schedule pitch in. 


We use a PTO system. Each week, the staff earns a certain amount of paid time off. They can take that time off whenever they want. I have a guy on staff that’s an avid deer hunter and one that’s a fisherman. They’re both able to take time off to enjoy these hobbies, as is the rest of the staff. 


Being a small shop, the staff is very good at talking to each other about vacation time. It is rare that we have more than one person ask for time off, but if that happens, I’ll fill in for one position and I’ll adjust the schedule to accommodate fewer production hours. If two people are off at the same time, we all pitch in to cover for vacation time. Each month, we set out monthly goals and factor vacation time into those goals. I project the month’s sales and profits and I take into consideration the vacations requested for that month and adjust the projection and scheduling as necessary. However, we usually do not run into this situation. With a team paid on production, it’s just as important to them to keep our sales up and cycle time down as it is to me. 


Knowing about vacation in advance is the key to ensuring the appropriate number of hours is scheduled for the time that the team member is on vacation. The No. 1 reason that vacations do not affect my cycle time is that I adjust accordingly. On average, my cycle time is four days for a five-day workweek. If someone is requesting one or two days off, I require two weeks notice. Anything longer than that and I need to know a month in advance. We have a vacation schedule in the front to which everyone has access.


For the Fourth of July, depending on where in the week it falls, we work the day before and the day after the holiday to ensure that we do not miss multiple days of production. For example, if the holiday falls on a Tuesday, we work on Monday and Wednesday to ensure holiday pay, unless it’s requested vacation time. In that situation, if multiple people request that Monday off to extend their weekend, I grant it to the person who put the time in first and so forth. 


Last year, I took 30 days off of work. I reinvest myself by attending lots of conferences to keep myself up to date on what’s happening in the industry. In order to be able to do this, I added the production manager role two years ago. This additional team member allows me to oversee the day-to-day operations. In addition, I have implemented processes to ensure consistency in how vehicles flow through our shop. It’s all about consistency and training staff to follow the SOPs so that things will run smoothly even when I’m not able to be there. 


You need to talk about vacation time with your staff. Ensure that you want them to know about vacation time, but that they need to give you advanced notice so that you can adjust the schedule as necessary. Strong teamwork is key to the success of being able to grant vacation time while still keeping cycle time within your expectations.

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